You probably think you look younger than you actually are, if you're like 62 percent of baby boomers surveyed recently by American Laser Centers. Almost a third believe they look ten years younger. (Does that explain the widespread posting of decade-old photos on dating sites?) More women than men think they look younger than their age, according to the survey; their perceptions are accurate, if my last high school reunion is any indication. And in a new Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey, nearly half of respondents age 50 and older said they feel at least ten years younger than their chronological age. In fact, the study found that the older we get, the younger we feel.
So why the selective vision? It's not, happily, because we're having surgical procedures; the perception has less to do with our bodies than our minds. Approximately two-thirds of the people surveyed in the Laser Centers research said they simply have a healthier self-image than they did when they were younger; half said they think they're more stylish; only 6 percent said plastic surgery is the reason they look more youthful.
Our expectations about getting old also factor into the equation; the Pew survey found that the not-yet-old think aging is going to be much more problematic than old people report it actually is. And we may be programmed to maintain a youthful self-image as a way of protecting ourselves from the knowledge that we are getting closer to death, says Amy Wechsler, MD, a New York City psychiatrist and dermatologist and author of The Mind-Beauty Connection. Sometimes a little denial is a beautiful thing.