Take a Number: Five Ways to Look at Age

One for the Ages

Satchel Paige was a great baseball pitcher, one of the greatest

of all time. He was an African-American and, due to the racial

discrimination of the time, most of his outstanding career was

not spent in the (white) major leagues. However, after the historic

breakthrough by the courageous and talented Jackie Robinson (Mr.

Paige’s junior by about 14 years), Satchel Paige pitched in the

major leagues for a number of years. In fact, he was still able to

get major league batters out at the age of 60! (Mr. Paige’s age at

his retirement from baseball is not known for certain because no

one, probably including Mr. Paige himself, knew his exact year

of birth; some thought he was older than 60). Mr. Paige revealed

a mind as sharp as the break on his curve ball when he asked this

profound question for the ages:

“How old would you be if you did not know how old you are?”

These writings are dedicated to the memory of Satchel Paige and to

all the so-called “over-the-hill” guys and gals in every sport and

in every area of life, from Churchill and Reagan in politics to

Jessica Tandy in acting and Paul McCartney in fatherhood. They

and many like them in the past and present will be joined by many

more in the future who are not really “over the hill” because they

are too busy taking the hill.

Five Ways to Look at Age

Chronological Age

The most common way to look at age is the Chronological.

This is the one that everyone is familiar with. It is simply the time

that has passed since your date of birth to today. It is the one that

governments and insurance companies require of you and that

your Doctor knows, even if your boy friend doesn’t. It is a

unidimensional measure because it considers only time. It is

uniform because everybody who is 48 years, 6 months, and 3

weeks old is exactly that, chronologically. People who view age

only from the chronological perspective are somewhere between

dumb and dumber.

True Age

True Age is another and better way to look at your age. True age

is basically what a measurement of all the biomarkers of aging would

reveal about you. Here’s four points about true age. One, if a well-trained physician

did NOT know how old you are but reviewed a print-out of your

biomarkers, she or he could accurately estimate your true age. Two,

your true age is not uniform but varies by individual: you can be

younger or older than your chronological age. Three, true age is

multidimensional rather than confined to time. Four, absolutely

nothing can be done about chronological age because it is fixed, but

a great deal can be done about true age.

Appearance Age

Appearance Age is the age you appear to be to others. It no

doubt has some relationship to both chronological age and true

age. Yet it is different. This is because it is heavily influenced by

a number of factors outside the scope of biomarker measurement,

not the least of which is attitude. We all know people that appear

to be quite a bit younger or older than their chronological age.

But the only scientific way to measure a person’s appearance age

would be to have a representative sample of the population observe

a person for at least a few minutes. A quick glance is not sufficient

because appearance age includes factors such as movement of

the body and alertness, not just a frozen face. Then the estimates

from all members of the representative sample would be gathered,

simple statistical measures applied, and Voila! You have the

person’s appearance age. Of course, unless we are part of a study,

none of us will ever get this scientific about it. We will just have

to rely on random comments from friends, family, and nice or

mean strangers to estimate our appearance age; and usually it’s a

pretty good estimate.


A new way to look at age, which occurred to me awhile back,

is what I call one’s N.E.A.T. age. This is simply one’s time left on

the planet from right Now to the time of death. This age is

unknowable by readers or anyone, except those committed to

imminent suicide (and these poor folks are no more likely to

take the short time remaining to do age calculations than they are

to be caught dead reading an article about lively longevity). The best

we can do is make a calculated estimate based on what we know

about the general population and factor in any pluses or minuses

that apply to us individually.

The N in NEAT of course stands for Now since the calculation

is from the present, today, right now. E is for Elusive because I

believe moments of time are elusive. As we humans try to hold or

capture a moment of time it eludes us because the next moment

is here, and then the next. Time and life are a flow.

The A in NEAT is for Allotted. Everyone who has ever lived has

only so much time to live. Some have short lives, some have long

lives, and some have lives neither particularly long nor short. But

human life is finite and almost certainly will remain finite into the

distant future if not forever. We do not need to take sides in the age-

old debate about whether or not our allotted time is predestined by

God in order to recognize that the amount is finite.

Of course, T is for Time. Time remaining is what it is all about.

As has been oft noted: a millionaire on his death bed would gladly

exchange his riches for a little more time, say one more day of

healthy living.

So one’s NEAT age is one’s Now Elusive Allotted Time. It is a

concept that provides a different perspective on aging and on life.

For example, let’s suppose there was a 30-year old person named

Terry and a 60-year old person named Sydney living in the same

town in 1960. Conventional wisdom and simple arithmetic agree

that Sydney was twice as old as Terry at that time. Such wisdom

carries the (usually) unstated assumption that Terry is about 30

years further from the grave than Sydney. Statistically, this is

difficult to argue with. But statistics are oft off for an individual

and sometimes by a wide margin.

Let’s suppose that Terry had a lifetime of very bad health habits

and, never having had the opportunity to read my writings, continued

the very bad habits. Poor Terry expired a little shy of 40. (The

same fate could have befallen Terry due to a dreaded disease or

tragic accident.) Sydney, on the other hand, decided at some point

to lead a health-conscious life. Sydney made good choices and

stuck with them. Sydney enjoyed basically good health beyond

age 100 before passing on. When Sydney was 60 and Terry was

30, Sydney had a NEAT age of 40+ and Terry had a NEAT age just

under 10. So way back in 1960, who was younger: the one with

less than a decade of life left, or the one with more than four

decades of vibrant life left? One of the neat things about the NEAT

age is that the bigger this age number the better.

Ideal Age

The fifth and final way that we will look at age is one’s Ideal

Age. Your ideal age is your age of choice, your preferred age.

The concept of ideal age brings us back to Satchel Paige’s question:

How old would you be if you did not know how old you are?

In a sense, perhaps most of us do NOT know how old we are anyhow.

Sure we know our chronological age, and some of us have a rough

gauge of our appearance age. But few of us know our true age,

and none of us knows our NEAT age. So it should not be so difficult

to put chronological age aside for a few moments and answer Mr.

Paige’s question.

Before leaping to an answer like 21, keep in my mind that

successful living usually involves a combination of physical vigor,

mental acuity, and wisdom. Personally, my ideal age is 37; thus

even at my next birthday I will still be one year younger than all

the women over 40.

What about you? What’s your number? What’s your ideal age?

The way my anti-aging program works for you is that after

reflection you establish your ideal age. Then we work with all the

tools and techniques of the program to bring your true age into

ever closer alignment with your ideal age. There is a balance to

be struck. A 90-year old reader shooting for an ideal age of 19 is

setting up way too much of a challenge and thus is setting up for

failure. A 50-year old reader settling for an ideal age of 45 is not

challenging herself or himself enough.

Take a number.

Satchel Paige was the impetus for me to write the close to this


When it comes to matters of age,

It is best to take a page out of Paige,

And move forward with grace,

Paying no mind to this myth of the human race.