The paradox of subjective age: age(ing) in the self-presentation of older adults

Sarit Okun, Liat Ayalon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: Studies have shown that when people grow older, the negative perceptions about age(ing) become self-directed. In this study, we examined if and how this assertion is expressed in the self-presentation of older adults. DESIGN: To explore this issue, we undertook an online survey with 818 Israeli older adults (aged 65-90) who were asked to present themselves in writing, using an open question and to choose the age terms that they preferred, relying on a multiple-choice question. Responses were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively using "word cloud" and linguistic inquiry. RESULTS: The analysis indicated three ways of coping with the issue of age in one's self-presentation: Absence of old age - older people who blur their processes of aging; Camouflaged aging - older people who emphasize their age by using a line of self-ageism; Multiplicity of old age terms - the existing gap between what is being used by people and the ideal related to the use of existing age terms. The findings highlight the role of subjective age in one's self-presentations. CONCLUSIONS: The results point to the ambivalence that older people feel in relation to their age(ing) and especially reflect the paradox of subjective age. That is, on the one hand studies have stressed the positive aspects of this practice, whereas on the other hand, subjective age possibly reflects a response to internalized negative stereotypes and prejudice about old age(ing). In this sense, this study expands the knowledge in the field of self-presentation and (subjective) age in the second half of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-575
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • age
  • ageism
  • identity
  • old age
  • self-presentation
  • subjective age

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Gerontology


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