A Boomer Lifestyle Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Why is it the older we get the faster time flies?

Gosh.  New Year's Eve.  Time really flies when you are older.  Why is that?  Why is it the older we get the faster time flies?  Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

Psychologist William James, in his 1890 text Principles of Psychology, wrote that as we age, time seems to speed up because adulthood is accompanied by fewer and fewer memorable events. When the passage of time is measured by “firsts” (first kiss, first day of school, first family vacation), the lack of new experiences in adulthood, James morosely argues, causes “the days and weeks [to] smooth themselves out…and the years grow hollow and collapse.”
In the early 1960s, Wallach and Green studied this phenomenon in groups of younger (18-20 years) and older (median age 71 years) subjects through the use of metaphors. Young people were more likely to select static metaphors to describe the passage of time (such as “time is a quiet, motionless ocean”). Older folks, on the other hand, described time with swift metaphors (“time is a speeding train”). ...

From The Conversation.com:

 The theory goes that the older we get, the more familiar we become with our surroundings. We don’t notice the detailed environments of our homes and workplaces. For children, however, the world is an often unfamiliar place filled with new experiences to engage with. This means children must dedicate significantly more brain power re-configuring their mental ideas of the outside world. The theory suggests that this appears to make time run more slowly for children than for adults stuck in a routine. 

So the more familiar we become with the day-to-day experiences of life, the faster time seems to run, and generally, this familiarity increases with age. The biochemical mechanism behind this theory has been suggested to be the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine upon the perception of novel stimuli helping us to learn to measure time. Beyond the age of 20 and continuing into old age, dopamine levels drop making time appear to run faster. 

My personal favorite is from The Washington Post:

There's a reason that one summer seems to stretch out forever when you're a kid, but zips by before you know it when you're 30. That reason is perspective, as as a gorgeous interactive visualization, by Austrian designer Maximilian Kienerdemonstrates.
When you're one year old, a year is literally forever to you -- it's all the time that you've ever known. But as you grow older, one year is a smaller and smaller fraction of your total life. It's like watching something shrink in your rear view mirror.
This idea has stunning implications. It means that parents actually see their children grow up much faster than children perceive themselves to be.It means that waiting 24 days for Christmas at age 5 literally feels like waiting a year at age 54. It might also explain why kids on car trips are always asking that annoying question, "Are we there yet?" A car journey actually feels longer to kids than it does to adults.
 Whatever the reason, my life is flying by.


  1. So is mine, Barbara. Happy New Year!

  2. Loved these perspectives. I think as we get older the thoughts of death appear more often and we want to slow time down so we can enjoy it longer. But pretty soon my year will be one day long. Lol

  3. #2 and #3 are much more palatable to me than #1. That explanation for time flying by is depressing. I'm with you, I like the Washington Post explanation. It makes sense. Happy New Year, Barbara!

  4. Interesting! Yes, it sure is flying by. Happy New Year!

  5. I'm thinking along the lines of Conversation.com I kind of relate it to traveling on a road for the first time. The first time the trip takes forever but if you travel that same road over and over, it seems to takes no time getting to your destination. But also having something to really look forward to will slow time. The older we get the fewer of these we have on our menus. Guess it is in us to control the speed, not the universe. Sigh.