Have you ever found yourself thinking that the days go by so much faster than they used to? I certainly have, and the older I get, the faster time flies. Whether or not I’m having fun is irrelevant. I had a first-hand look at this when I injured my knee last month. It’s slowly on the mend, but I get much less done than I did before I hurt it.
Science will support the fact that there are still sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and so on. A second in 2022 is exactly the way it was in 1950 when I was born and yet, it doesn’t seem that way. Why? Because actual time and our mental time are vastly different things.
What Science Says
There are psychological studies to support this idea. Think back to when you were a child. Try to envision the excitement you felt before you turned five years old. The time it took to go from four to five represented 20 percent of your life. But when you went from forty-nine to fifty that one year was only 2 percent of your life, a 10-fold acceleration in your sense of the passage of time.
Time is an amazing and fascinating phenomenon. It’s considered to be one of the fundamental qualities of the universe that, together with length, width, and height make up what Einstein described as spacetime. If you’re a sci-fi aficionado, then you know all about the spacetime continuum and the dangers inherent with messing with time. But do you also recall that Einstein proved time was relative and does slow down due to gravity and acceleration?
According to Psychology Today, if you ask a young child to sit quietly, close their eyes, and state when a minute has passed, most children will report a minute has elapsed in 40 seconds or less. Run the same experiment with adults and seniors, and they will likely report a minute has passed in 60 to 70 seconds. Hence, children’s brains “beat” faster than adult brains, thus allowing them to have more conscious experiences in a given unit of objective time. This, in turn, leads to the subjective passage of time moving more slowly for children than it does for adults. A fascinating explanation that extends this neural pacemaker theory has recently been posited by Professor Adrian Bejan. He presents an argument based on the physics of neural signal processing (Bejan, 2019). Bejan hypothesizes that, over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, and this is what makes time “speed up” as we grow older.
What Does It Mean?
In layman’s terms, objectively measured “clock time” and purely subjective “mind time” are not the same. Mind time—memory—isn’t always truthful. Memories are based on changes to visual stimuli as well as emotions, health, and too many other factors to mention. We know something happened because we saw something change. Children get bigger and older, our hair turns gray or falls out, we get fatter, thinner, but never taller or younger. Everything changes only one way. It can’t go backwards like rewinding the tape to show a power play in a hockey game. The picture on the right is of myself, my husband, and our son. He turns fifty in November, more than twice my age in this picture.
Since it takes the older brain longer to process things, another item that seems to make time go by faster is the fact that for many of us, we accomplish less in the same amount of time that we did before, thus giving the impression that time is moving faster when it’s simply a case of us moving slower. This so-call speeding up of subjective time with advancing age is well documented, but it’s different for everyone. Think of the summers of your youth. Days were endless with countless adventures in store. Today, I no sooner get up int the morning than the day is over and I’m back to bed. Do I do stuff? of course, but it isn’t anywhere near what I used to be able to do.
I truly admire all the authors I’ve met in this my second career because there is no way I would ever be able to write as much as they do if I were still teaching. The adage that age brings wisdom may not be as reliable today either because much of the wisdom we’ve accrued is no longer relevant. Values, morals, social attitudes have changed dramatically, and the speed of scientific development is astounding. My poor old brain has trouble processing all these changes, and in many ways, my writing reflects the morals and values of by-gone years. But, while it may be hard to teach an old dog new tricks, it isn’t impossible. It may take more time, but with patience, I may yet figure out how to slow time and make the most of every day.
Looking for reading to get you through the dog days of summer? May I suggest one of the newer ABB box sets? At 99 cents USD, they’re a bargain for everyone.
Happy Reading and I’ll see you next month!
I’m a retired high school English teacher turned author. I’m Canadian. My husband and I have been married 48 years and have 3 children and 5 grandchildren, as well as 2 step-grandchildren. I enjoy traveling, especially somewhere warm in winter.