We certainly can’t stop ourselves from getting older—in fact, we (and many members of our 50+ community) would argue that life only gets better as the years go by. That said, there are certain choices we can make to help ourselves feel great for as long as possible, even if there are other elements that are beyond our control. That ultimately comes down to knowing the difference between primary and secondary aging.
To be clear, the distinction between primary and secondary aging is not totally clear-cut—like much of human physiology, it’s… complicated. But understanding the general differences between these two categories (and how the aging process works in general) also underlines some of the agency we have over our own wellbeing.
What’s Primary Aging?
According to scientists, primary aging describes the biological factors that are largely beyond our control. It’s basically the notion that, like it or not, getting older is part of the natural life cycle—even the most fit among us can’t possibly live forever.
Scientists associate age-related changes like vision, graying hair, and wrinkles as key examples of primary aging. (1) But while wrinkles, for example, are an inevitability for most of us, our lifestyle choices (hello, sun exposure) can also have an impact on how and when they appear. And that’s where secondary aging comes in.