A researcher explains why it feels like time flies when you are aging

An image of a younger eye next to aging eye.
© iStock/Yuri_Arcurs

Why does time fly when you are aging? Feeling like youth goes slowly, and time seems to speed up when you are aging is a common phenomenon.

Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke University has explained how physical changes in the aging human body causes this.

The phenomenon

Bejan commented: “People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.”

Explaining the temporal discrepancy of aging

Bajan has explained the temporary discrepancy as due to the slowing speed at which images are collected and processed by the brain as the human body ages.

As nerves and neurons mature, they also grow in size and complexity. This means that signals have a longer path to traverse. Alongside this, the paths also degrade as they begin to age which gives more resistance to the flow of electrical signals.

As a result, the rate at which new mental images are obtained and processed decreases during the aging process. Bejan notes one example, that the eyes of infants move more frequently than adults. He attributes this to the fact that infants process images faster than adults, so their eyes move more often and integrate more information. Older people view fewer new images in the same amount of time, which causes it to appear to them that time is passing more quickly.

Bejan concluded: “The human mind senses time changing when the perceived images change. The present is different from the past because the mental viewing has changed, not because somebody’s clock rings. Days seemed to last longer in your youth because the young mind receives more images during one day than the same mind in old age.”

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