Why Time Feels Like It Goes Faster As You Get Older, According To Science

By Caroline Burke

Tick, tock. Every day, whether you consciously realize it or not, you're becoming a little bit older. The aging process is exciting for some, and terrifying for many, but pretty much everyone can agree that time seems to move faster and faster with every year that passes. Even though wondering why time goes faster as you get older can seem like an absolutely ridiculous question, the scary truth is that there's actually scientific proof to the idea. Older people really do tend to perceive time as moving faster, and if there's ever been a better argument for seizing the day, I haven't heard it.

This is a pretty commonly shared timeline: Your childhood seems to move slowly, almost glacially, and then your teenage years start to pick up some speed and momentum. Then, suddenly, adulthood seems to be flying by faster than ever. Before you know it, you've become the type of adult you used to roll your eyes at, the one who says things like, "It seems like the last presidential election was a month ago, and now we already have another one!" (OK, probably zero people feel that way after the most recent election, but you get my point.)

The truth is that time really does feel like it's moving faster as you grow older.

More specifically, looking at your life from a zoomed-out lens is what seems to change. Scientific American reports that, in one 2005 study carried out at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, participants ranging in age from 14 to 94 years old were surveyed about how quickly they felt time was passing. There wasn't much of a range of opinion in regards to how these individuals felt about their daily or weekly schedules. It was the perception of decades, not smaller chunks of time, that revealed the shift in perspective. People in the study who were older than 40 gave markedly different responses to how quickly they believed the years to be passing, while younger people saw time to be moving a little bit more slowly.

One of the arguments for why this happens is called the holiday paradox: According to The Telegraph, your mind encodes new experiences into memory and tends to skip over familiar ones. And when you're younger, you're constantly encountering new experiences, relationships, and intellectual challenges. For this reason, your 20s might seem to pass a little bit more slowly than your 50s, because by that latter age, most of your life has already become defined by routine.

If you follow the same exact routine every single day, then it's likely you're not going to remember a lot of it as the years pass by.

I know, I know, a lot of this seems pretty depressing at face-value. But if you look at it from a slightly different angle, it's incredibly exciting, because there's a solution: As you age, you don't have to stop learning. On the contrary, you have a massive amount of time to learn new experiences and meet new people, over the course of a whole lifetime. By trying new things, you'll be encoding new memories, and time will seem to slow down just a little bit.

The reality of time passing also provides you with another fantastic opportunity: to make the most of each day. Every day provides little sections of time that you might not be utilizing. Consider taking five minutes each day to meditate instead of, say, using your few extra minutes of free time scrolling through a social news feed. Alternatively, you could take the time to give a friend a phone call rather than shooting them a text to ask how they are and catch up.

Time passes, inevitably. But how you choose to spend your time is entirely up to you. There's still time to learn new things, reconnect with old friends, and improve upon yourself, no matter what decade you're living in, or what your age is.