A perceptual puzzle. I was idly watching, from a height and a distance that would approximate 80 meters along the hypotenuse, a woman mount a bicycle. She was clothed in long pants and long-sleeve shirt, and wearing a hat. Her face was open for inspection, but at the distance my eyes were trained her features were nothing but a formless conglomeration of four russet blobs — the top, sides, and bottom, meeting in a very vague oval shape, and smeared with fat brush strokes by a drunken painter.
Yet, from that distance and inconclusive physical details, I was able, subconsciously at first and quickly percolating to my conscious consideration, to gauge the bike woman’s age to be in the range between late 40s-mid 50s. When she biked nearer my location, my opinion was confirmed.
I thought, how could I know her age so accurately with such clarity of judgment and such paucity of particulars? What gave it away? I pondered, loosely, the various betrayals, and struck upon multiple hypotheses — the play of ocular shadows, the refraction of light off wrinkled skin, the subtle cues of motion tainted by a distressed body in decline — but could not settle upon a winning giveaway.
Our ability to accurately discern age from a parsec must rank up there with the wickedest riddles of human perception. We must have this ability for a reason. A very, very good reason. #ThreatAssessment #RottenEggs
A commenter mentioned weight being the dead (weight) giveaway. While it’s true people tend to fatten up with age (until at a great age when they start to lose weight), in this case the woman was slender and shapely (as far as that can be determined under concealment). So while weight can cue age, I think it is not the sole, nor even a major aid to our perception of a person’s years on earth. There is something more profound signaling to us the walk of time over a stranger’s facescape.