Also youth is optimistic, but childishness is condoned? Age and experienced should make one wiser and be able to take advantage of life yet it's youth (whom has not really lived yet) that we associate with life. Death can be followed by rebirth (Phoenix, rising and the ashes and all...)

Please help me ponder more deeply this idea.

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    Our minds are able to discern a pattern, a predictable pattern. Old people cease living; babies grow up before becoming old. – Ron Royston Aug 26 '17 at 18:35

This is a tricky one to answer because the association of youth with life and old with death is not an absolute truth in our own society, much less across multiple societies.

Starving Africans Elderly Yoga

Accordingly, there will be no answer which definitively pins youth to life and old age with death. However, there is a strong tendency to make this correlation. We can discuss why this pattern shows up again and again in cultures, we just won't arrive at the conclusion that it is a universal.

I think one of the most pronounced reasons for associating life with younger age is that one of the defining characteristics of life is its potential. Things that are living have the potential to to great vibrant things. A seed has a potential to become a great tree, while the tree is already what it is going to be.

We can see parallels to this idea in the Chinese concept of xue-qi. If I may grossly simplify the translations, xue is the Chinese word for blood, and Qi is their word for one's life energy:

The [morally] noble man guards himself against 3 things. When he is young, his xue–qi has not yet stabilized, so he guards himself against sexual passion. When he reaches his prime, his xue–qi is not easily subdued, so he guards himself against combativeness. When he reaches old age, his xue–qi is already depleted, so he guards himself against acquisitiveness. - Confucius, Analects, 16:7

In this, we see a pattern of starting with potential and ending with depletion which strongly correlates to the idea of "life" and "death" as you refer to them in your question.

As a general rule, the young are more likely to still have great potential in them, simply due to having more time and having a body that hasn't worn out yet. There are absolutely counter examples in the world, but the general rule is strong enough to create a general pattern of associating youth with life and old age with death.

As for the idea of life coming from death, as you mention, this does indeed occur in our lives. It's why we have wakes to celebrate people's lives rather than funerals. It's why we appreciate what a forest fire does to revitalize a Forrest. However, these are generally more difficult concepts to work with. It is much simpler to draw the connection between youth and life.

And finally, the answer may simply be "because it works." Cultural patterns like this often form because they worked well for many generations. Perhaps it helped with the grieving process. Perhaps it spurred youth into action while they still had the bodies to act. Never forget that cultures are living breathing organisms in and of themselves.


We associate youth with life because young people are physically "more alive" than older people. For example, young people are more resistant to injury/illness and they are often stronger than old people.

The reason why we associate old with death, is probably because old people are more likely to die of injury and illness. Also, old people will die sooner than young people.


Because older people will probably die sooner than younger people... And life is also very much associated with being given live, as in the birth of a child. So the closer you are to the date you were given life and farer away from the point where your life is probably empirically proven going to end the more you will be associated with one of them.


Everyone has to die eventually. Some die when they're young, but if they aren't struck down by illness, accident, etc., they'll "die of old age."

Humans and other animals also become more feeble and prone to illness and injury when they're older.

As for youth being optimistic, who says? That sounds like a generalization.

I'm reminded of the saying "Ignorance is bliss." In this spirit, young people may be more optimistic because they're relatively naive. Older people have generally seen more of life's harsh side, and they're also more likely to sense the end of their life coming. Once again, this is a reason to associate older people with death.

My answer is a very simple, non-philosophical one. I'm sure others can flesh it out with some more philosophical insights.

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