Is Middle Age Disappearing?

As people enjoy increasing longevity in developed countries, the concept of middle age continues to blur and older adults are holding visible signs of aging at bay longer with healthy diets, exercise, and regular salon visits.  Those just entering their 50s, or already into their 60s, may look back and recognize that at their current age, their own parents seemed much older – well into middle age as early as their mid-forties.  Is middle age disappearing for adults? 

If you ask women transitioning through the menopause years, they will likely tell you the body is not subtle about reminding one that middle age has arrived.  Night sweats, dry skin, mid-section weight gain, and greying hair are all front and center during these years.  But there is also more knowledge and open discussion about menopause to help provide women with tools to navigate this stage of life. 

According to a recent article in The Guardian, middle age is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as “the period in your life when you are no longer young but have not yet become old”.   This stage can be highly individualized – some people are entering new careers at 50 and running marathons, while others may be facing serious health problems that leave them unable to work.   Remember the Golden Girls from 1980s television?  The average age of the housemates was 55 – roughly the same age as the stars of HBO’s recent reboot of Sex and the City.   Gwyneth Paltrow, Keanu Reeves, Sophia Vergara, Will Smith, Jennifer Aniston and J Lo are also in their “golden years” – looking and feeling far younger than their chronological ages. 

Along with some of the benefits of longevity, middle age can also have its challenges.  More older adults are divorcing, and job security isn’t guaranteed.  Once a period of life to enjoy greater stability and time to reflect, the 40s and 50s may now be a transitional stage requiring some serious hustle to “reinvent” yourself – all while fighting to stay youthful and battling ageism.  

Many 40-something adults have delayed having children, or opted not to become parents, and aren’t living a traditional mortgage, spouse, and Sunday barbecue lifestyle.  These “geriatric millennials” or midlife millennial adults may be living quite differently than their parents were at a similar age.  They may prioritize travel, new experiences, or new work opportunities and don’t have the desire, or the financial ability, to settle down and coast until retirement age. 

Men have also experienced changes in the middle-aged transition – once a time linked with impulse sports car purchases, affairs, or gym memberships.  Today, many men are more in touch with their emotions and searching for meaning during mid-life, and possibly facing depression or anxiety about their changing identity in the world at large, and within their careers and families. Physical changes like diminishing eyesight, joint problems, or hearing loss also take a toll on our sense of youth and vigour.  But with a little extra effort and attention to health and well-being, and time when necessary to heal and recover, middle age – however it’s defined, can be a launching point to one of life’s most rewarding and joyful phases.