The fact that middle age is no longer fixed shouldn’t surprise us, especially as old age now comes in three different flavors:
young old (65 – 74)
old old (75 - 84)
old/oldest old (85+).
And, who knows, ten years from now even those categories may change. The demographers have their hands full with so many people, especially in the West, living so much longer; in such relatively good health; and less likely to follow the rules for aging, including retiring.
But I’m not much interested in how the numbers—especially the ranges—are determined; I’m more curious what people think about themselves and their lives as they age, despite the labels, and in how they act based on those thoughts.
I’m also interested in how Boomers on the youngest end of that generation—those turning 52 this year—might be experiencing middle age, aka, the last stop on their way to official old age.
Are these mid-lifers happy, or at least satisfied, in the choices they’ve made in their lives so far? In love, work, money, family, their physical and emotional well being? Is middle age anything like they imagined it to be? Especially from the vantage point of their 30’s?
Some of what I’ve been reading lately tells me that many mid-agers are a bit stressed these days, especially as they attempt to manage the demands of both work and family. I see some of that in my younger friends, family members, and writing clients.
They have a lot on their plate and the times they live in are uncertain; technology and globalization continue to accelerate change for all of us--and not all of it is positive. I wonder if that sometimes falls hardest on those in the middle of their lives than on either end of it.
But, luckily, it turns out, all is not doom and gloom for our mid-lifers. In fact, there is room—as Stuart Jeffries writes in The Guardian (3 Feb 2016)—“to be cheerful when you’re middle-aged.”
Of the 20 reasons he lists, here are a few of my faves:
Ridicule, as Adam Ant argued, is nothing to be scared of
There’s a bloke who works in my library cafe. He wears a tricorn hat and a possibly silk frock coat. He must be about my age and he gives off a superb “nuts-to-whatever-you’re-thinking-about-me” vibe. Sir, I salute you. Remember when you were young and didn’t wear stuff that might attract peer-group disdain? When you’re middle-aged, those days are over. Score!
You can pretend to be a technophobe
The other day, some lovely Danish tourists asked me to take their photo with their phone outside the British Museum. I did, then blew on it and shook it like a Polaroid picture. They walked off chuckling, no doubt, about the old fart who had lost the plot. Which, in a sense, I have. But, still, the joke was on them. Which cheered me up no end.
You know how to take your pleasures where you can get them
I was at yoga the other night with some very attractive women. “You have a lovely bottom,” said the French instructor. I looked round – in a room full of lithe youngsters, she was talking to me! I’ve still got it, I thought happily. “But,” she added, “would you point it away from my face?” Then I noticed everybody else in the room was doing their cat’s pose with their bottoms pointing the other way. I was 180 degrees to the room. Did I feel depressed at being the Corporal Jones in this scenario? No – I felt cheered by a French lady praising my bottom. Albeit ironically.
You’d be really miserable if you didn’t have that well-developed sense of irony hardened from years of exposure to life
Hair: the unbearable truth
Bad news! I haven’t got much hair on my head. Good news! I’ve got loads growing from more interesting places! Indeed, the only reason I got into social media was to post pix of my nasal hair on Instagram. Don’t look sniffy: I’m trending right now. Albeit under a pseudonym.
You’ve got so much to look forward to
If you are unhappy in middle age, there is some good news: you won’t be for long. According to Professor Andrew Steptoe, director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London: “If, as we suspect, happiness is beneficial for health, it follows that people who are less happy may not survive to such an old age. The oldest age categories will therefore include a greater proportion of happier people.” So if you do survive into old age, you may well be happier because the miserable gits who used to make you unhappy during your middle years will have popped off. That’s got to cheer you up, hasn’t it?
To read (and enjoy) the entire article, click here: