Middle age at ... 53?


The Washington Post

How do you know you’re middle-aged? How about when you wear clothes and shoes based on comfort rather than style, or grow hair in all the wrong places: nose, ears, eyebrows? Those are just two of the signs mentioned in a recent British survey about when middle age begins and how to identify it.

The 2,000 people surveyed by Benenden, a health-care and insurance firm, also made clear middle age was no longer something for 30- or 40-year-olds to worry about. The life change, they said, began at 53. In fact, nearly half of the older-than-50s who were surveyed said they personally had not experienced “middle age” yet.

“A variety of factors – including more active lifestyles and healthier living – mean people find their attitudes towards getting older are changing. Over half of the people surveyed didn’t feel that there even was such a thing as ‘middle age’ anymore,” Paul Keenan, head of communications at Benenden Health, said in a statement when the survey was released.

“Being ‘old’ appears to be a state of mind rather than being a specific age,” he added. “People no longer see ‘middle age’ as a numerical milestone and don’t tend to think of themselves as ‘old’ as they hit their 50s and beyond. I’m 54 myself, with the mind-set of a thirty-something – perhaps sometimes even that of a teenager.”

So beyond comfort shoes and ear hair, what are some signs that you’re no longer young? Here’s the list offered up by respondents to the survey. Some are particularly British (e.g., joining the National Trust). But you’ll get the point.

• Losing touch with everyday technology such as tablets and TVs

• Finding you have no idea what “young people” are talking about

• Feeling stiff

• Needing an afternoon nap

• Groaning when you bend down

• Not remembering the name of any modern bands

• Talking a lot about your joints/ailments

• Hating noisy pubs

• Getting more hairy – ears, eyebrows, nose, face, etc.

• Thinking policemen/teachers/doctors look really young

• Preferring a night in with a board game than a night on the town

• You don’t know any songs in the top 10

• Choosing clothes and shoes for comfort rather than style

• Taking a flask of tea on a day out

• Obsessive gardening or bird feeding

• Forgetting people’s names

• Booking a cruise

• Misplacing your glasses, bag, car keys, etc.

• Complaining about the rubbish on television these days

• Getting bed socks for Christmas and being very grateful

• Taking a keen interest in “The Antiques Road Show”

• When you start complaining about more things

• Joining the National Trust

• Being told off for politically incorrect opinions

• Flogging (selling) the family car for something sportier

• When you can’t lose 6 pounds in two days anymore

• You get shocked by how racy music videos are

• Buying travel sweets for the car

• Considering going on a “no children” cruise for a holiday

• When you know your alcohol limit

• Obsessively recycling/ knowing the collection dates

• Always carrying a handy pack of tissues

• Falling asleep after one glass of wine

• Spending more money on face creams/anti-aging products

• Preferring a Sunday walk to a lie-in

By comparison to those who participated in the British survey, Americans have a different take on when middle age begins, at least according to a paper published in 2011 by researchers at Florida State University. That study, which used nationally representative data collected in 1995-1996 and 2004-2006, showed the perceived beginning of middle age varied, not surprisingly, depending on the age group that was providing the estimate. Overall, the researchers said, most people think of middle age as beginning at 44 and ending at 60.

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