Wednesday Bubble: Fifty is the new…

Posted by on May 16, 2012 in aging | 4 comments

Bet you were going to say 30, right? Or 25?!

According to a recently published paper in the journal Advances in Life Course Research, the definition of midlife (and 50) isn’t as cut and dry as you may have thought. However, the findings likely won’t surprise you; gender plays a huge role in perception. And women? They don’t like to believe that they’ve reached the milestone…yet.

The researchers, who harken from Florida State University’s Pepper Institute on Aging say that most ‘life course’ studies pay little attention to subjective factors that affect our perceptions, such as how young or how old we feel, financial stability or health. So, they looked at longitudinal data that was compiled during two time periods: 1995-1996 and 2004-2006 and evaluated it on the basis of age in years (aka chronological age), gender, race, socioeconomic status and age identity (how old or young survey participants felt). Then they took a deeper dive and analyzed education levels, income, physical and mental health, and marriage status and parenthood status (biological or adopted children and adult children status).

The findings are pretty interesting:

  • Our conception of the timing of life change with age and shift as our lives and our perceptions shifts. BUT…women and older individuals tend to elongate life and postpone the middle age time marker.
  • Men believe that midlife starts as much as three years earlier for women; this is consistent with the societal perception that when it comes to aging there is a double standard. Women, on the other hand, tend to postpone their idealization of middle age — at least for their female peers — as long as two years.
  • If you feel old, you tend to believe that life is shorter (and that middle age occurs earlier).  And if you are young? Middle age starts a heck of a lot earlier than older adults believe it does.
  • Finances and poverty tends to shorten life. And shorten life perceptions.
  • If you are in poor health, began your family at a very young age, are divorced or living without parents? You are likelier than individuals who don’t fit into these categories to think of your life as shorter. And as middle age occurring a hell of a lot earlier.

It all sounds very clinical, doesn’t it? But the key take away is that life is not necessarily a straight and narrow path. And more importantly? As women, we are often viewed as middle aged perhaps before we are prepared to view ourselves there. Mostly? If you/we feel young, more power to you/us. Those life bookends all depend on you. Associate Professor Anne Barrett and a key researcher in this study believes that the majority of people believe that middle age begins at 44 and ends at 60.

It’s what you make it. And to heck with that individual next to you who is believes that fifty is not the new…[fill in the blank]. But truly? Fifty is the new fifty. And what you make of it. I’m about to turn 51 in less than a week. Look out world; I am really only me and that me feels pretty darn young on some days.



  1. 5-16-2012

    If middle-aged counts as halfway through life, meaning I still have 44 years left to live? I’ll take it!

    And you’ll rock 51!

  2. 5-16-2012

    Middle age is what you make it. The bookend theory is just silly but this research is pretty insightful. And thanks m’dear!

  3. 5-16-2012

    You wrote my words…Stay young!

    • 5-16-2012


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