Busting the Stereotypes of Aging
Midlife—turning anything over 40 – seems to begin the slippery slope of ageism. Birthday cards telegraph that the best part of life is behind you. Anti-aging products are targeted at you. Articles tell you how to dress for our age. It’s as though some time bomb went off and suddenly your best choice is retreat or submission. Forget your facelift—Midlife needs the facelift.
If you are between the ages of about 45-65 you are certainly experiencing something distinct. Is just isn’t a crisis. In fact, most people describe it more like a sense of free-floating anxiety: that low level buzz of discontent that puts you into a less than stellar frame of mind.
That is about to change. I have launched a movement to name this new life stage at midlife. Instead of associating the years of about 45-65 with a “midlife crisis” and “over the hill” greeting cards, I am catalyzing change in the way we think about this exciting time. We currently accept and perpetuate dangerously limiting stereotypes about what it means to be at middle age. It’s time you have the understanding and the tools to embrace the power and possibility of “Middlescence.”
I am catalyzing change in the way we think about this exciting time.
From my perspective as both a coach and a gerontologist, I can tell you that far from old age and decrepitude, the potential for this stage is characterized by growth, change and vitality. Just as adolescence was a time of rapid change and growth, Middlescence signals a shift in our self-concept and direction, with an opportunity to clarify what is really important in our life.
Being Ready for Change
Let me tell you about the three remarkable Middlescents who were ready for change:
Adam* spent his career climbing the corporate ladder as a health care executive. As he approached 60, he wanted to retire from his full-time job but still needed to earn an income. Adam wondered: What could the next stage of his life look like, and what would make him feel fulfilled?
After a lucrative career as a powerbroker in the investment business, Hillary* was in her 50s and single. She was determined to leave behind the cold East Coast winters and find a path more in sync with her values. She also craved an outdoor lifestyle.
Amy*, a divorced insurance professional, raised two sons as a single mom then became the primary caregiver for her mother. Like Adam, she needed to keep earning a living, but Amy felt ready to retire from a job that no longer captivated her. She also felt trapped by her caregiving responsibilities, which were compounded by her mother’s resistance to receive help from anyone else.
Our joints may be creakier and we don’t bounce back as quickly after a late night concert as we did in our 20s, but we have other assets like experience, expertise and wisdom that can create change in and around us. Middlescence, this new stage, is actually the pinnacle of life – the coolest place to be – a place where we can drive change and contribute to the world in meaningful ways – for our family, our workplace, our greater community and ourselves.
The Rest of the Story for Adam, Hillary and Amy
Adam became executive director of a nonprofit serving children. The new job has given him a greater sense of meaning and more time for bicycling, yoga and travel with his wife. Hillary moved to San Diego, where she now runs a financial literacy program. Amy downsized her house, found in-home care for her mother, and started swing dancing and Zumba classes. All three tell me they relish life more each and every day.
It’s time to write the rest of your story, and your turn to embrace your capacity for leadership and creativity. These are the very hallmarks of Middlescence. We have so much to discover together. Check out the The Middlescence Factor for tools and tips. I want to create a Middlescent Revolution in your life!
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of these individuals.