Middlescence: Midlife and Better, On Your Terms

A transformational life stage created by increased longevity patterns in the 21st century.

For as long as anyone can remember, we’ve associated midlife with unwelcome life changes and stagnation. Right when we should be embracing life at the peak and taking advantage of our hard-earned wisdom, we often find ourselves tangled in questions about where we’ve been and what’s next. To better understand this phase of life, I developed a definition for this stage: Middlescence.

Middlescence [noun] 

pronounced “middle-essence”

A transitional period, between the ages of about 45 and 65, marked by an increased desire to find or create greater meaning in one’s life. Often accompanied by physical, social, and economic changes, it is a turning point from which adults continue to develop and grow. A life stage created by increased longevity patterns in the 21st century.

In adolescence, we all experienced a major transition in who we were and how we saw the world. In Middlescence, we encounter another major change, but this time we can marshal the wisdom and wherewithal to take full advantage of the promise of this life stage.

The Middlescence Manifesto is a public declaration of this new life stage can be a powerful period of self-actualization. Rather than perpetuating ageist attitudes or expectations about turning 40, 50 or 60, the Manifesto describes a path to understanding midlife as “Middlescence,” a new life stage, filled with potential, vitality and purpose. Backed by quantitative research and the qualitative data collected over Barbara Waxman’s 30 years as a gerontologist, the Manifesto establishes that Middlescents are happier and more purpose-driven than almost any other demographic segment. The Manifesto declares that we can harness our leadership abilities to revolutionize our own lives and those of our family members, as well as revolutionizing our communities, workplaces, and the world.

“Middlescence is a fresh way to think of midlife, just like psychologist Stanley Hall popularized the idea of adolescence more than a century ago. Like adolescence, middlescence is a period of life when one’s boy is changing, hormones and emotions are in transition, and one often feels in a liminal or in between space. Not yet old, but no longer young. From this transitional place, a “Modern Elder” begins to form who is both mentor and intern, student and sage, and teacher and learner. A Modern Elder doesn’t have all the answers in a world that’s constantly changing, but they do have a gift of asking catalytic questions. The Modern Elder’s wisdom, emotional intelligence, and holistic thinking mean they can partner with younger colleagues in a new form of intergenerational collaboration that the world has scarcely seen before.”

– Chip Conley, hotelier and New York Times Bestselling author

 What is The Middlescence Factor™?

For as long as anyone can remember, we’ve associated ‘midlife’ with unwelcome life changes and stagnation, a harbinger of future decline and potential disability, a time when people begin to worry about going “over the hill.” But the truth is, people between the ages of about 45 and 65 are at the top of the hill.

This 20-year period can be a pinnacle of life, the coolest place to be, the place where we can drive change in ourselves and those around us, and contribute to the world in meaningful ways. This time is known as middlescence.

factor is “a circumstance, fact or influence that contributes to a result or outcome”. The Middlescence Factor™ is a disciplined approach to uplifting and shifting your consciousness, hopes and actions that enable you to harness the potential of this new life stage.



Are You a Middlescent?

Capacity Building

Check the descriptions that apply to you and let’s see:

_____ I am roughly between 45-65 years old.
_____ I feel like I’m ready for some changes in my life but I’m not sure where or how.
_____ Some of the relationships that have been important to me seem to be shifting.
_____ My body is changing—sometimes seemingly overnight—in ways that are a little unsettling.
_____ Sometimes I feel like a teenager with all these hormone changes.
_____ I definitely don’t feel old, but I’m certainly not young either.
_____ I’m too busy spending time on things that are just not that important to me; I don’t think I can keep doing that.

If at least four of these statements apply to you, you are experiencing full-blown Middlescence. 


 What’s in a Name?

“I believe in the power and mystery of naming things. Language has the capacity to transform our cells, rearrange our learning, patterns of behavior, and redirect our thinking. I believe in naming what’s right in front of us because that is often what is most visible.”  Eve Ensler

And what has been hiding in plain sight is the reality that too many people feel at odds, lack a sense of direction, and feel a malaise because our culture has simply not caught up with the reality that we have added a new lifestage that is as yet undefined. Without understanding middlescence as a pivotal time we are left confused and unsure.  We need a name to understand this period for what it is: a time of transformation and possibility. Naming middlescence gives it the power and credibility it deserves.


Creating a Middlescent Movement

Barbara is using her experience as a gerontologist and training as a leadership coach, to lead the national conversation on what midlife means and to shift our national conversation about midlife from one of crisis and stagnation to one of potential and growth.  The good news is that Barbara’s work only begins with igniting this shift. She goes on to affect change through her work as a leadership coach, speaker, author and workshop leader, better enabling middlescents to harness the power to make this stage their most dynamic yet!

Barbara Waxman's Five Essential Elements, Five to Thrive Quiz and Activation Guide Middlescence

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