Tag Archives: middle age

Top Ten Signs You’re Turning 50

vitaminsI had a birthday recently. It wasn’t *that* birthday. But that one’s coming soon enough.

My 11-year-old daughter often asks me if I “feel old.” Hell no, I tell her. I feel young. And I do. (It helps that I still eat pop tarts and, worse, enjoy them…but I digress.)

So while I’m fully on board with  Joanne Bamberger’s recent post about how it’s really OK to look 50, there’s no denying that as we age, things start to change. Once, several years ago I wrote a blog post entitled “Five Tangible Signs You’re Middle Aged.” I looked at it again recently and decided that while it was (still) remarkably relevant, it was time to expand on it and bring it up to date.

Herewith, my top ten signs you’re turning 50:

Read the rest of this post over at The Broad Side

Image: Vitamin packaging via www.colindunn.com

Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Be Optimistic About Middle Age

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This week’s list is inspired by a barrage of recent scientific studies offering good news about middle age.

Middle age has long been conceptualized as that phase of life where we cease thinking about our potential as human beings, and start focusing on our limitations. No more. While not everything looks rosy (stay tuned for next week’s tip list), there are at least a few trends out there that do bode well for those of us hovering at the mid-point of our lives.

Here are five reasons to feel optimistic:

1. People are living longer. According to scientists, more people than ever before are living to older adulthood. In the U.S., the average lifespan has risen 30 years since 1900. And today’s older adults are better-educated, healthier, more active and more affluent than any previous generation. Plus, as I pointed out last week, the labor market is becoming more diverse and there will be more jobs for the over-55 set. So there’s lots more time – and more to do.

2. Our brains keep evolving. New research also shows that – contrary to the long-held view that our brains get fixed in early childhood – circuits in the adult brain are, in fact, continually modified by experience. The result? In some respects, we actually think better in middle age. Specifically, inductive reasoning and problem solving improves in the middle-aged brain. We get the gist of an argument better. We arrive at solutions more quickly. Even financial judgments peak in middle age.

3. People are happier over 50. This is also both surprising and welcome news. A survey of more than 340,000 people published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that overall feelings of wellbeing improve as we pass middle age. Specifically, levels of stress, worry and anger all dropped significantly for people in their fifties, while levels of happiness and enjoyment increased. While the study wasn’t designed to identify the causes of increased happiness, scholars speculated that with age comes greater wisdom and emotional intelligence. A similar study carried out in Canada also found that self-esteem is highest among middle-aged boomers. The corollary of all this research? We can probably expect to see fewer mid-life crises.

4. Even divorce can be positive. As the endless analyses of Al and Tipper Gore’s break up tell us, late divorce (i.e. divorce in marriages 20 years or longer) is increasingly common. But it’s also not necessarily a bad thing. A large number of articles that followed on the Gores’ split emphasized late divorce as a form of autonomy and self-actualizationespecially for women – rather than just sticking it out for longevity’s sake. For me, at least, that was the first time I’d seen divorce as a cultural trend discussed in positive terms.

5. The AARP has had a makeover. Yup, that’s right folks. The American Association for Retired Persons (that’s AARP for all those in the know) has had an on-line overhaul in order to cater to the digital demands of the over-50 crowd. So for all you aging Facebook-ers out there, you have a new on-line hang out.

Image: AARP by Somewhat Frank via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Middle Aged Women Drinking Too Much

A new study in Britain has found that middle-aged women are drinking more than they did in their teens. As alcohol takes a rising toll on both health and health care in the United Kingdom, the British government struggles with what — if anything — it should do about this problem.

Today I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about the health consequences of drinking to excess and how governments can respond.

Have a look…

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Over the weekend I was on PoliticsDaily.com talking about what a hung parliament might mean for governance in the U.K. Check it out!

Image: Alcohol! by lynda@dwc via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

Every Friday I point you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. In honor of Passover (and my own complicated feelings therein), I highly recommend my friend D.D. Guttenplan’s marvelous column – Blogging the Haggadah – over at The Guardian. (This is part one but links to parts two and three.)

2. I’m nowhere near purchasing an Ipad (or even an Iphone, for that matter) but I was quite taken with this review of the Ipad by David Pogue in the New York Times. Talk about a great product review! And while you’re pondering the Ipad, have a look at this wonderful send-up of the Ipad’s “unveiling” over at gelatobaby. (Hat tip: Communicatrix. Thanks for the shout out, darlin’!)

3. I love stories about letters and letter-writing. Here’s an amazing one from The Washington Post about a woman who found herself in the President’s inbox and how she managed to score a letter from the man himself.

4. I really liked Middle Age Cranky’s take on how aging makes us see things in less black and white terms.

5. It’s the first week of April, which is when many high school seniors will find out where they’ll be going to college next year. I’m quite far away from this whole harrowing experience now, but this mock rejection letter from Harvard by Peter W. Fulham in Politics Daily really made me laugh.

6. And speaking of Politics Daily, I’m over there today talking about the upcoming televised political debates in the UK and why I think British politics is turning American.

Have a great weekend!

And please do follow me on Twitter!

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'Grown Up Telly': Whither The BBC?

I’ve written before on this blog about my fondness for public radio, middle-aged though it may be.

And living as I have in the U.K. for three and a half years, I’ve grown particularly fond of BBC Radio and BBC Television – both of which I think of as gems of adulthood, not to be missed. (As a friend puts it, it’s where you go to watch “proper grown-up telly.” Amen.)

But, like everything, publicly funded broadcasting in the U.K. must adapt to both the forces of the market and to the digital age.

Today, I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about a recent, much-publicized Strategy Review of the BBC here in the UK and the philosophical debates it has opened up over the meaning and viability of public service broadcasting going forward.

Have a look…

Image: BBC Radio Leeds by TGIGreeny via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Middle Aged Desire: Two Scenes and a Moral

Over the weekend, I had two encounters which prompted me to think about desire in middle age. Borrowing a page from the wonderful Formerly Hot, I thought I’d share them with you:

SCENE ONE:

Setting: Grim public library in London on rainy, Saturday afternoon. DELIA stands hunched over computer, desperately searching for CD of first Pirates of the Caribbean movie for son before daughter’s ballet class finishes. She is clad in loose-fitting long, dark Eddie Bauer-style winter parka, which she hasn’t bothered to take off because she is in such a hurry. She looks vaguely like a parking lot attendant, save the over-stuffed cloth bag from Daunt Books, which hangs precariously over one shoulder.

MAN of unknown age, face and ethnicity approaches neighboring computer terminal and also begins typing.

MAN (clearing throat): Um…is this the library catalog?

DELIA (not looking up): Yes.

MAN (noticing her accent): Oh! Are you American?

DELIA (still typing): Yes.

MAN: How long are you visiting for?

DELIA (distracted): I live here.

MAN: With your husband?

DELIA: Yes.

MAN flees.

Analysis:

My First Thought: Yay! I’ve still got it!

My Second Thought: Wait a minute…he never saw my face, I’m wearing a tent, and he basically only approached me because…I’m female.

My Third Thought: Gross.

SCENE TWO:

Setting: Camden Town restaurant where two middle-aged couples pour over the film Up In The Air, which they’ve just seen.

HUSBAND: Call me crazy, but I just don’t think Vera Farmiga is all that hot.

Analysis:

My First Thought: What is he smoking?

My Second Thought: Yay! My husband finds me more attractive than Vera Farmiga.

My Third Thought: What am *I* smoking?
Moral of Both Stories: There’s no accounting for taste.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on why Up In The Air is a really grown-up movie…

Image: Untitled by Jfer via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Tangible Signs That You're Middle Aged

“Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.”

–Bob Hope


Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Yesterday, I talked about middle age as a set of attitudes. Today I’d like to complement that idea with five concrete signs that you’re middle aged:

1.You start re-reading classics. I’m a big believer in the value of re-reading. But while in Waterstone’s the other day (UK equivalent of Borders), I saw a bookmark entitled “50 Books To Read Before You Die.” And suddenly I had this panic attack that I hadn’t read every single book on the list.  As it happened, I was already re-reading Wuthering Heights for my book group. But as soon as I saw that bookmark, I ran back to embrace Heathcliff with reckless abandon!

2.You leave Parties Before Midnight. I remember once taking this personality test which asked “Do you leave parties before or after midnight?” I dismissed the question entirely because at that point in my life, I didn’t show up to parties until after midnight. Boy, how times have changed. And it’s not just that I now have to pay a sitter when I go out. I actually find myself craving the solitude of…well, Heathcliff.

3. You decline alcohol because you need to exercise the next day. OK, in truth I don’t do this all that much. But I do restrain myself far more than I once did. For heaven’s sake, I used to smoke a cigarette *after* returning from a run. Or go running…to escape a hangover. Now my aging body does the mental calculation of how that morning run will feel after just one glass of wine and I find myself re-considering it.

4. You Start Renting BBC Mini-Series. It’s one of those sad truths of parenting that once you have kids, you never go out to movies anymore. My husband and I thought we’d be different than everyone else on this score but, of course, we’re not. Sure, we go to see a few of the big hits every year. I’m too much of an Oscar fan to skip those. But most of the time we rent movies about six months behind their release date. Lately, however, we have found ourselves renting assorted BBC mini-series that ran – gasp – in like the 80’s. Worse, we find them bizarrely addictive. Don’t believe me? Check out House of Cards. Tell me if you’re not hooked after Episode One.

5. You buy that Joni Mitchell album. You know that one – Both Sides Now – where she goes back and sings…Both Sides Now, except that her tone’s a little more plaintive, a little more somber, a little more…middle-aged. Worse, you buy it because you saw it featured in Love, Actually in that scene with Emma Thompson crying in the bedroom. And it’s haunted you ever since. Admit it. It has.

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Check out my response to the latest study showing the costs of unsafe abortions worldwide.

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Image: Joni Mitchell self-portrait by Jenny J via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Stages of Adulthood: Is Age A Number Or A Concept?

Does your actual age tell you anything about where you *are* in adulthood?

I got to thinking about this lately after two public policy proposals emerged that explicitly addressed this very question.

The first was a recommendation earlier this summer in Japan to lower the official age of adulthood from 20 to 18. The reasoning? To encourage young adults to vote, participate in society more and assume their own credit card debt. In short:  to cultivate a greater sense of responsibility, that hallmark of adulthood.

The second is a proposal thrown out at the Conservative Party Conference in the UK last week to raise the official retirement age in this country to 66 (It is currently 65 for men and 60 for women). The logic here is predominantly fiscal – to shore up budget deficits by paying out less in government pension schemes. But Conservative Party Leader David Cameron also noted that with average life expectancy at 86 (up from 81 five years ago), people can now be more productive at an older age. The upshot: we can elevate the age at which it is “reasonable” to stop working.

Me? At the risk of sounding like a Juicy Fruit commercial, I’ve always thought about the stages of adulthood as more of a feeling than a flavor. Which is to say, I don’t think numbers mean all that much when talking about things like responsibility and productivity. (Some nagging feeling tells me I’ve gotten my 1970s chewing gum commercials mixed up…perhaps another inadvertent sign of aging.)

Take middle age. As noted in this recent article in the Times On Line, middle age can technically be defined as lying anywhere between 35 and 65. But as the author points out, “middle age” is much more of an attitude than a precise time of life.

I was reminded of this over the weekend, when my husband and I had a younger colleague and his wife over for lunch. They were both probably in their early 30s – maybe 10 or 12 years younger than us – so not such a huge age difference. But what really struck me most as we talked was what a different place they were at in life. To wit:

1. Choosing what kind of job best suited their career ambitions vs. rethinking career entirely.

2. Exploring neighborhoods in London to find the best fit vs. grimly routing out rodents in effort to come to peace with (exceedingly well-located) closet.

3. Sleeping in until 11 am vs. not being able to remember a time when 7 didn’t feel self-indulgent.

I don’t say any of this with envy. (OK, maybe a tinge of envy.) I very much embrace the idea of life as one giant adventure, into which we never quite “settle in.” And I like to think that this is the feeling that carries us through the different stages of adulthood. Indeed, that is – in many ways – what this blog is all about.

But that lunch did serve one of those “aha” moments in life where you suddenly realize that you’ve…grown up. To wit: as soon as they departed, my husband began grumbling about needing to change his contact lenses. And I said that my back hurt and I really needed to go home and do my exercises.

Yup, folks. We’re middle aged.

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One of my quiet obsessions these days is what’s going on with the European Left. Here’s my post in yesterday’s PoliticsDaily.com about Ten Reasons the Left is Failing in Europe.

Image: The Taste is Gonna Mooova Ya by Pirate Johnny via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For the Weekend

This Friday I direct you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. NPR’s list of books that helped us grow up. A friend of mine just found a copy of Deenie in her basement-sigh!

2. And speaking of literature, if you’re a David Foster Wallace fan (or wanna-be, like yours truly) you might want to join in the Infinite Summer project, an online book club that’s reading Wallace’s Infinite Jest over the course of this summer (only one third through-there’s still time to join!) While you’re at it, a helpful reader pointed me to this interview with DFW posted on the reader’s blog, Rough Fractals.

3. For those of us looking to jump start our job hunt during the recession, have a look at this video resume. You will not be disappointed. (Hat Tip: Marci Alboher, Working the New Economy).

4. The New York Times’ Judith Warner talks about what it’s like to mourn in middle age.

5. For the visually inclined, take a look at this collection of living pictures formed by thousands of U.S. soldiers. Very cool!

6. Finally, I love the concept of this blog, A Midlife Of Privilege. (Subtitle: A WASP stops to consider.) Love it!

*****

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

This Friday, I point you to some worthwhile reading around the blogosphere:

1. Find out when middle-age kicked in for you by taking this musical quiz in the Chicago Tribune.

2. Apparently, the key to avoiding dementia  is getting married…and drinking more coffee.

3. Have a look at the best advertisements to save the planet in The Guardian.

4. Newsweek tells us that boomers have been responsible for economic stability over time. Speaking of economics, have a look at the Freakonomics Q and A with White House economist Austan Goolsbee. He’s very thoughtful and also pretty funny.

5. Two great ways to catch up on the news: The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet and Michael Kraskin’s Politics Dailies over at politicsdaily.com.

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