This is a time of great change in a person’s life and is the peak of middle-age. The reaching of the 50 year milestone makes many ask themselves “What if I had…?”, which in turn, not infrequently, leads to decisions and changes in private and/or career life.
For men, very often, this Blob is often at the peak of their careers and earnings and saving are at their highest. According to the market research organisation, Nielsen, in America 70% of disposable income is accounted for by the over 50s age group. Much of this income is spent on travel and leisure (40% of adventure travelers in America are over 50 years). On the other hand, members of this Blob may have had first experiences with aged based discrimination from younger colleagues. In a study performed in America where 40,000 fictitious CVs were sent out in response to job vacancies for low-skilled jobs, those in this age group received 19% less callbacks as compared to those around 30 years of age. No wonder that adults in this Blob are more likely than their younger counterparts to start up companies and be self employed!
At the same time, if they haven’t already confronted it in the previous Blobs, mid-life crisis peaks, which ofttimes leads to depression and anxiety. Many men feel the need to prove their manhood and have a desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness again. Not seldom do they bring about drastic transformations, such as changes in career, purchasing a sports car, going for a motor cycle license or even searching for a ‘trophy wife’. They search for an undefined dream or goal and may feel a deep sense of regret for goals not accomplished. Divorces initiated by the husband are not uncommon in this Blob.
This Blob also poses considerable challenges for women. Very often this is the time for the onset of menopause, resulting in major side-effects such as anxiety, poor memory, inability to concentrate, irritability, mood swings, less interest in sexual activity and weight gain. Many women – and also men – see their sense of value in their ‘attractiveness’. The fear of losing this leads to a significant change in their feelings about themselves, often causing fear of isolation and depression. This Blob also often corresponds with children leaving home. For the stay-at-home mother this can lead to grief and loneliness, caused by the so-called empty nest syndrome. The want of grand-children may awaken to fill in this vacuum. With all these emotional roller-coaster challenges, many women feel disappointment if they do not get the right reactions, sympathy and understanding from their husbands. As a result, divorces triggered by the middle aged wife have been on the rise, with 66% of divorces (the number has doubled since 1990) in America being triggered by women. A majority of these women claim to have divorced their spouses because of emotional or psychological abuse.
Physically, besides the already mentioned changes caused by menopause, primary aging continues, with skin losing more elasticity and the muscle tone slackening further. Nails become thicker and brittle. Reaction time slows down. As the saying goes “If you’re 50 and nothing hurts, you’re most likely dead!”. Faced with these obvious aging effects, the middle-aged adult often becomes more health conscious and starts getting to terms with ‘life-end’ as an idea.
The brain of a middle aged adult doesn’t work as quickly as it used to, it becomes more difficult to stay focused and retrieve information from memory. On the other hand, other cognition skills based on experience, such as moral decision-making, regulating emotions and reading social situations improves in this Blob.
In general, mid-life crisis in western cultures often turns out to be more dramatic than in eastern cultures, possibly due to the focus on individual competitiveness as compared to being part of a community. Those who manage to come out of this positively go through a so-called mid-life transition, consisting of a re-framing of the crisis and looking at the occurring changes in a positive way, instead of getting stuck in denial, anger and depression. They remember all that has been accomplished instead of what they did not manage to do. They redefine themselves, look for and find a new purpose, career or hobby. Many reconnect as a couple and start new activities such as traveling, which is much easier now that the children are less dependent on them. The new family situation, especially in the case of divorce, needs adaptations and new role definitions. There may be an increased desire to spend more time alone or with certain friends. Aging parents may also require more and more assistance. Traditionally women tend to take over this role often resulting in another ‘career break’ around the age of 50.
By focussing on achieving a successful mid-life transition, the middle-aged adult can develop a broader vision of life and be adequately prepared for the subsequent Blobs.
Click here for Blob 10: Mature Middle-Aged Adult
Understand why the 7-year life stages are outdated in this Blog
RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
Empty nest syndrome from Wikipedia
The real reason for divorce at midlife by Abby Rodman at betterafter50.com
Midlife Transition by Judy Keappler