By this Blob, many middle-aged adults have successfully mastered the mid-life crisis and have either found inner peace and acceptance or, in case of failure to do so, may have resigned to a sense of hopelessness. One way or the other, they are older, but also more mature and wiser. This often comes with a tendency towards being less adventurous and with an appreciation of the familiar and of their own views.
With children leaving the household and becoming financially independent, the mature middle-aged adults often have less responsibilities and may find more money to spend on themselves, which they can invest in newly found hobbies, such as travelling or other. Many also decide to do some voluntary work that benefits not only the good causes they work for, but also bring physical and mental benefits for themselves. At home, according to David Gutmann in the book “Life Span Human Development” gender roles might change after the children leave home. Each gender may take on more and more traits and roles of the others. Men might become more passive, gentler and emotionally expressive, whereas women may become more active, assertive and independent, thus requiring a re-calibration in relationship. A new kind of relationship will also need to build with the adult and independent children. On the other side, parents of the middle-aged adult may now be very old or might even have succumbed to old age.
On the other hand, a significant proportion of the “resigned and hopeless” adults do not want to continue in this state. With divorces after 50 growing more common (1 in 4 divorces in America are now couples above 50) there are more and more so-called gray-divorcees. In America, the number of divorcees over 50 now even exceeds the number of widowers. This puts not only psychological, but also financial burdens on those who were planning to grow up together after having spent so many years together. Compared to earlier generations, the security of long marriages staying intact out of habit is no guarantee any more. Some are even calling this change a divorce revolution and websites such as DivorcedOver50.com have emerged to assist this new group of gray-divorcees. According to Barry Gold, one of the contributors to the site, the three stages a divorcee over 50 goes through are survive, “revive” and finally “thrive”. Consequently, and in line with this theory, one sees that online dating use among 55 to 64-year-olds has also risen substantially.
The middle-aged adult may now start looking towards retiring and make plans for the change. At the same time Generativity sets in, which in Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development refers to the concern for establishing and guiding the next generation and is said to stem from a sense of optimism about humanity. Thus, often there is an urge to mentor the young and leave a mark.
With ever-increasing human life-spans extending in to the 90s and beyond, the traditional retirement age at 65 may not be financially viable for some. Savings might need to be supplemented so that they can last the next 30+ years. Thus, now may be a time to consider possible employment options for post retirement days. The lucky ones might be able to continue working in the same industry as before, but for a majority, this might be a time to learn new skills and build on a new vocation that requires less physical or mental exertion (if not already catered for in previous Blobs).
Mentally, there is accelerated loss of brain volume and there may be more noticeable changes in memory and other areas of cognition. As processing speed slows further, learning something new takes longer, multi tasking becomes more difficult and visuo-spatial processing gets more difficult. According Barbara Strauch, author of the book “The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain” when”faced with new information, the older brain might take longer to assimilate and use it. But faced with information that in some way relates to what’s already known, the middle-aged brain works quicker and smarter, discerning patterns and jumping to the logical endpoint”. Nevertheless at work, age-based discrimination becomes more obvious, especially if the middle-aged adult is in a situation where he has to look for new employment and compete with a younger work force.
Physically, the aging process also becomes more apparent. Eyes lose their ability to adjust to objects at varying distances, hearing further declines, skin continues to dry out and is prone to more wrinkling specially on the face area. Generally, the ability to taste and smell also starts to gradually diminish. Middle-aged adults may need to wake up more frequently in the sleep and may feel more tired in the morning. They have to come to terms with having to live at a lower pace and physical fitness level and readjust expectations on oneself.
Click here for Blob 11: Young Elder
Understand why the 7-year life stages are outdated in this Blog.
RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
Life-Span Human Development by By Carol K. Sigelman, Elizabeth A. Rider
Key Things to Consider When Divorcing Over 50 by Bob Burger
Generativity on Wikipedia
The 100-Year Life: Living and working in an age of longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott