What Does Midlife Even Mean?

posted in: Aging | 0

I titled this blog This Creative Midlife because I am approaching 50 and am looking to ensure that my remaining years are fulfilling ones. Recently, I have become more interested in a variety of creative activities and believe that creativity will play an increasingly large role in my future.

It does not seem like a coincidence that I have taken a broader interest in creative activities at a time when I’m starting to be more self-aware of my age. Being indifferent to one’s age is the privilege of youth.

Part of what I hope to do with this blog is to come to a better understanding of what it means to be the age I am. And the age I am is commonly referred to as middle age or midlife which is a sobering and perhaps optimistic nomenclature. But I am trying to proceed optimistically. I should still have plenty of good years ahead of me and hope to make the best of them.

But I pose a question in the title of this post: what does midlife even mean?

Psychology Today defines “Midlife” as ranging from approximately age 40 to age 65. LiveScience concurs that that is the most agreed upon span but adds that some Westerns cultures define it as being anywhere between 30 to 75. Certainly, this midlife feeling varies among individuals. They quote Alexandra Freund, a life-span researcher at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, who says “There is no specific time in life that predisposes you to crisis.”

LiveScience goes on to say that some cultures don’t even have the concept of midlife so this may be more of a Western phenomenon.

Psychology Today says that this period can be stressful as people may feel “discontented and restless as they struggle with aging, their mortality, and their sense of purpose in life.” The phrase “midlife crisis” (coined in 1965 by Elliot Jaques) stems from this struggle. It is a time “when adults reckon with their own mortality and their remaining years of productive life.”

That sounds about right.

Although people often joke about having a midlife crisis, it can lead to serious mental health conditions.

Psychology Today lists the following potential symptoms:

  • Exhaustion, boredom, or discontentment with life or with a lifestyle (including people and things) that previously provided fulfillment
  • Frantic energy; feeling restless and wanting to do something completely different
  • Self-questioning; questioning decisions made years earlier and the meaning of life
  • Confusion about who you are or where your life is going
  • Daydreaming
  • Irritability, unexpected anger
  • Persistent sadness
  • Increase in alcohol and drug use, food intake, and other compulsions
  • Significant decrease or increase in sexual desire
  • Sexual affairs, especially with someone much younger
  • Greatly decreased or increased ambition

Although many of these symptoms are clearly problematic, many are not. Discontent, self-questioning, daydreaming, and increased ambition can all lead to better things. The key is to be self-aware of the changes getting older may involve and realize that many of these things are just a normal part of the process.

Obviously, I have been doing some research into middle age and plan on doing more which I will continue to share here.


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