Article by Ceri Wheeldon
I was at an event earlier this week, talking with a group of people about Midlife and the Midlife MOT programme. The conversation was positive, upbeat, and mostly a dialogue about taking stock of our lives today, planning for the future, living life to the full, etc etc. But then one lady voiced her concerns about the term ‘Mid-life’. She stated that she was 54, and still felt 18, and would take exception to anyone suggesting that she was ‘midlife’. In fact she was extremely vocal.
Somebody else in the group pointed out that they did not consider the term ‘mid-life’ as negative at all, but did consider it to be descriptive of a stage of life. She was a financial adviser , and felt it important to acknowledge what stage of life you were at in order to make informed decisions when managing and planning finances. Another suggested that at 54 , unless she lived to be 108 she had in all probability passed the ‘mid-way’ point.
With life expectancy in the UK currently standing at 79.2 years for males and 82.9 years for females (according to the ONS) . It is sobering to think that once we pass the age of 40, many of us will have fewer years ahead of us than behind us. But surely that makes it even more important to take stock and really make the most of the years ahead of us.
Terms are strange. I know that personally I have no problem at all being considered ‘mid-life’, but do think that being described as ‘middle- aged’ has a slightly negative undertone, conjuring up an image of a low energy life, and somebody past their peak.
Descriptions of age
Any description which denotes age can bring about an emotional reaction. Age is still such a sensitive subject in a culture which applauds youth. But I do think attitudes towards age are changing. When I first started Fab after Fifty, nearly 10 years ago, most of the media coverage of women on particular over the age of 50 was negative. Images in the press were of downtrodden , unhappy women wearing shapeless clothes. Whenever I attended a meeting with a marketing department the names of two celebrities invariably came up in association with being over 50- Helen Mirren and Judy Dench. Both fabulous women, but at a different life stage to somebody entering their 50s. Today we have a swell of voices on social media, talking about the positive aspects of being over 50.
With vibrant A-listers such as Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock all celebrating being in their 50s, and Madonna and Michelle Pfeiffer celebrating landmark 60th birthdays- outdated perceptions are changing.
Mid-lifers are not complacent. Midlife entrepreneurs have a far greater chance of their new businesses succeeding than their younger counterparts. They are more adventurous in their travel – seeking out volunteering roles abroad. They are running marathons, taking up more creative hobbies. Embracing all that life has to offer with confidence and optimism.
Back to the original question- how you react to the phrase ‘mid-life’?