Is 50 the new 30?

MADONNA is 50 later this year. But will the pop princess hang up her basque or is 50 the new 30? Today JAMES MARSTON asks what is middle age?DO policemen look frighteningly young? Do you think nightclubs are far too loud? Do you think about what you'll do when you retire?If the answer is yes to all of the above then you might be what used to be described as middle aged.

James Marston

MADONNA is 50 later this year. But will the pop princess hang up her basque or is 50 the new 30?

Today JAMES MARSTON asks what is middle age?

DO policemen look frighteningly young? Do you think nightclubs are far too loud? Do you think about what you'll do when you retire?

If the answer is yes to all of the above then you might be what used to be described as middle aged.

There was a time when reaching 40 was a milestone that meant you were distinctly over the hill. Reaching 40 meant you could put on your slippers, put on a bit of weight and relax into middle age.

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But that description doesn't seem fair to today's 40-year-olds.

So what is middle aged?

University of East Anglia psychologist Dr Simon Hampton said there are three elements to middle age:

Notional

Simon said: “The idea of being middle aged is not something that our grandparents or great grandparents would really have understood.

“It is a fairly modern notion and it's a bit like the nuclear family or teenagers. It is an idea.”

Sociological

Simon said: “Once you accept middle age as a notion then it must be defined and have a set of conditions that make someone middle aged.

“There are a number of properties that seem to be associated with middle age. It's about Marks & Spencer, a drift to conservative views and a nostalgic outlook.

“Middle age also means living in a certain way and having certain hobbies. Can you be middle aged if you don't have children? Or if you are a vagrant? Or a pop star?

“Middle aged is generally associated with mortgages and family.”

Biological

Simon said: “Middle age in females is co-terminus with the menopause. We don't think of women who are 30 as middle aged. Middle age is when you can no longer realistically call someone young.

“In men there is a steep decline in prowess after 30 which gets steeper after 40. Middle age is the same for men in that by virtue of their partner they are unlikely to procreate any more. All epithets of youth have gone by the time a man is middle aged. It is about the age of 45 to 50.”

So what do you think? Are you middle aged and is it so bad after all?

Town centre newsagent Ila Patel, 49, said she considered herself to be middle aged.

She said: “I think I'm in my prime. I've come to a stage where I can tell people what I think and I'm not scared of middle age. I'm glad I am the age I am.”

For 22-year-old Karin Stone, of Spencer Road, Ipswich, middle age is the late 40s.

She said: “There's no need to slow down, all it means is you are getting a bit older but that's all.”

Margaret Clarke, 49, assistant manager at an Ipswich charity shop, said middle age starts at 50.

She said: “You have more experience and you can handle situations better and things that happen to you when you are older.

“Being 40 isn't middle aged anymore. People have younger outlooks. There are so many celebrities that are 50 and look amazing.

“I don't think of myself as middle aged. I'm still 18 as far as I am concerned.”

n Are you middle aged? Is middle age a state of mind? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Midlife crisis is a term used to describe a period of dramatic self-doubt that is typically felt in the “middle years” of life, as people sense the passing of youth and the imminence of old age.

Sometimes, transitions experienced in these years, such as aging in general, menopause, the death of parents, or children leaving home can trigger such a crisis.

The result may be a desire to make significant changes in core aspects of day-to-day life or situation, such as in career, marriage, or romantic relationships.

Academic research since the 1980s rejects the notion of midlife crisis as a phase that most adults go through.

Personality type and a history of psychological crisis are believed to predispose some people to this “traditional” midlife crisis.

People going through this suffer a variety of symptoms and exhibit disparate behaviours.

Many middle-aged adults experience major life events that can cause a period of psychological stress or depression, such as the death of a loved one, or a career setback.

Some studies indicate that some cultures may be more sensitive to this phenomenon than others.

One study found that there is little evidence that people undergo midlife crises in Japanese and Indian cultures and researchers have found that midlife is often a time for reflection and reassessment, but this is not always accompanied by the psychological upheaval popularly associated with “midlife crisis”.

Nobody asks you what you're going to do with the rest of your life.

The young patronize you.

The old still don't think you know what you're doing.

They both turn to you for money.

You forget what free time is like because you never have it.

You go on holiday and the best part is getting to sleep late.

You do things every day you swore you'd never do 20 years ago.

You're not "over the hill". You're still climbing ... and climbing ... and climbing...