Middle age begins at 55 years, survey suggests

Dancers Some say middle age is a state of mind.

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Middle age starts much later than previously thought - at the age of 55, research suggests.

And Britons do not see themselves as elderly until they are nudging 70, the survey of 1,000 UK adults aged 50-plus for the Love to Learn online learning website says.

Previous studies have pinpointed the start of middle age as early as 36.

The research suggests that as the population ages, new cut-off points are being drawn.

According to official national data, there are now more adults over 65 than there are under-16s.

Although seven out of 10 early 50-somethings quizzed for the survey defined themselves as middle-aged, the average age at which the period of life was perceived to start was 54 years and 347 days old.

'State of mind'

However, a sizeable minority, nearly one in five, thought middle age did not begin until after the age of 60.

But almost one in five (19%) said that being middle age is a state of mind, rather than something that begins at a certain age.

The research also asked the panel at what age they thought middle age ends. The average came in at 69 years and 277 days.

This suggests middle age itself now spans 14 years and goes well beyond the government's planned state pension age of 66.

Recent research from charity Age UK, looking at how Europeans categorise themselves, found the average age at which old age is perceived to start is 62. But there was less consensus on when youth ended, ranging from 34 in Sweden to 52 in Greece, with an average of 40.

However the Love to Learn research also found that adults in their 50s were upbeat about the benefits of their age group.

'Old at 60'

Gill Jackson, director of new online course provider Love to Learn, said: "More than half said they have more confidence and experience than younger people and are less afraid of making mistakes."

John Craven, who is supporting the website's launch, said the concept of ageing had changed: "Only a generation ago, many people were pretty old at 60.

"These days most of us in our middle and later years are much younger in our attitudes and it's all about having an active state of mind."

But some older people still appear to be haunted about by obstacles from their past, such as failing the 11-plus school entrance exams.

Decades after the event, nearly half of those who did not pass the grammar school entry test said it brought back negative emotions. And one in five said it had put them off learning permanently.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    Three score and ten makes middle age 35. You're just kidding yourself if you think otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    I have good friends who are in their late seventies and to look at them you would take at least ten years off them. They are young at heart mentally alert are very fit and active for their ages. I am 55(9the new middle aged)and hope I am as fit at their age and of sound mind. The next survey will probably say life bigins at twenty and we are middle aged at the age of thirty. Who do you believe

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Middle age begins (like it or not) at about 40. I'm 53 and to say I haven't reached it yet it is just wishful thinking. I'm at the stage in life where each morning when I get up I check the bed to see nothing has dropped off in the night :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    I think Middle Age is when you first start saying your too old to do stuff!
    It's a state of mind and nothing more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    For the researchers information, you are middle aged when you think you are. You are old when you think you are. At the current rate of progress I expect to become middle aged sometime around 70 in four years time. Of course, i might then decided to put if off. After all why bother pigeon holing myself?

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    239, Typical_English_No8

    Fair? Well yes - for another 5 years, then I might ask you to bump it up to 65.

    I assume you are somewhat younger than me. Don't worry - your time will come. One day when your 55, some youngster will trot along and tell you you're old.

    My kids don't joke that I'm 55 - they joke that I'm half 110. They're 9 and even by their maths that makes me middle aged

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    "the survey of 1,000 UK adults aged 50-plus..."

    Ah, well that explains something then.
    "middle age" is roughly 40s to 50s - anyone that disputes that is in denial.
    And hardly anyone lives to 100

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Back in the day bro.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    When you are young, middle aged is whatever your parents are, and old is what your grandparents are. Once you're a parent yourself, of course, you see things differently. Many 70-year-olds today are clearly still middle-aged by most social definitions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    "Middle age begins at 55 years"...

    How many bleedin' 110 year olds do you know??

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    It wouldn't be an issue if it wasn't for the fact that we use 'middle aged' as a derogatory term for 'past your best'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Reading some of these comments from 60 pluses makes me feel very lucky at 65 . I`m a former racing cyclist who retired from the sport at 40, but continue to ride up to ten hours a week on both mountain and road bikes.
    Honestly I feel as good as ever and even manage to make a few 25 year old cyclists suffer on the hills. Just don`t give up !

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    So, I'm not middle aged afterall. Who says the newspapers never give good news?
    Can someone please tell the whipper snappers who keep rejecting my cv that I am still 'young'? That having 20 years experience and speaking two languages may count for something? That my brain is active and I am able to assimilate new information beyond that required to buy a zimmer frame or bake a cake?

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Great, that means the goverment can keep upping the retirement age so that no-one ever needs to receive a state pension. Sounds a bit like the plot of Catch-22!

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    @233 Sorry, didnt mean to offend anyone!
    But i just dont agree that 55 can be classed as being middle aged. Yes you have the holywood actresses who seem to be able to defy the years, but for average joe/josephine it doesn't work like that. I'll re amend my boundaries if you like, take the upper middle aged bracket up to 60, that fair?

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Ha, I'm 48 and already feel old. Knees, hips neck and lots of other bits with aches and pains. If my body was a car I'd be trading it in for a newer model

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Malthus wrote of doom 'to trash social improvement', a new twist to propaganda the real threat to progress

    Capacity for social-undermining remains central to political life, often through unintended consequences from wrong starting-points

    Commerce drives kids to drink, drugs & self-harm, not least in 'sports'; worse for parents 'trying to keep-up'; ruinous for mobility & so cardiac health in age

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    I always understood middle age to be the time of life when you spend all night doing what you used to do all night?

    Or are there other astronomers out there who have a different view?

  • Comment number 235.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Depends on how you define "Middle Age".

    Is it defined by fitness? If it were many in their teens could be called middle aged.
    Is it defined by health? If it was many in their twenties could be called middle aged.
    Is it defined by closed minds? it is was many in their thirties couild be called middle aged.
    Is it defined by looking back at your life more than you look forward? Possibly.


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