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 513.

    Ah well, at least the older people on here have a sense of humour. How dreary some of the younger ones sound - never done much, but expect it all. Guess we (those born between 1940-50) have turned out to be a lucky generation, though it didn't seem like that when I was growing up, food rationed, no rent paid by the state, but at least we wanted to improve our lives and made sure we did so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    A lot of it is about how you feel, but also about how you look. Can anyone tell me what a 55 year old is supposed to look like?,..or a 49 year old for that matter?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    I totally agree that one should not act old if one is over 40, 50 or 60. It is ok to take breaks or refrain rom roller skating, if one is afraid of breaking something, but I can see that people today have so many more options available to stay in good health and enjoy life. Yipee!

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    @Oldscarborian. Middle age is not some arithemtic point. It's about development. It was that period between the development of youth and the decline of old age. It ends when the decline is undeniable. It begins when development and engagement and the joy of living end. Thanks to advances, the decline has been pushed back, and the opportunities to develop are always there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    @490 Sorry to burst your bubble, but I'm 50 very soon & can assure you I've not not 'enjoyed' all you appear to think I have.

    Yes, my education was 'free' (parents paid tax) til I left school @16. My pension was contributory & never 'guaranteed'. Now worthless with no real time to build up again. I have a mortgage with >17 yrs left & not much hope of paying off. Have experienced 15%+ inflation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    Utter twaddle?

    I'm 45 and feel half that age!

    It's how you view life:-)+;-)=:-D

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    It's all downhill physically after 25.

    Try walking up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. Or standing on one leg with your eyes closed.

    Health aside life gets better though.

    Then you die.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    I think "middle aged" is a mindset rather than an age. I met a very youthful 80 year old while I was travelling, she was out doing everything all the younger people would do. At the same time, I have a 30 year old friend who I would definately class as middle aged - she talks and acts as if she's past it and it's hard to convince her how wrong she is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    Quick! Return my cardie to M&S. I've got 10 days to go until middle age! Pass me the vodka jellies! I'm still young, dude! And someone please tell my teenage son that I won't be in till later, yeah, I might just stay over at a friend's tonight. See you later - maybe!
    Janie (age 54 and 337 days!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    Old age is always 10 years older than you are! Anyway until you can no longer get about, do things etc. The gap between starting to think you're old and actually being old is short. I'm 76 and full of energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    BBC must have a business partnership with Pearson to promote this. This meets a conundrum of life, full on. Ask a 20 year old if some one is middle aged at 55 they will say no they are old. If you ask someone if they are old they will never concede they are.

    I am 58 and I am neither young or middle or old age. I am, therefore, I am. But for learning sales at Pearson I am middle aged - really?

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    Age is just a number, its how fit you are and what's in your head that matters. I see people who are old at 50 and I happen to know a gentlemen of 93 who still digs his own allotment. Genes count for a lot, but so does looking after yourself and a positive mental attitude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    At age 55, recovering from a "full on" session takes about three days.

    Three days in which I approach food like I would a rattlesnake sitting on my car keys.

    Three days when I need at least 2 attempts to roll a cigarette, usually because I lick the glue off.

    Three days when I am terrified to order a pint in the pub in case they fill it it up to the brim - and I launch it over my shirt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    It is all in your genes...

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    In my mind I am only in my twenties, its my body that says I am not. But in the last 70 years I have built up a lot of memories and am still adding to them. Age is just a number.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    20% put off learning due to failing the 11 plus ! I was told by a teacher that you can't learn after the age of 20 and that my ambitions would come to nothing. I am really glad I thought the teacher was an idiot. One thing life has is infinite possibilities and negative attitudes and restricted viewpoints are someone else's problem. Stay young by learning ALL the time, age is irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    493. Its good to walk, after a heart scare I took it up daily. However why do we ignore the one thing God gave us and the scum privatised. Water.

    Drink plenty of it and it might add a few years to your life. We will have plenty of it after we have destroyed the ice caps!

    Oh this progress today. not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    All in the mind seemingly...

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    Oh good! I can use another 'crises' ...and a new sports car!

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    490. Not me mate. Im 59 and despise what is being done today. We are a self centred take it all generation who will not want to be on our death beds for our greed, self interest etc etc.

    However the Media dont determine health, when you die, age issues. Life and genetics do, plus a host of other factors.

    Some of us have had an education and ignore tabliod simplistic rubbish.


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