middle age

you could know now what they knew then

At 50, Karl Pillemer had a revelation about his career.  After 25 years as gerontologist, he found himself focused almost entirely on problems like elder abuse and isolation: “the Book of Job for older people,” as he put it at the 2012 Age Boom seminar for journalists. This conformed to the general portrayal of olders as frail and debilitated, and was reinforced by researchers “because focusing on problems is how we get funding.” But not only had this stopped feeling fulfilling, it didn’t jibe with his actual experience, and so an outreach project was born.

Feeling over-the-hill at 40? Cheer up. For a while.

Most animals, from shrimp to shrews, decline swiftly after reaching sexual maturity.  Humans, on the other hand, experience middle age: a several-decade plateau during which most biological systems deteriorate very little. This stage of life, argues writer and zoologist David Bainbridge in this excerpt from Middle Age: A Natural History, represents a remarkable evolutionary achievement that should gratify, not depress.

farewell to youth, but not beauty

That’s the title of a piece in the fluffy Style section of yesterday’s New York Times, the one I turn to first on Sunday mornings. Being 45 puts writer Maria Russo in the “advance guard of Gen-X middle age,” and she describes her pleasure at beginning to encounter realistic exemplars of non-youthful beauty: Ellen DeGeneres, Diane Keaton, the dames of Downton Abbey.  The trend is exemplified by MAC Cosmetic’s new line inspired by 90-year-old style icon Iris Apfel, pictured here in Scarlet Ibis, a “bright, high-drama red that approximates Apfel’s signature bold lip.”Iris Apfel

The Economist’s take on why people get happier as they get older

A friend pointed me towards this insightful article in the Economist about what I’ve been calling the “U-shaped happiness curve."  (In Britspeak, that’s “U-bend.”)  It attributes widespread corroboration to “a new branch of economics that seeks a more satisfactory measure than money of human well-being,” and observes that the U-bend shows up consistently and globally across 40 years’ worth of data, even when scientists control for cash, employment status and children.

“something very deep and quite human”: happiness in late life

A large Gallup poll of more than has found that “by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older.” The tone is skeptical: “[Getting old] sounds miserable, but apparently it is not.” The methodology is impeccable: researchers surveyed 340,000 Americans aged 18 to 85. The conclusion is clear: “good news for old people, and for those who are getting old.”  In other words, for everyone.

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