JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

You know you're middle-aged when ...

Date

Performance Matters

Andrew May is a performance coach who has spent the past 15 years working with elite sportspeople.

View more entries from Performance Matters

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

How many candles does it take to declare middle age has struck?

How many candles does it take to declare middle age has struck? Photo: iStock

I can clearly remember when my father turned 40. I was 17 at the time and I can remember thinking “wow, dad and his friends are all so old!”.

I now have a 4 in front of my age and a number of my friends have a 5, and it's fair to say my perspective has changed a bit. So what, strictly speaking, defines 'middle age'? Am I there yet?

The clinical definition is 'the period of age beyond young adulthood and before the onset of old age'. Sure, but what does that really mean?

Ask a teenager, and middle age will be mid-30s. Ask a 60 year-old MAMIL (middle-aged male in Lycra) and he'll proclaim that “60 is the new 40”. A study by UK healthcare provider Benenden Health asked 2000 adults their thoughts about middle age and while we once believed the distinction began at age 40, popular opinion now has it kicking in at 53.

Why has middle age been pushed back? Rising life expectancies due to improvements in medicine, and an increased focus on health and wellbeing, are two obvious reasons.

But middle age is much more than a number, it's also an attitude. Michael Browne works in financial services and advocates the 'healthy body, healthy mind' credo. “I took up cycling at the age of 49 and I seriously feel better than ever,” he says.

“My bioage (fitness age) is now in the low 40s and my latest challenge is to compete in my first triathlon. Am I middle aged? Maybe on my birth certificate, but mentally and physically I feel sharper than I did in my thirties.”

Margie E. Lachman is a psychologist who specializes in ageing and believes continued study can slow the brain's ageing process by up to a decade. “Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood,” she says.

So it appears redefining middle age is influenced by a number of factors – how well we look after ourselves, our mental fitness and attitude, and continuing to learn and stretch the brain. I'm sure genetics plays a part, too.

If you're still not sure, what are some telltale signs that you are now classified as being “in the middle”?

Ten signs you are middle-aged:

1. You book a cruise

While you once enjoyed Contiki trips and hiring a moped in the Greek Isles, now you're walking past travel agents and getting excited about going on a cruise.

2. Your hairdresser doesn't cut your hair

When you go to the hairdresser (if you have one) they spend more time trimming your eyebrows and nose hairs than they do on the top of your head.

3. Police and school teachers look too young

You do a double take when police officers walk by and say things like, “they look like they have just come out of school”. You walk out of parent-teacher night at the school thinking, “lovely teacher, but I can't believe she is so young!”.

4. The music is too loud

You ask a friend to meet you in a quaint little coffee shop up the road because the pub you met in last month was too loud to hear properly.

5. Your favourite TV shows are ...

You get excited about Antiques Road Show, you record SBS World News so you can watch it later, and CSI and Underbelly are just too fast-paced and noisy to bother with.

6. AM radio is king

You have no idea about the music your kids are listening to because you'd much prefer to listen to AM talkback on the way to work. It's much more educational and besides, you simply can't put up any more with hearing Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus songs over and over again on FM.

7. You don't know who Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus are

Actually, whether you are middle-aged or not, this is not a bad thing.

8. “I'm still alive” is your standard response

When people ask you how you are, you respond, “I'm still alive”, then use the words “in my day” at least once in the conversation that follows.

9. You still make phone calls

You remember the days before smartphones, so rather than messaging, Tweeting, emailing or texting, you still use your mobile to make actual phone calls.

10. Hangovers last for days

You used to stay out all night and bounce back the next day. Nowadays a couple of quiet ones after work flattens you for days. And don't you just love to let everyone know all about it?

How do you identify middle age?

Main sources: A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond. Patricia Cohen, New York Times, January 19, 2012

141 comments

  • 11. Still living in Sydney

    Commenter
    Want to Escape to the Real World, Want to be in Paris...
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    February 17, 2014, 3:17PM
    • What? you live in Sydney and your alive.....geee most of the women I meet down their I call the walking dead.

      Commenter
      tomcat
      Date and time
      February 17, 2014, 4:20PM
    • Alive...? who said we're alive? Surviving from day to another perhaps but surely not alive.

      Commenter
      Want to be in Paris, want to see real people, real coffee
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 17, 2014, 4:56PM
    • The need to correct the use of "your" and "their"

      Commenter
      Oldish
      Date and time
      February 17, 2014, 6:33PM
    • Have you got one of those collars on your neck like Running Man? Get on a plane and go.

      Commenter
      j frank parnell
      Location
      los alamos
      Date and time
      February 17, 2014, 7:39PM
    • I'm 43, cycle 400km a week and never felt better (despite drinking way too much). I've cycled Italy and seen the bright future - 70year old guys that would put the average 20 year old Maccas munching Australian to disgrace. Non?..

      Commenter
      Rod
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 17, 2014, 9:02PM
    • 12. You have taken up road cycling, and believe strutting around CHLC (crutch hugging lyicra clad) fools people into believing you aren't embracing middle age - if you want to cycle like a young man (or lady) try a bit of off road.

      Commenter
      Andrea's brother
      Location
      On the mountain
      Date and time
      February 17, 2014, 11:58PM
  • We like to complain that the young don't treat their elders with respect, but it's not entirely all their own fault. The Western world has a narcissistic obsession with youth, and no-one wants to get older. How can we expect respect from young people if we don't even respect ourselves?

    And lol at the guy who's "sharper now than I was in my 30s". Denial can be pretty strong in this self-obsessed age.

    Commenter
    TheMagnum
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    February 17, 2014, 3:26PM
    • It's not their fault at all if we're not treated with respect. Respect to elders used to be given automatically, regardless of the person involved. It caused untold grief in certain communities as adults were able to manipulate and abuse children at will.

      Respect is earned.

      Commenter
      bornagirl
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 17, 2014, 4:46PM
  • You know you have reached middle age:

    When you simply cannot accept mediocrity in service.

    When baggy clothes are preferred to those that are tight and body hugging. When comfort trumps style is a sure sign.

    When Biege creeps into your wardrobe.

    When the Wife starts throwing away those old favourite clothes that don't, and never will fit again just so she can use the free space in the wardrobe for all those things that don't and never will fit her again.

    When the dentist begins complimenting you on still having all your teeth whilst charging you a fortune for trying to keep them in your head.

    When you have laser surgery because you are sick to death of carrying around a million varieties of prescription lenses just because you never know which pair of spectacles you'll actually need when you go out. Then find, you still have to carry Sunnies and reading specs anyway !

    When your eyebrows start taking up the slack on your forehead as your hairline retreats, with them now acting like weather vanes whenever the wind picks up.

    Commenter
    Joe the POM
    Location
    Geelong
    Date and time
    February 17, 2014, 3:51PM

    More comments

    Comments are now closed
    Executive Style newsletter signup

    Executive Style newsletter signup The latest news delivered to your inbox twice-weekly.

    Sign up now