When Do You Move From Middle Age to Old Age?


“You are only as old as you feel”

“Age is an attitude, not a number”

“Age is a state of mind”

You’ve heard all of those platitudes before.  And they are all bullshit.

If I told someone that I was 35 – because that is the way that I feel sometimes – they would laugh. Or snicker. Or roll their eyes. Because me being 35 years old just doesn’t pass the straight face test.

If I am filling out a form at the doctor’s office and it asks for my age, filling in the blank with the word “stoic” or similar attitude, I think the doctor and her staff would think I was loopy. And they would be right.

I usually have a pretty positive state of mind, but if a friend asks me how old I am today  and I say “Pretty positive, thank you!” it is likely that my friend will suggest that I have a hearing test. Or see a psychiatrist.

Because all of these motivational chestnuts about staying young by thinking young may help you have a better life, but they cannot, can NOT, change how old you actually are. Despite all of these admonitions to have a good mental attitude and behave like I don’t care about my age, the fact is this:

I am 59 years old as of today.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that I should have quit calling myself “middle aged” many years ago. As Barry Cryer might say, “how many 118 year old woman do you know?” Even though the average age at death is climbing, fewer than 100 people in modern history have been documented as reaching the age of 114. According the the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy of a female in the United States is a shade over 82 years. That means “middle age” is more factually placed when a woman is in her early 40s.

But still I cling to the phrase “middle aged” as a descriptor, even though I am quite a few years past the fact. And I think I will hold onto that phrase for 2014, because society seems to be so accepting of middle age throughout a person’s 50s. It passes the straight face test, even if it is mathematically unsound.

But in January of 2015, I am officially moving to old age.

Where do you think the line between middle and old age should be?


4 thoughts on “When Do You Move From Middle Age to Old Age?”

  1. Middle age ends when social security and Medicare kick in. At least, that’s the answer my mother gave me. She’s slightly south of 70, and just filed, therefore, according to her, shes now old.

    I think middle age ends when we start acting like we are old. I know some 45ish year olds who have entered old age.

    I think you are safe for another year Joan. Happy birthday, my friend!

  2. I had a robust discussion with a visiting friend about this today, and we think that there are insufficient descriptors between middle age and old. After all, think of how many exist for your first 25 years – baby, toddler, child, pre-teen, adolescent, teenager, young adult. But for the 25 years between 40 and 65 or so you get . . . 2? Maybe it should be “mature” after middle age and before old. Just a thought.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes and thoughts, Tammy.

  3. I agree that your actual age is your age, but who decides how you should behave/feel just because you have reached a certain milestone. I am 43, but what does that mean in terms other than the fact that I have been rotating around the sun for a few? I used to sing and dance when I was 20, go to parties and head out to dinner with friends. I camped, I travelled the to the far corners of the world. In fact, I still do those things. I hope to do those things, if able, when society starts to call me old. Why label anyone? Be your age and act your age. To me that means not being ashamed of stating my true age (why is getting older something to hide?) and it means doing the things I love to do no matter how many revolutions I have seen.

  4. While I agree we over-label, it’s not possible to live life in our world without some reliance on labels. I am not talking about behavioral “age” here. But as a former cop I know that labels, or descriptors, are incredibly important. I ask a crime scene witness “how old WAS s/he?”, not how old they behaved. And if they can’t tell me age, we resort to words like young, old, middle-aged, etc.

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