What Is Considered to Be Middle Age & What Is “Old”?

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Written by Brian Sweet

Is there a set age or range that definitively determines when someone has reached middle age? Does this mean they’re entering “old” territory? So what is considered middle age? First of all…

The Midlife Range

Many people consider their forties to be the entrance to their middle-age phase of life. It’s usually seen as an age range, though—about age 45 through 65.

For generations, the goal for a lot of people has been to retire around the age of 65 so that has been seen as the transition from middle age to old age.

Let’s take a look at some black-and-white basic facts on ages and aging, as well as some gray areas (gray!) that explore more flexible theories.

We’ll also cover a few expert suggestions on approaching middle age with a vibrant outlook.

Shifting Sands and Viewpoints

With lifespans throughout the world increasing substantially over the past several decades, the 40s are now viewed as something quite different than they used to be.

It’s not uncommon for men and women in their 40s to feel they are in their prime both personally and professionally.

In the mid-century, their counterpoints may have been settled into their careers with older children in the home or on their way to college.

Today’s 40-something might switch careers, start a new one altogether, and just begin their family or remain happily single. The options are limitless.

Of course, there will always be those in their 60s and 70s who look, act and feel glorious.

They’ve taken great care of every aspect of their health throughout the years, including mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally. 

Likewise, there will always be others who age far more quickly than their contemporaries due to hard times and perhaps unhealthy living—we’ve all met people in their 30s or 40s who seem (and feel) much older.

Driving Over the Median

Speaking strictly statistically among various countries’ populations, we can look at middle age designations as their median age among all citizens counted.

According to World Population Review, the median age of a population is “the point at which half the population is older than that age and half is younger.”

Their research has shown that within the past seven decades, the median age of the world’s population has increased from 23.6 to 31.0 (1950 to 2020).

The Global Top Ten of the Median Age

Median ages vary greatly between countries and are affected by birth rates, social/economic advancements, and average life expectancies. As of 2020, the countries with the highest median ages are: 

  1. Monaco: 53.1
  2. Japan: 47.3
  3. Germany: 47.1
  4. Italy: 45.5
  5. Slovenia: 44.5
  6. Greece: 44.5
  7. San Marino: 44.4
  8. Andorra: 44.3
  9. Austria: 44
  10. Lithuania: 43.7

The United States comes in at position 59 with a mean age of 38.1 just being pipped by
Australia in at number 56 with a mean age of 38.7 but worse than
United Kingdom in at number 48 with a mean age of 40.5 and beaten by
Canada in at 30 with a mean age of 42.2.

The Global Top Ten of Life Expectancy

  1. Monaco: 89.4
  2. Japan: 85.03
  3. Switzerland: 84.25
  4. Singapore: 84.07
  5. Italy: 84.01
  6. Spain: 83.99
  7. Australia: 83.94
  8. Iceland: 83.52
  9. South Korea: 83.5
  10. Israel: 83.49
  11. Sweden: 83.33

Canada at 13, 83 years, UK 26th 81.77 years and US at 40th, 70 years.

The World’s Top Ten County’s
Mean Age & The Life Expentancy

Age chart2

This information was collated from data from World Bank, CIA and United Nations Population Division estimates. Only sovereign countries, member of the UN were included.

What Do Experts Say?

Do medical experts lean toward certain numbers when it comes to asserting what is middle age and old age? Frankly, it depends on where you live.

And it’s not just about attitudes and behaviors, it has a lot to do with cultural norms, availability of good health care, and genetics.

So in all reality, middle-age is hard to define but in general, old age is mostly seen as somewhere over 70 years of age.

That’s still somewhat subjective, though, because if someone lives past 100, perhaps their “old age” didn’t really start until they were beyond 80 years of age.

Again, it all truly depends on the individual, their cognitive and physical health, and their lifestyle.

An Ageless Mindset

While it might be wishful thinking to simply state that age is just a number, it’s all about a positive attitude—there is proof that cognitive “super-agers” have an edge over their peers.

Some of this good fortune may be hard-wired and some of it may be due to extra efforts to keep the brain strong through regular exercises, experiences, and even social interactions.

In fact, cognitive aging researchers are always looking into new theories on why some people’s brains resist physical decline and why other people’s brains show physical signs of age and disease-related deterioration yet continue to function well.

There are a couple of popular thoughts on the (brain) matter center regarding cognitive reserve and brain maintenance, where the former is thought to be a very strong foundational mind and the latter an exceptionally resilient one even when stuck with normally debilitating injuries or disease. 

Pursuing brain-strengthening activities always seems to offer great advantages and outcomes, so many specialists recommend reading, games, classes, hobbies, and great conversation regularly for those in their middle-age and old-age life journeys.

Going Strong Through Middle Age and Beyond

What does it mean to embrace middle age with gusto? To live “your best life” in this stage?

Whats Middle Age

Across the board, most would say it includes staying curious, looking for topics and activities to keep you stimulated, surrounding yourself with supportive people, and staying confident and authentic.

We’ve covered, in another article, life hacks to live a better, healthier life.

Different Approaches for Men and Women

It’s interesting to note that men and women often veer in different directions when assessing what is most important to them as they reach their middle-age and older years. 

Until recent years where gender roles have taken on more equal footing in terms of family duties and careers, the past saw the majority of men focus on work in their early adult years and women take on the greater portion of home and family responsibilities.

As middle age and thoughts of retirement come into focus, significant life transitions may become future goals.

Men may spend less time on career ambitions and many hope to invest greater efforts into family and hobbies.

They may ease out of their busy work schedule slowly or go all-in with a clean break: throwing a big retirement party and planning outings with the grandchildren the very next day.

Women ease out of the intense demands of childrearing as the kids, if they have them, become more independent.

Some women feel this is a time to pursue passions that had been set aside, whether it be related to career ambitions, education, travel, or friendships.

Women at midlife, want to look and feel good.

In many ways, those who reach middle age in good health and with a positive outlook tend to see the future as a time that can involve fewer efforts making money and taking care of others.

Including more involvement in nurturing self-care. It can be nice to reward yourself for all that caring and hard work in your earlier adult years.

Skip the Midlife Crisis and Go With the Flow

Life—the entire wild journey—has challenges and joys within each phase. Remember feeling confused or frustrated with complexities in childhood?

How about the overwhelm of your teenage and young adult years? And both of those stages also came with a lot of incredible fun and exhilaration.

Middle-age and old age is really no different. It’s all new to anyone fortunate enough to reach this level of the game, so it’s a wise idea to approach it with an open-minded mission to learn and grow along the way.

There’s no reason to let things get stagnant or increase your list of worries simply because time is marching on.

In fact, get over the crisis, midlife is a wonderful time of life to open new doors and squash bad habits like negative thinking. Replace “I’m too old for this” with “Hey, I’d like to try that and now I have some extra time” and see what happens.

And Finally But Not The End

For all who find their way to middle age and the golden years beyond it, we say: Have a fabulous time and be compassionate to yourself and to others always.

For me, I’m going to conclude that middle age starts around 45 and ends when I feel “old” – which I’ll endeavor to keep a long way off by keeping fit and eating well – yeah, boring, I know – it seems to work though.

For more on life after 50, you might like this. https://midlifehacks.com/life-after-50/

Photo of author
Mad keen runner of old. Now just mostly mad. But mad keen on researching the best and latest fitness-related information and products for a healthier and fitter midlife. Over 50 - most definitely. Qualified in Australia as a PT in Sports & Recreation.

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