Never before in modern times has there been three distinct generations living side by side. I refer to the Young, the Middle-agers and the Older.
What is the so-called Middle-age?
It is hard to define precisely. We are not the Young anymore but we are not the Older either. Some of us are the younger Baby Boomers and some of us are the older Gen-Xers. Perhaps we are defined by a combination of actual age, attitudes, physical appearance, health and fitness, wealth, opportunities and lifestyle choices?
For some of us, the Middle-age starts at around 50. Why then? It follows our glorious 40s, the peak of our careers, energy, power, earnings potential and physical good looks. Despite feeling invincible, dynamic and unstoppable, our 50s is the time when some of us/half of us find ourselves “redundant” and less appealing to the workforce. Maybe this is the glass ceiling?
The Middle-age is a time when grey hair increases, sleep isn’t as deep and refreshing and we need glasses to read. Sadly, too, we have developed wrinkles and we can’t wear high heels anymore. The real question is: have our energy levels decreased or, do we just want to leave the grind of the treadmill now that we have the means and the opportunity to do so?
Is it an easy transmission from the end of the Young to start of the Middle-age? It’s a good question. It is certainly a gear shift that some would welcome and others not so. It is not always a choice “it happens to you.” Middle-age is certainly an attitude as much as anything else and an approach to new phase in life that must be worked on. However, the Middle-age in many ways is also our golden time.
Now is the time for second or third careers based on experience, achievements, connections, popularity, reputation or enjoyment. It might be a time where we can afford to earn less, enjoy our work more, WFH and give up the daily commute.
Now is a time to enjoy a richer more diverse lifestyle, perhaps gardening, cooking, exercise and fitness, projects at home and hobbies alongside work.
It can be a time when we pay less or no mortgage, have more time for travel and the advantages of grown-up children. We can start to enjoy the fruits of our labours.
It is also a time of looking after our aging, maybe frail parents, managing their affairs and experiencing their deaths. It might also be time of increased financial security with inherited wealth.
We can be very proud of ourselves
We have lived through and benefitted from the arrival of all the technology that we use today. There was nothing more than a manual typewriter, telex and telephones when we started our careers. We have seen it all, learned how to use it all and embraced it all.
To our great credit, we have survived adversity in its many forms: physical and mental illness, divorce, redundancy, debt, loss of pensions, heart-break, the deaths of loved-ones or worse. We have taken risks – won some and lost some. But, we are still going strong and we are still pulling through.
We have experienced some degree of gender equality in terms of employment and pay, although discrimination against our age still is rampant. #NextBigThing? We have earned our own money, we have quality relationships that are more balanced or equal than our mothers’ generation. We are delighted to see #MeToo making such great progress. We had to learn how to “work the system” when it came to the creepy/groping/philandering men. We will always be frightened to walk alone in the dark.
I cannot see why a man would risk his marriage, family life and career for a quick fling or less. My silence was presumed.Lost my job
What everyone needs to know about the Middle-agers
We are still young compared to the Older and we are still filled with drive, ambition and energy. We have an abundance of skills and experience and sometimes we give them away for free. We are still great to look at, entertaining company, great hosts and we like to party.
We are less embarrassed and more certain about ourselves than ever before, despite being broken by those who should know better. We don’t have to follow fashion and we don’t want to look like everyone else. We are a valuable financial market, we love our brands and we deserve to be noticed.
So when does the Middle-age end? It’s hard to know from the current cohort and it seems to shift upwards for each generation. But from our vantage point today, this is what we would like to say:
Messages to the Young
- We think you are fabulous, clever, beautiful, smart and hardworking.
- We know that your workload is massive and unrelenting – somehow yours has become the age of working like robots.
- We hope you will buy a house soon; so when you are retire, you won’t have to pay rent or a mortgage.
- We think that sex and love make the best combination (aka we are worried about your love lives).
- Try and get some rest (not that we managed to).
- Try and find alternatives to fast fashion and fast food – one is killing the planet and the other is killing you.
- We are pedantic when it comes to spelling and grammar and we know this is annoying.
- We know that your national insurance, income tax and council tax are funding this nation’s state pensions, pubic sector pensions, healthcare and social care.
- Good manners, kindness and hard work will get you a long way in life and earning loads of money is fantastic, but it’s not the end game.
- We are sorry for landfill. Please take advantage of every green, planet-saving initiative and innovation that comes along.
- We get the reasons behind being vegan and we are adapting but we don’t agree on being Woke or cancel culture.
- The solution to almost every problem is found “somewhere in the middle” or in moderation (sadly). It’s rarely found in absolutes or extremes.
- AND, there is always a solution but you may have to search for years (or ask others) to find it.
- Something bad is almost always caused by more than one (bad) thing.
- Keep pushing back on the patriarchy. All that lust for sex, power and money has damaged the world, wrecked lives and caused wars. However, the matriarchy would not be much better.
- We are sorry about our dancing, but we still think we are the best in the world, as is our 1980s music.
- We are sorry about our drinking habits, although we did give up smoking.
- We love being with you, we think the world of you and we love you.
Messages to the Old
- Thank you for setting very high standards in almost every aspect of your life and which still influence us today: being on time, manners, bravery, chivalry, putting up with pain and loss, always doing the right thing (and not what you want), doing your duty, traditions, fighting in wars, saving not spending, mending and repairing, knitting, dress-making, tapestry, dressing smartly, cleaning your shoes and not wasting a thing.
- We love your humour, political incorrectness, irreverence and your sureness.
- We secretly admire the way you speak your mind.
- We love looking at the photos of you when you were the Young.
- Please downsize your house. It is becoming impossible for you to look after and it is far too big for you these days. You will soon be too connected to your many possessions and won’t have the energy to do it (and you know what that means).
- Please try and release some equity or give away some of your money to the Young rather than lose it in inheritance tax. The Young are paying off their student loans forever and can hardly save for a pension or afford a deposit on a house. Their tax pays for everything.
- Please get a cleaner and a gardener. You can afford it and you don’t have to do it all yourself.
- Please do everything you can to stay living at home. Please behave in such a way that you will not forced against your will into a care home. This means: taking care of yourself, towing the party line, following the rules and not breaking the law. Please live carefully. We can see what is coming even if you cannot.
- Please take all your medication properly otherwise you will end up in hospital. That includes a four hour wait at A&E.
- Please don’t give up on personal care. Lipstick and nasal hair DO matter and don’t even get me started on feet.
- Please try not to do those crazy things that make you fall over, fall off or fall down and get terrible cuts and bruises on your face or break your hip.
- Please stop driving (so fast or so slowly). It is frightening us all to death.
- Please keep drinking water (and wine).
- Please make sure that you have made a will and LPA – both sorts. We need to know what you want to do now – no matter how hard it is to discuss it – and no, we won’t know when the time comes.
- We are sorry that we don’t have enough time for you and we are always rushed and running late.
- Thank you for saying that you are only old when your children retire.
- We know that the more we see you – the less we notice that you are getting older.
- We do love you. We know that you will forever hold our hand in yours.
Sometimes I think the Middle-age makes us almost invisible. We’d make the best shoplifters, spies and drug mules; but in truth, we are all far too busy.Katharine