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 w4 Chapter 4 Middle Adulthood  

You are now turning 40. Most of you have embarked on an exciting journey of making a career and finding yourself a life partner. You have persevered through educational pursuits, job searches, and finding someone with whom you can share your life. Middle age for you starts later and lasts longer than it did for your grandparents. You are better educated, have access to new medical technology, and are even more productive than your predecessors of a generation ago. 
Many adults have a realization sometime in their late 30sor early 40s that they are middle aged! For a small minority, it can be a time of increased anxietythe impetus for cosmetic surgery, hair coloring, gym membership, and even the purchase of a sports car or other symbol of lost youth. Occasionally, midlifers will make a radical change in careers or living situations. But contrary to popular media, the midlife crisis is far from the norm. 
Despite changes in physical appearance that parallel biological changes, middle adulthood is an exciting time of development. You are often at the peak of your earning power, the kids are out of the house, and you are healthy enough to take advantage of your new independence. Fewer commitments and more secure finances offer you more flexibility than at any time since you were dating. You are more likely to travel, take classes, and have regular social engagements that center on adult activities rather than the storm and stress of childhood and adolescence. 
Indeed, research with over 7,000 adults aged 25- to 75-years-old concluded that aging, at least up until the mid-seventies appears to be a positive phenomenon (Brim, Ryff, & Kessler, 2004, p. 269). Middle-aged adults will often feel they are reaping the rewards for the hard work of the past. On average, they feel more competent and rewarded in their jobs, have closer relationships with family and friends, and are more financially secure. Middle-aged adults rate satisfaction in marriage, children, work, finances, health, and life overall, either improved or the same as early adulthood. Of the variables they studied, only the rating for Sexuality has a downward trend (Brim et al., 2004) (Figure 4.1). 		
Of course, middle-aged adults can have problems along the way too, but they are better equipped to undergo periods of major reevaluation of their lives, setting new goals and dreaming new dreams. As we look at the developmental changes that people encounter in midlife (ages 40-65), we will explore what you have to look forward to in middle age and how you can avoid some of the social, economic, and health problems that others have encountered.

Our ideas about middle age differ, depending on our age. The younger you are, the older middle age seems.
*  What is your conception of middle age? Do you think that a midlife crisis is the norm?

Although physical changes begin to occur in early adulthood, it is not until middle adulthood that you begin to actually notice the changes. For instance, though your athleticism has been declining since your early 30s, you may not notice it until your teenage children begin to beat you by performing at the same level you were at 10 years ago. Cartilage and connective tissue becomes less efficient, resulting in joint stiffness and more difficulty in movement (National Institute of Arthritis, 2006). [VIDEO 1]
Your brain tells you to move like you used to in basketball, dance, or mountain biking, but your body just doesnt cooperate as before. That doesnt mean that you cant compete athletically, far from it. You just have to work a bit harder than before to maintain the same level of fitness. Reaction time also decreases somewhat due to small losses in the neural processing speed, the speed at which your brain processes information. This change contributes to the myth that older people are poor drivers, but the average middle-aged adult compensates by making smarter decisions and anticipating better. 
While muscle tone, lung capacity, and the nervous system are changing internally, external changes are more noticeable. Hair turns gray and the skin develops age spots. It also goes through marked changes as it loses tone and elasticity, sags, and wrinkles. This is due to the skins loss of collagen (proteins giving the skin strength and flexibility), fat, and oil glands, plus years of exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Skin cells do not hold as much water as before, creating a dry feeling. Even though it may at first be unnoticeable, smoking exacerbates the aging of the skin. This phenomenon is especially apparent around the mouth. 
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that results in the loss of bone density and makes individuals more prone to postural changes and fractures. It can be so severe that a simple movement like picking up a box or even coughing can cause a bone fracture (Mayo Clinic, 2009j). Bones become more porous as the tiny natural holes in bones become much larger, leading to a greater risk of fractures and breaks. It is the primary reason that when older people fall, they often break a hip, whereas the same fall 20 years before would have had no effect. Beginning in your late 50s, there can be a loss of 14 inches in height. The loss of bone and compression of the discs in the spinal column causes people to literally get shorter and often to develop a hunchback as the spine bends forward. 
In a study of over 200,000 postmenopausal women (on average, 51-years-old, when women have stopped having a monthly period), nearly half were not aware that they had low bone mineral density, and 7% had osteoporosis (Siris, Miller, Barrett-Connor, Faulkner, & Wehren, 2001). Women are twice as likely to have osteoporosis as men. Risk factors for osteoporosis in women include those who have a small frame, fair skin, low weight, and a family history of osteoporosis or who have had their ovaries removed before menopause. Women of Southeast Asian heritage also have a higher risk. 
African Americans and Hispanics, however, have a lower chance of having osteoporosis (Siris et al., 2001; Mayo Clinic, 2009j). Women who go into menopause later than normal or began menstruating earlier than average also have a reduced chance of developing osteoporosis, possibly because their bodies have had longer lifetime exposure to estrogen. In men the leading causes of osteoporosis are alcoholism, a sedentary (couch potato) lifestyle, and not taking in enough calcium in foods or supplements. 
To help keep bones healthy, doctors strongly recommend that patients increase their intake of calcium along with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. Other important recommendations include not smoking, avoiding alcohol, limiting caffeine, performing weight-bearing exercises, and keeping fit (Layne and Nelson, 1999; Mayo Clinic, 2009j).
Although senses begin to noticeably change during middle adulthood, with the exception of vision, it is not usually immediately apparent. 

The decline in visual acuity becomes more noticeable beginning sometime in your 40s. Presbyopia, the loss of near vision, will affect 100% of you. The lenses of the eyesthe tissue responsible for focusing imageschange shape and become less elastic. Muscle flexibility that is needed for focusing is diminished. Your lenses become less transparent, and less light enters your eyes, resulting in more difficulty seeing in low-light conditions (like menus in darkened restaurants!). You may not notice these age-related changes when in bright light conditions, but eventually we will all need corrective measures when reading smaller print (Fozard, 1990). 
As we age, we are also more likely to develop serious eye diseases. Glaucoma is the result of increased pressure in the eyeball, which leads to permanent damage to the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain. It is a leading cause of blindness. Although its causes are not completely understood, severe eye injuries through accidents, sports, or surgeries increase incidence. Aging eyes will also often develop floaters, particles from the inner lining of the eye that float around in the liquid center of the eyeball. You may notice them while looking at a white wall or at the blue sky. Floaters are sometimes annoying, but most often do not impair your vision. 
The leading cause of visual impairment is age-related dry macular degeneration (AMD), a degenerative disease of the eye. The macula is responsible for our sharpest central vision. With AMD, the macula becomes dried out and thin, leading to a hole in the middle of the visual field and a dramatic loss of sharp vision (Figure 4.2). Doctors do not know what causes AMD, how to prevent it, or how to cure it. It is most common in those over 60-years-old, and women are more likely to suffer from it than men.				

Age-related change in hearing, called presbycusis, accelerates in middle age; this may be especially true for the baby boom generation who has listened to years of loud music. Our ability to clearly distinguish sounds (such as the difference between ball and call) begins to decline around age 50, likely due to changes in the auditory nerve and the brain. In addition, the ability to hear soft sounds, such as a whisper, or higher frequency sounds, such as a birdcall, becomes more difficult as we age. It is estimated that 30% of all people over age 65 have a significant hearing loss. If you have consistently listened to very loud music in your vehicle or with your Mp3 player, you almost certainly already have measureable hearing loss that is likely to get worse with time.
Whether because of natural aging of the sensory systems or the impact of smoking, disease, or environmental factors, our sense of taste and smell begins to decline in middle age. Salty and sweet taste buds are the first to change. This may lead to an increased craving for spicy foods and a tendency to eat more (Hoyer & Roodin, 2003). 
Sometimes those who believe that they have a taste disorder actually have a smell disorder instead. Smell receptors in the nose are connected to other receptors in the mouth, especially the tongue. When you chew food, your taste sensors are firing, but in addition, the released aromas travel through a channel connecting the top of the throat with the nose (the reason why milk will sometimes become a nasal projectile). So, the smell and taste receptors are together responsible for most of your enjoyment of a good meal. 
Lose either or both receptors, and eating ceases to be pleasurable. You can see this in action when you have a cold and your nose is stuffy, blocking the aromas getting up to the nose, resulting in a blander tasting meal. Changes in taste can be a particular issue for those individuals who have hypertension (high blood pressure) and need to curtail their intake of salt. 

As you see, our body changes and our senses begin to decline in middle age. One of the most debilitating changes that can start then is osteoporosis. No matter what your age, healthy habits pay lifelong dividends. 
* What are some things that you could do now to reduce your risk of osteoporosis? 
* Of the types of sensory losses described above, which do you think would impact your life the most? Why? 

As discussed in Chapter 3, countless research studies show that reducing your weight and BMI (body mass index) to a healthy level pays big dividends physically, emotionally, and socially. For overweight adults, losing weight is one of the best things that can be done to improve heath. Obesity is linked to many diseases that are strongly associated with middle adulthood, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Some research also shows that increased obesity may be related to future Alzheimers disease (Kovipelto, Ngandu, Fratigilioni, Kareholt, & Winblad, 2005).					
Although weight-related health problems are apparent in early adulthood, chronic obesity becomes even more life threatening in middle adulthood, during which the trend in weight gain for Americans peaks. Roughly 73% of middle-aged adults are overweight (National Center for Health Statistics (2008d). From Figure 4.3, you can see that obesity rates begin to decline near the end of middle adulthoodbut not for the reasons that you are probably thinking. Those who suffer from obesity are less likely to live into later adulthood. [VIDEO 2]

* Is it important to you to be a healthy body weight now and as you age? 
* Does your weight now affect your self-image? How?
* Do you believe that your weight (and any battles with food that you might be having) has any negative influence on your ability to perform well in school? 

What do you think is the number-one killer of women in the United States? Breast cancer? Actually, more women and men of all ages die of heart disease than any other cause (National Center for Health Statistics, 2008c). Heart disease kills nearly 9 times as many women as breast cancer; obesity and food choices have a direct affect on it. 
Heart disease is a general term that covers a range of diseases that damage your heart and/or blood vessels. It is responsible for roughly 40% of all U.S. deaths, more than all forms of cancer combined. Your risk of dying from heart disease is 25 times greater in later middle age than in early adulthood (Table 4.1).								
Table 4.1- Number of Deaths Related to Heart Disease in the United States

Age Bracket
Number of Deaths per 100,000 People
(Source: Data from the National Center for Health Statistics, 2008c.)
Common causes of heart disease include high blood pressure, smoking, stress, and excessive alcohol or drug use, among others. If you would like to learn more about how your heart works, click to watch this short video:
Whereas cardiovascular disease involves the narrowing of arteries that supply blood to the heart, stroke (cerebrovascular disease) is a disease of the blood vessels in the brain. A stroke is caused when blood supply is interrupted to a part of your brain, usually because of a blockage by a blood clot in the arteries. When this happens, the brain cells dont get oxygen and begin to die within a few minutes (Mayo Clinic, 2009g).
Stroke is the sixth leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans and the third leading cause of death overall. Nearly 800,000 people have a stroke each year, and 65% of those either die or require long-term care or rehabilitation (National Stroke Association, 2009). When you have a stroke, the odds are dramatically against you.
Doctors recommend a fast emergency treatment for stroke symptoms: Immediately take an aspirin (that is often what is given in the emergency room!). The blood-thinning compound in aspirin is what helps you avoid a second stroke. Of course, immediately calling 911 for help is vitalevery minute counts in a stroke! Too many people die or are disabled each year because they said the same thing when stroke symptoms occurred, Oh, its nothing. It will pass.
If you would like to learn more about stroke, including the recommended FAST way to tell if a person is having a stroke, click here for a fascinating slide show:
The good news is, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented. Preventing a stroke is strikingly similar to preventing other major diseases. Guidelines include reduce high blood pressure (get your blood pressure checked regularly), lower serum cholesterol to safe levels, reduce fat and salt intake, quit smoking, control diabetes, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, drink only in moderation, avoid the use of illicit drugs, and take any preventive medications prescribed by your doctor (National Stroke Association, 2010). 
Perhaps the most important variable that directly affects cardio- and cerebrovascular diseases is your cholesterol level. Cholesterol is a white, waxy substance that the body makes and uses to build cell walls. The problem is not cholesterol, but too much cholesterol coming in from the high-fat foods we eat, especially those laden with animal fats like burgers, ice cream, eggs, and butter (Mayo Clinic, 2009e). 
When cholesterol gets into the bloodstream after food is digested, it builds up on the walls of the arteries, forming plaque, a hard substance that reduces the size of the arteries, making it harder to get enough blood to the cells, including brain cells. If the plaque buildup is heavy, the size of the artery opening is reduced so that the heart must work harder to pump the blood, increasing the danger of vascular problems. The American Heart Association recommends middle-aged adults have a cholesterol level of less than 200. 
In addition to dietary changes, drug treatments can be quite effective in controlling cholesterol. There are foods you can add to your diet to help as well; for example, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including foods like salmon and tuna, are thought to have a preventive effect on vascular diseases. [VIDEO 3]
Although cancer is the leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans, it is no longer the death-sentence it was once thought to be. For instance, with early detection (and sometimes without), survival rate is very high for most forms of breast cancer. Although 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, the survival rate is over 80%. Early detection is usually the key.					
Cancer is caused by normal cells that suddenly develop DNA abnormalities (recall the discussion of chromosomes from Chapter 2; chromosomes are the package for DNA) and begin to grow rapidly without dying, invading tissues and lymph nodes (cancers pathway to other parts of your body). Doctors are unsure about what causes many cancers, but some have clear causes. For instance, tobacco is full of substances that are toxic. Over time these substances damage the DNA in your cells, creating cancer cells. If tobacco is smoked, it is especially toxic to the cells in your lungs and throat; if it is chewed, it is especially toxic to oral tissues in your cheek, lip, gums, and tongue. 
Although smoking is the strongest factor associated with lung cancer, there are other factors as well (Mayo Clinic, 2009f; American Cancer Society, 2008). You have a higher risk of cancer if you are overweight, dont exercise, have alcohol use, and have a family history of the disease. Exercising and eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet reduces risk (American Cancer Society, 2008).
A cause of skin cancer is also well known: too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation, including sunlight, tanning lamps, and tanning beds, without skin protection. Over 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually, with about 68,000 of those cases being the most dangerous type, melanoma. If you want to see what melanomas look like, click here:
Again, early detection is key. Most skin cancers are relatively mild and will pose little long-term threat to  health if treated properly. Skin cancers first appear to be benign moles or spots on the skin, but if you remember the ABCDE rule, the chances of complete recovery from skin cancer is excellent (American Cancer Society, 2009):
A is for Asymmetry: A skin cancer spot is usually not symmetric.
B is for Border: A spot with unclear edges should be examined.
C is for Color: A spot with more than one color is suspicious.
D is for Diameter: A spot that is larger than a pencil eraser should be examined.
E is for Elevation: The spot is not smooth but is uneven or bumpy.
Health professionals recommend that you avoid the sun as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the ultraviolet rays are the most damaging to skin. Sunburns and even suntans increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Wearing protective clothing (including hats), avoiding tanning beds (some of which can be far more dangerous for your skin than the sun), and having regular skin exams are other important recommendations by the American Cancer Society (2009). [VIDEO 4]

We all have one or more risky behaviors that can cause health problems that onset in middle age.
* Which of the health risks that you learned about above apply to you? 
* What can you do, based on what you learned, to reduce those risks?
* What advice would you give a loved one with the same health risks that you have now? Are you taking your own advice?

When people think of health and disease, the first things that come to mind are usually not mental factors, like stress and motivation. But researchers have found that psychological factors like stress can significantly affect health, including your susceptibility and recovery from disease. The more build up of stress without release, the more likely you are to become ill. 
Stress is often associated with cardiovascular disease (Schneiderman, Antoni, & Saab, 2001) and is often a trigger for angina (a crushing pain in the chest due to a lack of oxygen to the heart that can be mistaken for a heart attack and may indicate disease in the coronary arteries). It can elevate blood pressure and lead to stroke too (Mayo Clinic, 2009d). Long-term stress elevates the normal level of adrenaline in the blood, which can lead to more rapid clotting, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. 
Because of the increased susceptibility to heart disease and stroke beginning in middle age, stress can be an increasing concern. In addition to heart disease and stroke, chronic stress can lead to digestive and skin problems and immune-related diseases. It can contribute to sleep difficulties, obesity, depression and anxiety (Smith, Jaffe-Gill, & Segal, 2009). 
Everyone experiences stress. But chronic, long-term stresssuch as a job you hate, living in poverty, or being an abused spousemakes the body more vulnerable to diseases and infections (Selye, 1978; Cohen, Tyrrell, & Smith, 1991; Cohen, Janicki-Deverts, & Miller, 2007). 
In most types of long-term stressful work situations, the amount of autonomy, control, and pride in doing the job are important mitigating factors. When an employee in a high-stress job has little power to make decisions or changes and had nothing to be proud of, the danger of stress on the body is significant, especially if it continues over a long time (Galinsky, Kim, & Bond, 2001). Work that involves regular conflict, impossible demands, and few resources are also factors in creating chronic work stress. This situation can lead to burnout, illness, and mental problems such as depression (Johansson, Evans, & Rydstedt, 1998). Those who are able to forget the job at the end of the day seem to fare somewhat better (Johansson et al., 1998), as do those with a strong support network and an ability to calm their emotions (Taylor, Klein, Gurenewald, & Gurung, 2000; Baum, Cacioppo, & Melamed, 1995). 
One of the greatest work-related stressors is unemployment, including being fired. Research on the physical and psychological impact of unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, shows increased stomach problems, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, marital problems, mental illness, and even homicide and suicide (Kessler, Gilman, & Thornton, 2004; Brenner, 1991; Merva & Fowles, 1992; Van Horn & Zukin, 2009).
On the other hand, knowing techniques that reduce stress can have a significant positive impact on your life. Relaxation techniques and reframing events that cause stress, such as shrugging off an accidental bump rather than getting mad, can reduce stress. Exercise is another important tool for reducing stress and maintaining a good mood. Aerobic exercise (dancing, jogging, spinning, etc.), which also improves heart and vascular functioning, is a particularly good stress reducer for middle-aged adults. [VIDEO 5]
There are a number of resources (see below) to help you learn to reduce stress, whether it comes from your work, time constraints, family life, or even illness. The key in all these is to reduce the physical tension associated with stress and to reduce the psychological intensity in your mind of the cause of the stress. Activities like exercise, biofeedback, and yoga can help reduce physical tension. The psychological intensity can often be reduced by sharing your feelings with good friends or loved ones, getting a new perspective on the issue, or controlling your inner reactions to the stress, among other techniques. 
Resources on Stress
* Youll find 12 different modules to help you deal with stress at Mind Tools, As well, look at the helpful Schedule of Recent Experience 
* This stress management site,, also has many tips and articles about stress management. 
* Finally, WebMD offers 10 relaxation techniques that can help you reduce tension:

Stress is one of the most difficult psychological challenges for adult students to deal with. When you cannot satisfy all the demands on your time, you often feel a great deal of stress and guilt for not being able to perform up to your level of expectation.
* How would you describe the level of stress that you usually have? What does the schedule of recent experience say about your stress?
* What are the key reasons causing that stress? Is its level changing?
* What impact has stress had on your ability to perform in school and in life?
* What have you learned in the discussion above that can help you reduce or relieve your stress? 

Men go though gradual changes in their sexuality, but for women, it is more dramatic. Menopause is a major milestone for women, both physically and psychologically. Ovaries begin to produce far less estrogen and monthly periods (menstruation) eventually end. Among other things, estrogen controls the cycle of ovulation when eggs are released. There is a lead-up phase to menopause called perimenopause, which may last, off and on, 2 to 4 years, and sometimes longer. It most commonly begins in a womans 40s, although it can sometimes begin earlier. Contrary to some popular ideas, many women welcome this change of life. A poll of 1,000 women over age 50 done by the National Center on Women and Aging found that over half were relieved and felt that getting older was much better than they expected (Winik, 2004).
During perimenopause, some women have headaches, experience moodiness and heart palpitations, and have feelings of depression, (Lyndaker & Hulton, 2004). Technically, menopause does not occur until the 1-year anniversary of a womans final period, which in the United States happens on average at about age 51 (Mayo Clinic, 2009i). When perimenopause does give way to menopause, women may experience hot flashes, nausea, mood swings, thinning hair, and sleep disturbances, among other changes. 
However, the side effects of menopause vary greatly, with just over 50% of women reporting they had no hot flashes at all (Brim, 1999) and the majority not complaining of any serious symptoms (Rossi, 2004). On the other hand, Sabia, Fournier, Mesrine, Boutron-Rault, and Clavel-Chapelon (2008) found that symptoms increased in women who smoked, drank alcohol, had migraines, ate a lot of sugar, ate a lot of snacks, were depressed, or used oral contraceptives. In addition, there are significant cultural differences. For instance, Japanese women report far fewer behavioral effects of menopause than do American women of European descent (Payer, 1991). 
Because the culprit for many women who experience symptoms appears to be the lack of normal amounts of estrogen, for many years doctors simply gave women additional estrogen along with progestin (or progestogen), a synthetic steroid hormone that worked with the estrogen to relieve symptoms. This is called hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, in 1998 the Womens Health Initiative released a study that was so striking that HRT was discontinued by many doctors. The study found that the combination of estrogen and progestin significantly increased a womans chances of a heart attack, stroke, blood clots, breast cancer, and later dementia (a mental disorder characterized by reduced memory, judgment, muscle control and ability to recognize familiar things). Even additional estrogen alone (called estrogen replacement therapy, or ERT) was related to increased chance of stroke and blood clots. (Womens Health Initiative, 2007). 
Many women use alternatives to HRT, including regular exercise, dietary supplements, herbal remedies, relaxation therapy, acupuncture, and nonsteroidal medications (Gosden, 2007). Acupuncture and relaxation therapy have been shown to reduce the frequency of hot flashes (Zabrowska, 2007).
Is there a change in men in middle life that is comparable to menopause in women? No. There is a gradual decrease of about 1% a year in the production of the male sex hormone testosterone, starting in middle adulthood. The only known impact of this change is a very gradual reduction in sex drive (Stones & Stones, 2007). Unrelated to lowered testosterone levels is the common occurrence of erectile dysfunction, the inability of males to achieve and maintain an erection. This used to be called impotence. 
In a study of over 2,000 men at Johns Hopkins University, 18% said they had experienced erectile dysfunction at one time or another (Selvin, Burnett, & Platz, 2007). Only 5% of men between 20 and 40 years of age reported it, and middle-aged men reported it 14.8% of the time. Not surprisingly, older men had a greater incidence: 43.8% of those between60- and 69-years-old and 70.2% of men over 70-years-old (Selvin & Burnett, 2007). Diet, exercise, obesity and smoking were all found to have a negative effect on erectile function. A full 50% of men with diabetes reported this problem. Treatment for erectile dysfunction is now centered on three similar drugssildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra)which work by increasing the flow of blood to the penis. Research suggests that all are highly effective in treating the problem (McCullough, Steidle, & Klee, 2008). 
Men in middle age often have an enlarged prostate gland, a small gland under the bladder by the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder and through the penis. As the prostate grows, it puts pressure on the urethra tube, squeezing it. Like squeezing a water hose, this results in difficulty starting to urinate, an increased urge to urinate, and a slower stream of urine. The prostate can become cancerous and can also contribute to bladder and kidney disorders. About 10% of men in middle age have a recognizable enlargement and may seek treatment. Medications include drugs that relax muscles around the bladder, making it easier to urinate, and enzyme inhibitors that shrink the prostate, among other nonsurgical treatments. Surgery is now only used for severe cases because one common side effect of surgery is sexual dysfunction (Mayo Clinic, 2009k).
Regardless of the changes that occur, most middle-aged adults enjoy sex regularly (Jacoby, 2005). 
During our 30s, our cognitive skills are generally still growing but at a slower rate. During most of middle age, the majority of our skills continue to improve or remain generally constant. K. Warner Schaie pioneered landmark studies that tracked changes in various cognitive abilities over several decades of adult development, called the Seattle Longitudinal Study. Schaie (1994) found that mental abilities consist of many different skills and abilities. The study identified about 25 primary mental abilities that were classified into six categories (Figure 4.4): 
1. Vocabulary. The knowledge of words and their meaning in phrases and sentences
2. Verbal Memory. The ability to process, store, and retrieve the meaning of language units, such as words and phrases; normally done by testing recall or recognizing a list of memorized words
3. Number. The ability to mentally do simple math such as addition and multiplication
4. Spatial Orientation. The ability to visualize and then mentally rotate shapes in three dimensions (Example: Imagine a cube with one red face pointed straight down; what movement of the cube will put the red side facing away from you?)
5. Perceptual Speed. The ability to discriminate between two stimuli with speed and accuracy (Examples: People were asked to push one button if two shapes flashed on a screen were the same or a second button if they were different; both accuracy and reaction time are measured. In another test, people were asked if a single shape matched one seen three positions before, testing speed of recall memory.)
6. Inductive Reasoning. The ability to use specific facts, patterns, and relationships to draw general conclusions that will allow you to predict future occurrences by deriving a general rule (Example: Imagine three pieces of paper in a row, all divided into four squares. On the first piece of paper, a black dot appears in the upper left square; on the second, the dot is in the lower left; on the third, the dot is in the lower right. If there were a fourth piece of paper in that line, which square do you think that the dot would appear in? The answer, of course, is the top right. Knowing the correct answer was a product of understanding the rule for the changing pattern over each paperthat is, inductive reasoning.)

Schaie (1994) found that during middle adulthood we reach the highest level of functioning in four areas: vocabulary, verbal memory, spatial orientation, and inductive reasoning. Only perceptual speed and simple mathematical computation ability declined during middle age. (Perceptual speed actually begins to decline in early adulthood.) It was found that, on average, abilities dont begin to decline significantly until after age 60. But he also found that individual intellectual development varies widely and that it is influenced by a variety of health, environmental, personality, and relationship factors; the overall results simply reflect group averages, not the pattern followed by all members of the group. Regardless, Schaies general conclusion reflects the idea that we reach our overall intellectual peak in middle adulthood, not earlier as others have suggested.

Many adult students who are approaching or in middle age are returning to school. They do as well or better, on average, than younger, more traditional students.
* Does it surprise you to learn that a persons intellectual peak is reached when they are middle aged? When did you think a persons intellectual peak was before reading this?
* Of the cognitive areas discussed by Schaievocabulary, verbal memory, spatial orientation, inductive reasoning, and perceptual speechwhich ones do you feel are your strongest? Which are your weakest? 
* How can you use your strongest areas to do well in your classes? How can you strengthen your weaker areas? Think about doing some research on this question.

While our memory continues to grow as we learn more, Park (2001) suggests that in late middle age we start to need more time to learn new information. Her research indicates our ability to retrieve and use information in our working memory may slow down (thats where we do the manipulation, comparison, and assembly of information into logical thoughts and sentences), along with the speed with which we encode memory into long-term storage. Memory decline in middle age is more likely to be noticeable when we dont use effective strategies for storage. Adults can learn to improve their memories by mnemonics (techniques for remembering or improving memory) and becoming more mentally organized. 
In Chapter 1, you were introduced to the concept of a kind of global intelligence (IQ) as well as Gardners theory of multiple intelligences. Other researchers suggest that there are still more ways to conceptualize intelligence.		
Taub, Hayes, and Cunningham (2001) found that practical intelligence is distinct from general cognitive ability. It revolves around practical problem solving in everyday life. Think of it as a wide range of skills related to how we interact with, shape, and adapt to our physical and social environment (Diehl, Marsiske, & Horgas, 2005). It grows in our early adult years as we have more experiences, levels off in the later part of our early adulthood and middle age, then declines in late adulthood (Thornton & Dumke, 2005). 
Tests of practical intelligence differ from standard IQ tests in that they force the taker to employ personal experience and an understanding of social issues such as human interaction. They also have more than one possible answer (Diehl et al., 2005). For instance, two people looking for solutions to a drafty home may have very different answers, depending on how they approach the situation.
Researchers suggest that we adopt one of four options when solving practical problems (Blanchard-Fields, 1996): 
1. Cognitive Analysis. Use reason and think about the best solution.
2. Problem Focused. Take immediate action to fix the problem.
3. Passive-Dependent Behavior. Withdraw from the situation, leaving it to others to sort out.
4. Avoidant Thinking and Denial. Rationalize the situation or redefine it so that it is no longer your problem. 
Adults higher in practical intelligence seem to be able to cope better in our fast-moving society and come up with effective problem solutions. Researchers say that the solution you tend to choose (and clearly people dont choose the same one for every problem) is based on your experience, preferred way of thinking, and the emotions that are stirred in you. Blanchard-Fields (1996) found that later middle-aged adults liked to avoid emotional-related problems and tended to pick passive-dependent or rationalizing behaviors when the topic was emotional (e.g., a conflict with grown children). This group, however, readily adopted problem-focused behaviors for nonemotional problems like how to get to the grocery store or where to go on a weekend trip. 
Fluid intelligence refers to our ability to see relationships, use abstract reasoning, and analyze information. Crystallized intelligence refers to our ability to use knowledge, experience, vocabulary, and verbal memory (Horn & Hofer, 1992). Fluid intelligence declines with age, but crystallized intelligence continues to grow as we learn more during middle age. However, a problem with Horn and Hofers research is that it was laboratory based. To measure fluid intelligence, the adults in their study were all given specific and standardized reasoning tasks. In that controlled situation, the researchers found a steady drop in ability. 
In real life, we are not as likely to observe those differences. For instance, we absolutely see that crystallized intelligence grows, sometimes well into later adulthood. The average 70-year-old knows more trivia and can do crossword puzzles much better than the average 30-year-old. In reality, that kind of crystallized intelligence cannot be separated from fluid intelligence. Is a 30-year-old plumber better able to solve a plumbing problem than his 60-year-old counterpart? 
People use their crystallized, accumulated knowledge to reason abstractly and solve problems. People in their 20s who are supposedly at the peak of their fluid intelligence are usually not pursued to be CEOs; those who are just beginning higher education often seek returning older students for their wisdom. Although fluid and crystallized intelligences are important to understanding development, in reality they cannot be separated.

Creativity is another important adult skill related to intelligence. Like intelligence, though, it is hard to agree what it is. We know that some kinds of creativity, like writing, peaks during middle adulthood. Creativity and practical intelligence often combine to create people we call experts in their fields, whether repairing cars, farming, writing, or designing a spacecraft. Experts have a lot of experience with various types of problems and often need to find creative solutions (fluid + crystallized intelligence). Because they are experts, their minds often skip steps that a novice would normally follow or twist a step around to use in a unique way because it seems right. Often, experts cannot explain how they found a creative solution; they just knew it was the right one.
Dacey (1998) found that highly creative adults have some common traits, including the following:
1. They prefer to make their own decisions and plans.
2 They prefer their own judgment to that of others and dont tend to back down in the face of criticism or disagreement.
3. They are most resourceful when faced with unique circumstances or problems.
4. They show an imaginative use of many different words.
5. They show more flexibility in their approach to problems, are eager to try new avenues, and are not bound to rules or accepted ideas of the way things work.
6. They show originality (the most critical factor in creativity) and do not often come up with off the shelf solutions. 
We are all creative in various ways. Think of an example of how you used your creative skills in each of the circumstances listed above in Daceys list.
Can adults become more creative? To improve your creativity, experts advise these steps: 
* Learn a lot about the subject area. You cant be creative if you dont have any information to be creative with. 
* Schedule a time for creative growth. Professional writers and musicians dont wait to stumble upon inspiration but seek it out, sometimes simply by sitting down in front of a keyboard, other times by hiking in the mountains. But having a regular schedule to write, compose, draw, or build facilitates creativity.
* Have a specific goal each day. If you have a meaningful commitment each day, it is easier to get started. Have long-term goals that your daily goals help you attain.
* Make a point to learn something new every day. Go to a lecture or spend time in the library, just browsing. Follow the links on Wikipedia. Go to and explore random topics. Life has many fruits to offer; try new ones often.
* Seek out experiences that stimulate creativity and then act on it when you feel creative.

As you have learned, intelligence and creativity are not black-and-white concepts that can be measured with one variable. You can be intelligent (and not intelligent) or creative (and not creative) in many different ways.
Do you think that you are strongest in practical intelligence, fluid intelligence, or crystallized intelligence? Or maybe youre strong in all areas. Think of an example in which having each type of intelligence has helped you.
* Which of these three types of intelligence would you like to be stronger in? Why?
* Look at the traits of creativity above. Would you rate yourself a highly creative adult based on these criteria? If not, which of the steps to improve your creativity would be helpful to you?
* How do you think it would help you in school and in your career if you were more creative and became stronger in your areas of intelligence?

For many years, there was a popular myth that after you left your youngest adult years you lost your ability to do well in an academic setting, such as college. This myth, among many other factors, kept many adults who wanted and needed more education from even trying, convinced that they didnt have what it took to succeed. Now that myth has exploded as many older adults have gone back to school to earn their bachelors, masters, and even doctoral degrees. In doing so, they have revved up their cognitive abilities and gained the knowledge that can help them make a better life for themselves and their families. 
In fact, adult learners have some significant advantages over traditional college students. These students dont often realize that professors love to have them in class. They bring to class a strong work ethic, years of practical experience that will be applicable to nearly every class they take, and a strong desire to succeed in school. These are powerful advantages that help adult learners weather the years of classes and the stress of juggling numerous responsibilities. 
Those returning in middle age sometimes feel worried about fitting in or being able to compete. They return to college because they realized their careers were not fulfilling or their advancement was limited by the lack of a degree. Sometimes the opportunity comes because their children are at last off to college themselves. At this time of their life, they are focused on the practical value of information and seek to develop additional skill sets that are relevant for their life path. They tend to bring a wider perspective on life to the classroom, realizing that answers tend to be relative and common sense is often the most valuable tool they have. Unlike younger students, they recognize that time is running out for them to start on a new path or to climb the job ladder as high as they dream of. For middle-aged students, college is often a life line giving them another opportunity to achieve their goals.
In the wider view, these college graduatesjust like youwill make America a smarter nation, better able to find creative solutions to new problems. In the longer view, adults who have struggled to get their degrees know the importance of a good education, and they will pass their values and determination on to their children. 
Lifelong learningwhether for a degree, a skill certificate, or nondegree studying on your ownis becoming an accepted part of adulthood. As this becomes the norm, those who do not keep up will fall behind those who apply themselves throughout their careers to learning more. 

Regardless of what stage of life you are in, you have chosen to return to school to get your degree. 
* What was your chief motivation for that decision? 
* How does getting a degree fit into your overall plan for your desired future? 
* What keeps you motivated on a daily basis to do well in your classes?
Think of your life as one long classroom experience, a sort of field trip through life. You start in childhood by trying to master these things called a body and a mind and try to figure out how you can interact with other people in such a way that they like you, even though you still want your own way a lot of the time. By the time youve gotten into high school, all that learning in and out of the classroom is paying off; you think you know how to handle yourself in the small slice of the world you call home. 
Then whoooosh, youre out of that comfortable slice of life and away from the protection of your parents or caregivers. Now youre working 9 to 5 or trying to get good grades to stay in college. Youve got new people around you, new places, new challenges, and new problems. In one way, it is similar to starting all over again; youve got to learn new information and skills in order to thrive (perhaps just survive) in a new environment. 
You are now in the school of hard knocks. At work, not everyone cares about you; they are mostly concerned about whether or not you can deliver the goods. You also may be looking for a companion, somebody that will hold your hand and tell you that you are smart and wonderful. You may know how to do the girlfriend or boyfriend role because you learned it before. Then suddenly, you may find yourself enrolled in another class, Committed Relationship 101. Again you need more information and skills to make it a success. 
One of the biggest psychosocial challenges that we face in life is mastery of our various roles. Early in life those roles revolve primarily around being a good child, classmate, student, and friend. In adult life, those roles expand. Now as adults we must learn how to be a good worker, spouse, parent, stepparent, grandparent, adult sibling, son or daughter to aging parents, friend, adult student, club or group member, coach, mentor, citizen, boss, and sometimes unemployed worker, among many others. Sometimes our roles end up conflicting with each other, such as when the good worker role conflicts with the good parent role on the night when a childs dance recital and a business dinner are both at 7:00. Such role conflict often causes stress and feelings of guilt because we want to fulfill both roles and know that we will let somebody down. 
By the time we get to middle age, adults have developed their skills at most of the roles they play so that they are comfortable in playing them. This is not to say they dont have conflicts, disappointments, setbacks, and problems. They do, just as every other age has. The difference is that by the time people reach the middle age years of 40 to 65 years old, they have become more skilled at dealing with those things they can deal with and accepting situations they have no power to change. Their mature life skills are reminiscent of the Serenity Prayer, which starts, Grant me the courage to change the things I can change, courage to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

We all play different roles at any stage of our lives. Many of these roles dont come naturally but must be learned. One role that you have taken on recently is that of College Student.
* What are the major roles that you now play? (Look at the list in the above section for ideas and try to think of unique ones as well.) 
* What did you have to do to learn to play those roles well? 
* Are there lessons that you learned from those experiences that could help you learn the role of being a successful College Student?

Adult personality development is sometimes conceptualized by psychologists in terms of stages and sometimes by life events such as having a child, experiencing menopause, or being fired from a job. If youll remember back to earlier chapters, we discussed theories that occur in stages versus those that occur continuously. Both approaches have theoretical and practical validity.
Other views of personality in middle age focus on stages of development. In Eriksons view of psychosocial development, midlife adults are in the seventh stage, Generativity Versus Stagnation. Youll recall that generativity is a concern for others, especially the desire to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation by sharing skills and knowledge. 
During early adulthood, the positive outcome of intimacy (as opposed to isolation), allows you to create relationships that lead to love, comfort, and security. Those relationships set the groundwork for you to generate for those who follow youyour children, those whom you mentor, coach, or work with. You become productive in doing things that make a difference in society, and by doing so, you become content with your place. People who do not achieve intimacy in early adulthood become emotionally isolated as they fail to find the closeness that humans strive for. 
Without a sense of intimacy, it is more difficult to commit to relationships and activities that will provide for the next generation. Peterson and Klohnen (1995), for instance, found that those who have stable relationships and careers are more likely to volunteer to help others than those who are still floundering. Think about it, if you coach a youth soccer team (generativity), without a sense of emotional commitment, it is just a superficial exercise in competition. If on the other hand you are teaching, modeling, and making an emotional connection, those children are more likely to remember you as an important figure. The same holds true when you volunteer in the community, allow strangers to join in a pickup football game at the park, volunteer in your childs classroom, or simply show good citizenship by picking up trash. If you show generativity, when you later move into Eriksons final stage of development (Integrity Versus Despair, Chapter 2), you are more likely to find contentment and peace as you look back at your life.
For individuals who fail to show generativity, they stagnate. They are simply taking resources without giving back. When you go to work from 9 to 5, come home, have a few beers, eat dinner, watch TV, and go to sleep, only to do it all over again tomorrow, you are not leaving much of a mark on the world. In the life review that follows this stage of psychosocial development, you are likely to look back with some regret. Though this view has not been widely supported by other researchers, a motivation to give back is widely seen among older adults. Vaillants (1993) Grant Study showed that generativity increases as we age, with roughly 50% achieving generativity at age 40 and 83% having exhibited some generativive behaviors by age 60. In middle age, women tend to report higher levels of generativity than men, although that equals out in old age (Keyes & Ryff, 1998). 
George Vaillant (2002) sought to find whether personality at 50 years old was predictive of later personality. Vaillant categorized the older adults as happy-well, sad-sick, and dead. In three  longitudinal studies, he found that those who had more positive personality traits in their 50s ranked their life as happy-well more often in their late 70s. For instance, generativity was linked to a happy, long-lasting marriage. Positive traits included looking toward the future, showing empathy, being active in social networks, and being able to deal effectively with change. Other factors indirectly related to traits were also important, such as not being overweight, exercising, not smoking, having more education, and having a stable marriage. Interestingly, wealth and income in the 50s were not linked to feelings of happy-well in the 70s. 
For the most part, what people think of as the midlife crisis is a myth. It was thought to be a time around the transition from early to middle age in which people, especially men, seek their youth again, pushing away thoughts of mortality through new careers, younger sex partners, and symbols such as a fast car or new, unwrinkled face. However, later research suggested that it happens to only a small percentage of the population (Lachman, 2004; Aldwin & Levinson, 2001). Vaillant (2002) found that midlife was a time for reassessing and recording the truth about young adulthood. Although it is certainly true that adults do a good deal of thinking about their lives when they become middle aged and often that thinking process leads to turning points in values and priorities (Reid & Willis, 1999), few researchers think of it as a crisis. What may look like a crisis to some is simply, as Vaillant states, a reassessment. Part of that assessment may be that you have more disposable income than at any other time of your lifeand the youthful mentality to spend it. Why not buy a sports car? 

In middle age, our thoughts often turn to giving back, what Erikson calls generativity. The alternative, according to Erikson, is stagnation.
* Have you had a desire to give back in some way? If so, how? How would you explain what motivated you to feel this way? 
* What do you think is the value to you of giving back to others? 
* Have you ever felt stagnation? Do you think that giving back would relieve that feeling?
It seems that to a great extent that our personality is more stable in our middle years than in our early adult years, where the greatest change occurs (Roberts, Walton, & Viechbauer, 2006). Our personality also seems to change more in a positive direction as we mature, and we become more confident, warm, responsible and calm (Roberts & Mroczek, 2008, p. 33). According to a major survey (Brim et al., 2004), positive emotionality, such as cheerfulness and optimism, declines somewhat in women during middle age, but not in men, and then improves significantly for both in late adulthood. Lachman (2004) suggests it is because people learn to control their emotions better and to accept situations. Those who are married in the middle years report that they have fewer negative emotions than single people (Mroczek, 2004). An extraverted personality is also associated with feelings of happiness (Mroczek & Spiro, 2005), as are social support by friends and family, and satisfaction with work (Diener, 2000).
Others look at maturity of the personality in middle age in a completely different way. These researchers believe personality can be described and evaluated in term of traits, a recognizable set of characteristics and common behaviors that occur in particular situations. One of the pioneers of personality research was Gordon Allport (18971967). Allport suggested that, although we all have some highly individual traits, people share some general, common traits. Like an upside down tree, related traits branch off each common trait. For instance, the larger branches of extroversion are connected to smaller branches of sociability, leadership, and involvement with others. After a good deal of disagreement about what were the most important personality traits, psychologists have generally accepted the Big Five. Each has its own characteristic attitudes and beliefs, and people may be ranked on a continuum on each one. The acronym OCEAN can help you remember the five traits:
1. Openness to Experience. This trait takes in intelligence, imagination, an inquiring mind, openness to new ideas and points of view, values, and experiences. Those high on this trait show less rigidity when faced with unfamiliar people, events, and experiences. They are more likely to try new foods for instance. Those low on this scale tend to be unimaginative, conservative, conventional, and not creative or curious about the world.
2. Conscientiousness. This trait is measured through specific traits like dependability, trustworthiness, hard work, ambition, honesty, a strong sense of purpose, and self-discipline, among others (McCrae, Costa, Ostendorf, & Angleitner, 1999; Hunt, 1994). Those low on the scale tend to be lazy, disorganized, uncaring, and lack perseverance. This trait tends to be change as people mature and show more responsibilitylike coming to class on time!
3. Extraversion. With its opposite being introversion, this is the overall trait name for more specific traits like sociability, social activity, involvement with others, forming social networks, free expression of opinions, enjoyment of talk, and leadership, among others. Those with lower ranking on this trait tend to be quiet and emotionally reserved, serious, and passive. Successful salespeople generally score high on this trait.
4. Agreeableness. We see this trait in our desire to be liked, to cooperate with others, even defer to others, and to avoid conflict. Other related traits include altruism, trust in others, sociability, and likability. Those scoring low on this trait tend to be more critical of others, angry, suspicious, and argumentative. You may know individuals who tend to always look for the positive in others and seem to be less judgmental. They would score higher in agreeableness.
5. Neuroticism. People ranking high in this trait have a negative opinion of themselves and their abilities. Allied traits are emotionalism, adjustment, emotional stability, pessimism, and the tendency toward being a perfectionist. They are worriers, always looking for the next shoe to drop. High neuroticism scores are associated with hostility, self-consciousness, depression, impulsiveness, and feelings of vulnerability. Those scoring low on this scale tend to be less emotional, secure in themselves, calm, and even tempered. [VIDEO 6]
Psychologists try to use these five stable mega-traits of personality to predict how people will behave in a variety of situations. For example, if a person high in conscientiousness saw someone drop money on the street, the expectation is that the person would give it back. The picture isnt that clear, however. While that person may return money that people drop every time, he may also sneak into a theater or cheat on his taxes. If you would like to take a free personality test that includes the Big Five, click here: As always, these tests are offered as examples. You should not make life decisions based on them.
Rather than focusing on age or relatively stable traits, the life-events model looks at the impact of how specific life events impact development. For example, Helson and Moane (1987) found that women who pursued careers became more interpersonally dominant (assertive) and those who were busy raising children became more empathic. Cui and Vaillant (1996) added that mediating factors like family health and support also impact how life events change personality. 

Psychologists who support the interaction model also point to context as critical for determining behavior. Personality researcher Walter Mischel of Columbia University says that we cannot make a generalization of behavior over different types of circumstances; the more similar the situation, the more consistent the behavior will be; the less similar the situation, the less consistent the behavior will be (Hunt, 1994, p. 349). For instance, some adults are kind and respectful in social situations but become nasty and aggressive on the basketball court. Psychologists today recognize the value of this interaction model of personality in which a response is due to the interaction of the persons personality traits and the specifics of the situation.

Look again at the Big Five traits related to personality and think about the interaction model.
* How do you think that you would score on each of them?
* How do you think that your partner would score on each? What about your best friend?
* Are there differences between you and your close relationships that may lead to problems? Are there similarities that may increase the strength of the relationship?
* How could these traits help you in your interaction with classmates?

Most middle-aged adults say that family relationships are the most important factor in happiness (Markus, Ryff, & Curhan, 2004). Marriage is usually thought of as the cornerstone of family relationships, providing a source of encouragement, economic and social support, and help with children (Gallo, Troxel,& Matthews, 2003). Brim (1999) found that 72% of those in midlife rated their marriages as excellent or very good. And those who see their spouse as their best friend are also happier than those who dont. 
Studies show that marital satisfaction increases in middle age as issues of money, child rearing, and division of labor either subside or are worked out (Wu & Pennington, 1997), further evidence of the absence of a midlife crisis. Younger couples often have conflicts over territorial issues like friends and how the house should be arranged (toilet seat up or down?), but couples who make it to middle age expand their shared network of friends (Kalminj, 2003) and become more tolerant of their partners behaviors. Figure 4.5 shows the average ratings of marital satisfaction over a lifetime.							

As discussed, if you have made it to your 50s, child rearing becomes less of an issue and higher income levels may have brought more control over finances. Therefore, middle-aged couples may have less to argue about. Successful couples have learned to use problem-solving strategies that give both individuals some sense of control, autonomy, and happiness. Doheny (2004) found that being able to handle conflicts constructively, having good listening skills, and treating one another with respect during arguments are critical skills that make a marriage work. There also appears to be some personality variables in childhood and adolescence that are related to marriage. Kinnunen and Pulkkinen (2003) found that those who were more aggressive and less compliant as children as well as those who were more anxious and passive as children were less likely to remain married (p. 237). 
Hazan and Shaver (1987) extended infant attachment theory to adult romantic relationships. They reported that adult partners showed patterns that were similar to those that children have with their primary caregivers. For instance, romantic partners feel comforted by each other and desire to be close. Hazan and Shaver do not believe that infant and adult attachment are the same, only that they share the principle that biology, environment, and individual personality interact to prescribe a specific kind of attachment. 
Feeny and Collins (2007) and Rholes and Simpson (2007) have also studied the correlation between attachment styles of adults and various factors related to intimacy in relationships. When securely attached adults were compared to those who were insecurely attached, they found that those who were secure had relationships that were more likely to have more trust, commitment, and longevity. Securely attached adults are also associated with being more likely to be supportive when their partners are distressed (Simpson, Rholes, & Nelligan, 1992).

It is common to have some disagreements in adult relationships, but regular conflict can be poisonous to a relationship.
* What are some behaviors that would lead to less conflict in a relationship?
* What actions can you take in the relationships that you have to reduce the conflict?

There is a difference in the happiness levels of middle-aged men and women who live together but arent married. Brown, Bulanda, and Lee (2005) found that men over 50 are more likely to be depressed if they are living with their partner than men who are married. This finding is true even after factoring out dimensions like income, health, and social networks. However, it was not true of women cohabitating with a partner, who may feel less need for a legal commitment in middle age. Overall, cohabiting partners are ambivalent about marriage44% say that they want marry, while 41% say they aren't sure (Taylor & Funk, 2007). 
When long-term relationships and marriages end in a divorce, the experience can be emotionally devastating. In a longitudinal survey of 2,000 mature women who had long-term marriages, Hiedemann, Suhomlinova, and ORand (1998) found several factors related to the chance of divorce. Not surprisingly, the longer a marriage survives, the better the chances it will survive. College-educated women are more likely to remain married, and high school dropouts are more likely to divorce. A cause of this might be that higher education is related to the availability of financial and social resources, including counselors, problem-solving strategies, neighbors with experience, and simply knowing more from years of discovery through more education. 
When a marriage in midlife ends, 75% say they made the right decision. After the divorce, both spouses are generally worse off financially, but especially women, who also report a greater fear of financial survival than men, 44% to 11%. Womens top three reasons for divorce are abuse, alcohol or drug abuse by spouse, and infidelity. Mens reasons for initiating divorce were less concrete except for cheating. Their top three reasons were fell out of love, cheating, and wanting different lifestyles or having different values now (American Association of Retired Persons, 2004).
Men and women also handle the socioemotional aspects of divorce differently. After a transition period, women say their self-image, self-esteem, and overall happiness is greater than when they were married. Peterson (1993) reports that women often feel more in control of their lives and dont have to knuckle under to their spouses. They report less loneliness than men because their social networks are often larger and stronger. And finally, they have an action-oriented attitude that leads them to find new opportunities for activities and careers. Women find single life easier now than in the past because (1) they tend to have higher educational levels and established jobs and (2) there is far less of a stigma than in the past. Of course, those who did  not work outside the home and have few marketable job skills still find that the economics of divorce can be terrifying.
When compared to women, men have a tendency to get more depressed and to not follow through with achievement goals such as losing weight, getting new clothes, and investigating online dating services. They may have thin support groups because many of their friends may have been their wives friends. Men also seem to miss the comfort of an established domestic life because they must now do everything for themselves. Part of a mans identity, though not the largest part, can be wrapped up in being a husband and father. When those daily relationships end, he may doubt his self-worth, focusing on his failure to successfully handle those important roles. If men dont remarry, they are more prone to alcoholism, accidents, drug abuse, and emotional problems (Gross, 1992). 
Divorce is common in our society. Divorced men and women often have a different outlook on what caused their breakup.
* What do you think are the most common reasons for divorce among people you know?
* What advice would you give to someone you know who is coping with a divorce?

Overall, 5 out of 6 men and 3 out of 4 women do remarry. The odds of remarrying decline with age but increase with the amount of education that the woman has. The divorce rate is higher for those remarrying, those with lower income levels, and African Americans (Knoester & Booth, 2000). African American mothers have also been found to be better able to cope with divorce than White mothers, perhaps because they had greater social support from friends and family (McKelvey & Mc Kenry, 2000). Those who remarry are generally more realistic.

In a study carried out over the span of 20 years of over 2,000 families in the United States, Amato and Cheadle (2005) found, not surprisingly, that children in two-parent households had higher educational levels, had more feelings of stability, and experienced less family tension than those in divorced households. These conclusions make intuitive sense. Two-parent households can more easily help with school, provide transportation and emotional support, and deflect tension from one family member to another. For instance, oftentimes one parent will be particularly frustrated with one child. When there is another parent that can temporarily take over, some of the tension can be diffused. It is apparent then that divorce can have negative on children. The major change in lifestyle and, usually, income level often leads to additional stress on parents and their children. Bronfenbrenners (2005) research is typical. He states that children of divorce are at greater risk for hyperactivity or withdrawal, lack of attentiveness, difficulty in deferring gratification, poor academic achievement, school misbehavior, and frequent absenteeism (p. 10). 
However, negative outcomes of divorce are far from certain. Some research suggests that factors unrelated to divorce are most responsible for behavioral problems. In a longitudinal study of 1,500 families with children ages 6 and 7 years old, Ricciuti (1999, 2004) found that the negative impact of divorce can be accounted for by family income, the mothers educational level and skills, and the quality of the home environment. This result was consistent through adolescence.
Perhaps studies by Hetherington and colleagues and Wallerstein and Corbin best sum up the research. On the one hand, children may do better in a single-parent household than the stressful environment created by feuding parents. Hetherington, Stanley-Hagan, and Anderson (1989) found that teenagers from divorced households do better in general than teens living with feuding parents. However, Wallerstein and Corbin (1999) found that teens from divorced households were unhappier as a result of the divorce. Of course, the two outcomes are not necessarily contradictory because teens may be more unhappy but less stressed, leading to better performance and fewer problems overall. [VIDEO 6]

The impact of divorce on children can last a long time, but as you learned above, some factors can reduce the negative impact of divorce.
* Based on what you learned above, what steps can parents take to reduce the negative effects of divorce on their children?

As an increasing number of parents have children in their late 20s or early 30s, the number of children living with middle-aged parents has risen. In some cases, parents may only be a decade from retirement age by the time the last child leaves the nest. 
While parenting brings great joy and gives parents, especially men, a chance to mentor their children (generativity) in later adolescence relationships most often is a combination of closeness and conflict. This often leads parents invest more time and emotional involvement in their jobs (Fortner, Crouter, & McHale, 2004).
Irrespective of short-term problems, however, children are still the most important factor in family happiness. Taylor and Funk (2007) found that when parents were asked to rate how important family relationships were to their personal happiness and fulfillment, they showed a marked difference, with children rated twice as high as parents (Figure 4.6).	[VIDEO 8]

Gay and lesbian parents are raising 4% of all adopted children in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). A growing body of research shows that children who are raised by one or two homosexual parents do not show any physical, cognitive, or socioemotional differences when compared to those who are raised by heterosexuals (Lambert, 2005; Flaks, Filcher, Masterpasqua & Joseph, 1995). It is the amount of involvement and emotional attachment that seems to be the overriding factor, not the sexuality of the parents. There is no evidence that a homosexual parent breeds a homosexual child through modeling, nor is there evidence that gay and lesbian parents have a different affect than heterosexual parents on the psychological functioning of children (Patterson, 1992; Bailey, Bobrow, Wolfe, & Mikach, 1995.).

Everyone is seeking fulfillment in ways that are the most meaningful to them. These vary and can cause friction in our relationships.
* What relationships are most important to you right now? 
* Rank your relationships like the Figure 4.6 does (it is ok if more than one relationship is equally important to you). How does your list differ from the graph?	
* Ask your partner, a close friend, or a family member to do the same rankings. How do those rankings differ from yours? 
* How do you think that the similarities and differences impact your relationship?

When children finally do leave home, parents generally undergo some psychological changes. If parents, especially the mother, defined their roles in life as primarily being a parent (more the case with a parents who do not work outside the home), then the empty nest can be a source of decreased marital satisfaction and depression. In todays society, this decline is much less common than in years past as more women have jobs to help define their identity (Willis & Martin, 2005; Antonucci, Akiyama, & Merline, 2001).
Sometimes the empty nest simply holds a mirror up to reality, showing that the underpinnings of marriage had simply become the children, and when they were gone, nothing except habit was keeping them together. But this scenario is rare. More couples than not find marital satisfaction on the upswing after the children have flown the nest (Fingerman & Lang, 2004). Parents are more likely to feel relief that the constant crisis of raising children is over and that they can now explore opportunities they had no time for in the past. It may be a time for a second honeymoon as successful couples focus on shared adult activities and interests.
More and more adults have trouble finding jobs that pay enough to maintain their independence, and so some adult children return to the nest, just like a boomerang. The stress on both parents and children can be enormous. Parents who thought they would have more time for each other and for independent goals suddenly are faced with old responsibilities and a loss of newly cherished privacy. Young adults also chafe against the lack of privacy. Conflicts are common in this stewpot of conflicting emotions (Muzi, 2000). Both sides harbor feelings of guilt and anger: parents for not wholeheartedly wanting to help their children and children for their failure to make a life of their own. The longer this relationship continues, the more frustrating it is for both sides.
As people live longer, the chances increase that grown children will be responsible for caring for their aging parents over an extended time. The National Family Caregivers Association (2009) found that roughly 72% of older adults in need of care are cared for by middle-aged children and other relatives. Daughters are 3 times more likely to be the primary caregiver than the sons of the parent (Stephens, Townsend, & Martire, 2001). Even a daughter-in-law is more likely to care for a spouses parents than the son is (Dwyer & Coward, 1991). 
The burden on working women can be particularly frustrating because the caregiver role is thrust upon them just as they reach prime time for earnings and job satisfaction. Often a woman must cut back on her hours or even quit her job to care for the aging parent (Pavalko & Artis, 1997). Caregiving when the elderly parent suffers from a debilitating disease, especially dementia, is particularly stressful. Demands for care are higher, the persons ability to do things for her- or himself is reduced, and in the case of dementia, the behavioral symptoms include incontinence, agitation, hallucinations, and mindless activity that require constant monitoring (Schultz & Martire, 2004).
Caregiving in middle age is more stressful when parents feel sandwiched between their older parents and the demands of their young children and adolescents who are undergoing great physical, cognitive, and emotional changes of their own. The time demands from both sides can be overwhelming. When the aging parent has economic difficulties as well, the burden of finances falls on the childrens shoulders just at the time when they are trying to pay college tuition and save enough for their own retirement. 
For these reasons, caregivers (again, mostly women) report greater depression and lower levels of marital satisfaction (Li & Seltzer, 2003; Jutras & Lavoie, 1995). In addition, the closer the parent and caregiver are emotionally, the greater is the depression and the feeling of physical and emotional overload (Meshefedjian, McCusker, Bellavance, & Baumgarten, 1998). These feelings are especially strong when the illness is terminal. However, in a study comparing depression in White versus Black caregivers, only the White caregivers showed increased depression (Haley, West, & Wadley, 1995). Latino Americans scored higher in feelings of strong obligation to care for parents and, not surprisingly, also reported lower levels of stress compared to Whites (Connell & Gibson, 1997). 
On the other hand, caring for aging parents can be substantially rewarding (Stephens & Franks, 1999). Children become closer to their parents and gain satisfaction at fulfilling an expected role. Several researchers have found that if the caregiver deeply loves the parent, has support from family and community resources, and sees the situation as a challenge rather than a burden, there is a real possibility of personal growth and satisfaction (Bengtson, 2001; Climo & Stewart, 2003).

Caring for others can be both a difficult and rewarding job. Communication and shared expectations are often a key to greater harmony.
* In your culture, how are elderly parents helped by their children? Who is most often the primary caregiver if there is one? Why?
* What do your parents or other aging loved ones expect from you as they age? Does that fit with your own expectations? 
It is important to establish good communication with your parents or other aging loved ones on this issue so that when the time comes, you are prepared. Think about what their responsibilities are and what your responsibilities are to achieve good ongoing communication.

Middle age is when work is often most satisfying. It has become more interesting, and workers are proud of their professional performance. It is characterized by higher work satisfaction, positive work motivation, social and professional expertise, mature social relations, and responsibility (Dittman-Kohli, 2005, p. 344). This finding is true of both men and women. Those who say their jobs allow them more initiative and independent judgment are more satisfied, show more self-confidence and creativity, and have a brighter outlook at home (Sterns & Huyck, 2001). The Families and Work Institute (2004) reports that both women and men in midlife are concerned about achieving a balance between home and workdoing a good job, meeting family responsibilities, and still having time to enjoy life. Those who achieve some sort of balance are more satisfied with work than those who simply concentrate on one or the other. 
On the other hand, the threat of outsourcing or downsizing has eliminated the job security that previous generations enjoyed. Changing jobs, especially after being laid off, is particularly difficult for middle-aged Americans, who comprise a significant part of the overall workforce. Despite some stereotypes, studies show thatwith the exception physical strength and a fast reaction timemiddle-aged workers maintain their level of skill and job performance throughout this time span (Czaja, 2001; Salthouse & Maurer, 1996). Regardless, employers often seek to hire younger workers who will work for less and who they erroneously believe are more easily trained than older workers (Forte & Hansvick, 1999). Age-related pressures will continue because a greater percentage of the workforce is over 55 years of age. The U.S. Department of Labor (2008) predicts that between 2006 and 2016 the number of 55 to 64-year-old workers will grow by nearly over 36%over 4 times as fast as the workforce as a whole.
The development of technology and concerns about the cost of health care are sometimes legitimate concerns for employers who believe younger workers are better equipped to change with the times and to remain healthy. To remain competitive, middle-aged adults need to recognize the need to (1) improve skills and education and (2) retrain if their job sector is on the decline. Jacobson, LaLonde, and Sullivan (2005) found that a year of community college credits raises displaced workers earnings by about 9% for men and by about 13% for women. . . . Workers appear to benefit even if they complete only a few courses (p. 59).
As people move toward the end of middle age, the Big 6-0, fewer and fewer are thinking of full retirement in their mid-60s. For many, the recession economy has wrecked their 401K plans, devalued their homes, and decreased their savings, making them unable to retire on schedule. But even without the economic downturn, many baby boomers were thinking about working at least part time. For those who have never consistently saved nor thought about retirement, it is not too latebut it could be soon. Importantly, dont count on Social Security income. It is important to understand financial language and identify realistic opportunities. There is plenty of free information, and you should take advantage of it. Here is one site to get you started: The U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission also provides a wealth of good information for those seeking help in planning for retirement at
Money is just one part of retirement. The image of their retired parents doing little but watching TV convinced millions of baby boomers that they want more from their life retirement. They want to continue to feel engaged and useful, challenged to meet goals of some sort. They may plan to work part time at their current employer, try a new career, start a small business, or just seek a low-stress part-time job that comes with health benefits. The same is true in Great Britain (and likely other countries, too) where 40% say they want to continue working on their own terms, compared to just 15% of their parents generation (Standard Life, 2009).
It seems safe to say that the baby boom generation will not follow the traditional approach to retirement, forcing economists and psychologists to find a new word to describe the new lifestyle that it will encompass.
For many people, retirement seems a long way off. It isnt until it is nearer that many people realize the difficulty they will have in paying for the lifestyle they want. Those who start saving early, even with very modest savings, have a much easier time affording their desired lifestyle when they retire. If you have not yet thought about retirement, now is the time to start.
* What do you want to do when you retire? Where do you want to live?
* Do you have a retirement plan? If you dont, the Retirement Calculator provided by the link above may help you see the importance of having a good plan.
* If you had to, which parts of your retirement dreams could you give up? Which parts would you not give up?

Most middle-aged adults rate themselves as having high job satisfaction and love relationships. Although their physical attributes are declining, for the most part the changes do not have a major impact on work or leisure. As opposed to previous generations, middle-aged adults find they are generally in good health, and medical advances will keep them healthier longer. They continue to think well and show little or no reduction in their job skills. Strong marriages thrive with more independence and new opportunities. Most would say that it is a pretty good time of life. 
There are some challenges as well. The likelihood of having to care for aging parents is fast approaching; as the last child leaves home, some marriage partners are faced with the sight of an empty nest or children who may remain dependent. For middle-aged adults, the prospect of retirement is different than their parents viewpoint. Most are planning to work part time on their own terms, even starting new businesses, which is made simpler by the Internet. As they approach the end of middle age and prepare to step into old age, they bring with them a lifetime of skills, lessons, and relationships that will carry them through to the end. 

As we prepare to leave middle adulthood and move into older adulthood, the strong relationships that we have built play a major role in our ability to meet challenges. And as we grow older throughout our lives, strong relationships tend to become more important than they had been in earlier years, and material things tend to become less important. Our relationships as well as our skills at achieving things discussed in the chapterintelligence, creativity, generativity, fulfillment, and moreall help us find the path to achieve our future goals.
A. What are your goals for the future, both personal and professional? Be specific.
B. What lifestyle would give you the truest satisfaction now? What about when you retire?
C. Which of your existing relationships are most important? Why are they the most important?
D. From what you have learned in this chapter, how can you keep your existing relationships healthy? 
E. What things are becoming less important to you as you grow older that you may want to begin to cut out of your life? 
F. What things have become more important to you that you need to increase focus on? 
G. What skills discussed in the chapter do you still need to improve or acquire to reach your goals?

The story below was compiled from a reflective essay written by an Ashford University student enrolled in PSY 202: Adult Development and Life Assessment. Note the reference to working toward goals, despite obstacles.
By Kelsey M. Gordon
As a young teenage girl, I lost my father to a brain tumor. Losing my father was a difficult start to my teenage years. I was trying to figure out who I was while dealing with the loss of a parent. Shortly after my fathers death, my older brother joined the air force, and my mother and I were all alone. Even though I was falling apart, I did my best to be strong for my mother. A few years later, my mom and I began to recover from our grief. At this point, I established the goal of attending college.
I applied to a nearby university and was accepted. College was quite an adjustment for me; however, the first year went well. The following year I was distracted by the relationship with my boyfriend. My grades dropped and I lost my scholarship. Eventually, we broke up and I moved home. I was upset that I had not achieved my goal of earning a college degree.
After returning home, I worked a night job at Wal-Mart. While working, I decided to join the air force. However, to join the military, I needed to lose 85 pounds. Being a goal-oriented person, I committed to losing the weight and did so within a year. As soon as Id lost the required weight, I joined the Air Force and prepared for basic training. 
After completing basic training and tech school, I set a new goal of completing my college degree. I enrolled at Ashford University to pursue my psychology degree and have the ambition to become a professor or psychologist. On a personal note, my husband and I desire to travel to many new places. Because we are both in the military, the prospect of travel is highly probable!
Despite the loss of my father, I have overcome many obstacles to become a strong and confident young woman. I have set personal and professional goals that I am determined to complete. Identifying short- and long-term goals will help me create the course for my future, and I have high hopes for the rest of my life.

Middle adulthood can be a time of realizationthe realization of life goals and that old age is approaching. It is also a time of new challengesphysical, mental, and emotionalas we take on new roles in life.
Physical Development
* Aches and pains become more common as body systems age. Loss of bone mass through osteoporosis is seen more frequently than earlier years, and getting the required amount of calcium is necessary. Changes in hair color, skin smoothness, eyesight, hearing, and taste signal the approach of old age.
* Obesity rates are at their highest in middle age, at over 25% for both men and women. Roughly 73% of middle-aged adults are overweight. The impact of obesity on a host of diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease, among others, puts these adults at a higher risk for life-threatening or debilitating health problems.
* Cancer is the leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans, but its survival rate has improved dramatically, especially with early detection. Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer. Skin cancer is primarily caused by lengthy unprotected exposure to the sun.
* Chronic stress is another danger to health. Chronic stress is most commonly due to ongoing distressful situations at home or at work in which the person has little control or autonomy and can cause an impaired immune system, depression, heart disease, and stroke.
* Sexual changes begin in middle age, most noticeably in women with the onset of menopause, which generally occurs in their late 40s or early 50s. Sex drive for men may decrease slightly, and the incidence of erectile dysfunction is reported by roughly 1 in 7 middle-aged men.
Cognitive Development
* Cognitive skills grow somewhat or remain stable during middle age, reaching our highest peak in the areas of vocabulary, verbal memory, spatial orientation, and inductive reasoning. Only perceptual speed and simple mathematical computation ability decline during middle age.
* Psychologists recognize that people have a practical intelligence, which comes from experience, about life.
* Psychologists sometimes differentiate between fluid intelligence (abstract reasoning) and crystallized intelligence (verbal memory and reasoning, vocabulary, and factual information), but in real life both are generally used simultaneously, especially when seeking creative solutions.
* Highly creative adults share some common traits including imagination, flexibility, originality, and resourcefulness. Creativity can be developed with practice.
* Higher education pays off in higher earnings. Workers with a bachelors degree earn roughly 80% more than those with only a high school diploma. Those with advanced degrees earn close to 3 times more than workers with a high school diploma.
* Lifelong learning is now an accepted part of adulthood. Those who do not continue to educate themselves throughout life will tend to fall behind competitively.
Socioemotional Development
* We all play many roles and for the most part learn to play them proficiently in middle adulthood. Sometimes roles can be in conflictsuch as between being a parent and a worker or a spouse and a studentleading to stress and disappointment.
* The key challenge in Erik Eriksons middle-aged developmental stage of Generativity Versus Stagnation is the development of desires to help others, especially younger people, by sharing skills and knowledge. Those with a stable career and relationships are more likely to want to help others.
* The idea of a midlife crisis is now generally seen as a myth, with only a small percentage of people making radical changes in their lifestyles.
* While our personalities tend to remain stable, there is a general tendency toward being more confident, warm, responsible, and calm as we learn to control our emotions and accept situations as they are.
* One common type of personality test looks at five major traitsopenness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Rankings on each scale (high to low) provide a profile of our personality type.
* Middle-aged adults say that family relationships are the most important factor in happiness and feeling fulfilled. Marital satisfaction increases in middle age.
* Divorce is traumatic, but 75% say afterward they made the right decision. Women generally have a larger support network than men, which helps them deal more successfully with the trauma of divorce. Most people who divorce in middle age do remarry.
* Middle-aged parents must often care for teenage children and aging parents at the same time, creating stress and discord, especially if a parent suffers from a debilitating disease or mental problems.
* Work is most satisfying during middle age for both men and women, but job security is a significant concern. Workers often go back to school to improve their skills or gain another degree to become more competitive. Most baby boom adults do not want to completely quit working at retirement age, and many more will not be financially able to do so.

age-related macular degeneration: A degenerative disease of the eye in which the central part of vision becomes dark, blurry, or distorted.
boomerang children: Children who return home because they cannot financially remain independent of their parents.
cancer: An umbrella term for a wide variety of diseases throughout the body, all characterized by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells and the ability of these cells to migrate to other parts of the body, spreading the cancer.
cardiovascular disease: Heart disease involving the narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
cerebrovascular disease: A disease affecting arteries supplying blood to the brain, which may rupture or become blocked, leading to a stroke.
cholesterol: A fatty, waxy substance made by the body and also found in many foods; may collect on the walls of blood vessels, reducing blood flow and increasing risk of cardiovascular disease or a heart attack.
crystallized intelligence: The ability to use knowledge, experience, vocabulary, and verbal memory.
DNA: Abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid; holds the genetic information inside cells that are used in the development of new human beings, passing hereditary factors from parents to children.
empty nest syndrome: A feeling of loneliness and depression that sometimes occurs in parents after the last child has left home; more common in women.
estrogen: A general term for female sex hormones; plays a major role in menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and development of female sexual characteristics during puberty.
fluid intelligence: The ability to see relationships, use abstract reasoning, and analyze information. 
glaucoma: An eye disease in which increased fluid pressure in the eyeball can lead to permanent damage of the optic nerve.
heart disease: A broad term for a variety of diseases affecting the heart; related to cardiovascular disease, which involves blockage or narrowing of the blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. 
menopause: The time when menstruation naturally stops in women; permanent halt to reproductive fertility, usually occurring in the late 40s and early 50s.
mnemonic: A technique for improving memory or remembering things, especially lists of items.
neural processing speed: The speed at which we are able to perceive stimuli and retrieve information, our brain response time; related to intelligence.
osteoporosis: A bone disease resulting in the loss of bone density and increased risk of breaks or fractures.
perimenopause: The time of life when a womans body begins transitioning to menopause, or ceasing to menstruate; normally lasts between 2 and 8 years, usually starting in the mid- to late 40s.
practical intelligence: Skills in solving everyday problems, enhanced by personal experiences as well as study.
presbycusis: Age-related changes in hearing, generally tending to affect the ability to hear higher pitched sounds or voices.
presbyopia: The loss of near vision, to clearly see objects close to you.
prostate gland: Part of the male reproductive system, a small gland located under the bladder, surrounding its neck; contracts during ejaculation to help propel a milky fluid, which it produces, that increases the life and motility of the sperm.
sandwich generation: A generation of people, usually in middle age, who care not only for their aging parents but also support their own children. 
testosterone: A male hormone that body produces in the testes; plays a major role in puberty and continues to help the body maintain muscle mass, sperm production, sex drive, and fat distribution, among others.
trait: A distinguishing features of ones personality, generally thought to remain stable.


  • By kmbelden
  • on September 6, 2010 am 9:14

You are now turning 40. Most of you have embarked on an exciting journey of making a career and finding yourself a life partner. You have persevered through educational pursuits, job searches, and finding someone with whom you can share your life. Middle age for you starts later and lasts longer than it did for your grandparents. You are better educated, have access to new medical technology, and are even more productive than your predecessors of a generation ago.
Many adults have a realization sometime in their late 30sor early 40s that they are “middle aged!” For a small minority, it can be a time of increased anxiety—the impetus for cosmetic surgery, hair coloring, gym membership, and even the purchase of a sports car or other symbol of lost youth. Occasionally, midlifers will make a radical change in careers or living situations. But contrary to popular media, the midlife “crisis” is far from the norm.
Despite changes in physical appea

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