Mike and me, July 2020

There’s been a lot of talk about age, lately, and I think Covid is at the bottom of it.

Who you callin’ older??

We’ve heard a lot about “older” people in the last few months, and the particular risk that they/we face with Covid. The definition of older seemed to shift, though. “So what is it?” I wondered. Are you officially older at 70+? 65ish? 60? If you qualify for 55+ housing, are you “older?” One recent Covid report called “older” people, “age 50 and up.”

The vitality, knowledge, perspective, and leadership ability of the 50+ age group—and particularly those who are 70-and-older—made me think about how age categories have changed. When I was growing up in the ‘70s, I thought of middle-aged as being in one’s late 30s-to-mid 50s. To me, that range represented carrying a lot of responsibility, caring for others, and a “requirement” to act with maturity. People still retired between 60 and 65—not too many worked into their 70s—but the lives and overall demeanor of retirees were usually very different than what we see today. New retirees may have been planning to travel a bit with their new free time, but for the most part, they were just ready to take a break from working. They were tired—and they were definitely thought of as “older.”

I thought about how life has changed for the 50+ age group, and how that has impacted the definitions of stages of life. Is there an “official” middle age and if so, when does it transition into old age? After all, we all get old—it’s not a bad thing. I think it’s a matter of perception and perspective. “Old” isn’t exactly a flattering term. It’s also a little nebulous. In a millennial’s eyes, “old” is likely to be very different than the way a 50-year-old sees the same age.

A quick Google search of “middle age” was surprising—the upper end of the range was higher than I expected. The US Census considered the category to be 55-65, and Merriam-Webster defined it as 45-64.[i] The American Psychological Association called ages 36-64, “middle adulthood,” and age 65 and beyond, “later adulthood.” “Later adulthood” is sometimes subdivided into “young-old” (65-74), “old-old” (75-84), and oldest old (85+). Fyi, “young adulthood” covered the years of 20-35, according to the American Psychological Association.[ii]

It’s all relative…

Research by US Trust (2017),[iii] Marist College (2016), and Stony Brook University (2015)[iv] all confirmed that the stages of life were, indeed, defined by the eyes of the beholder. In the US Trust study, Gen Xers (ages 37-52 at the time of the study) and Baby Boomers (ages 53-72 at that time) said that “youth” ended at 31 and the Silent Generation (age 73-and-older at the time of the study) said that it ended at 35. Millennials (ages 21-36 at that time) saw it differently, believing that youth lasted until age 40.

Sixty-three percent of the Marist respondents aged 45-and-older were more likely than younger respondents (their words) to think of 65 as middle-aged. The younger-than-45 group was closely divided, with 47% referring to 65 as middle-aged, versus 49% who thought the age qualified as old. Sixty percent of those under 30 considered 65 to be old.[v] The Stony Brook poll, conducted a year earlier, found that 60 should be the new middle age.[vi]

The Power Group

The fact of the matter is that people who are 50-and-over—35% of the total population[vii]—compose something of a “power group.” The group’s economic contributions tallied $8.3 trillion in 2018—40% of US gross domestic product (GDP).[viii] In fact, if this group were a country, that GDP would rank as the third-largest economy in the world, standing behind only the US and China, according to a recently updated AARP study.[ix] And that’s not all. In 2018, people age 50-and-over contributed another $745 billion in unpaid activities such as caregiving, volunteering, and supporting charities. That amounted to a $604 billion “invisible workforce” for caregiving in 2018, in addition to $140 billion worth of services that were volunteered. The group’s spending and labor also supported 88.6 million jobs—44% of total US employment in 2018.[x]

Oh, and btw, Medicare benefits paid that year were slightly below $745 billion.[xi]

And there’s more…

An even greater economic impact is likely on the horizon, as the 50-and-over group expands. AARP’s “The Longevity Economy Outlook” estimates that this population will generate more than $28 trillion in economic activity by 2050—tripling its current amount—as millennials and Generation Z begin to turn 50 in 2031 and 2047, respectively. In 2018, 56 cents of every dollar spent in the US stemmed from someone age 50-and-over—in 2050, that spending power is expected to rise to 61 cents on the dollar.

Middle age and old age can also be thought of in terms of “time left to live.” Of course, we can’t know the answer to that, and it also varies with each individual—besides, that’s what actuaries are for! But taking a broad look, increasing longevity and improvements in health still support the notion of extending the upper range of middle age. I once heard the statement, “Advances in health have extended lives, but they lengthened them in the middle.” I couldn’t agree more.

Consider us “seasoned”

So, considering the vitality, knowledge, perspective, and impactfulness that this group brings to the table, I’m going to use the term “seasoned” as a collective term for those of us who are 50-and-above. Lives whose flavor gets richer with years. I’m proud—and thankful—to be among them.

Until next time,


[i] Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_age

[ii] American Psychological Association; APA Dictionary of Psychology; https://dictionary.apa.org/adulthood

[iii] AARP; The Age at Which You Are Officially Old; https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2017/what-age-are-you-old-fd.html

[iv] Huffington Post; Survey Finds that THIS is the New Middle Age; https://www.huffpost.com/entry/survey-finds-that-this-is-the-new-middle-age_n_5729fb58e4b016f378942e25

[v] Marist College Institute for Public Opinion; 65 Stands Strong as “Middle-Aged;” May 3, 2016; http://maristpoll.marist.edu/wp-content/misc/usapolls/us160329/AGE/Marist%20Poll_Complete%20Survey%20Findings_AGE_Nature%20of%20the%20Sample%20and%20Tables_May%202016.pdf

[vi] Huffington Post; Survey Finds that THIS is the New Middle Age; https://www.huffpost.com/entry/survey-finds-that-this-is-the-new-middle-age_n_5729fb58e4b016f378942e25

[vii] Americans 50 and Older Would Be World’s Third-Largest Economy, AARP Study Finds; AARP; December 19, 2019; https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2019/older-americans-economic-impact-growth.html

[viii] Forbes; The Longevity Economy: Gigantic And Getting Bigger; December 31, 2019; https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2020/12/31/the-longevity-economy-gigantic-and-getting-bigger/#37ddeebabad3

[ix] Americans 50 and Older Would Be World’s Third-Largest Economy, AARP Study Finds; AARP; December 19, 2019; https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2019/older-americans-economic-impact-growth.html

[x] Ibid

[xi] Forbes; The Longevity Economy: Gigantic And Getting Bigger; December 31, 2019; https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2020/12/31/the-longevity-economy-gigantic-and-getting-bigger/#37ddeebabad3