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Chapter 15

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(Age 40   through   Age 65)




Until recently, middle adulthood has been the least studied part of the life span.  All though now discredited, it was originally thought that middle adulthood was simply a “midlife crisis”, an uneventful hiatus between the more dramatic changes of young adulthood and old age.


The concept of middle age is relative new; the term came into use in Europe and the United States around the turn of the twentieth century.


 Chronologically, middle adulthood is defined as those years between the ages of 40 and 65 but this definition is arbitrary.  The exact years can vary considerably depending upon the individual.


Midlife is a time to look both backward and forward, at the years already lived and the years yet to live.  This can be a time of taking stock, of reevaluating goals and aspirations and how well they have been fulfilled, and deciding how to best use the remaining part of the lifespan (Lachman & James, 1997).






At around 45 years of age individuals may find they can no longer read a newspaper or phone book without glasses.


Women may find that they are no longer as quick or steady on their feet as they once were.


Hearing loss speed up in the early fifties.


“Use it or lose it” is the motto of many middle-aged people who have taken up jogging, racquetball, tennis, aerobic dancing, and other forms of physical activity.


The more people do the more they can do.  Research bears out the fact that people who become active early in life reap the benefits of more stamina and more resilience after age 60 (Spirduso & MacRae, 1990). 


Conversely, people who led sedentary lives lose muscle tone and energy and become even less incline to exert themselves physically.


Presbyopia (lessened ability to focus on near object)             Myopia  (nearsightedness)





In a youth oriented society, visible signs of aging such as wrinkles, sags, age spots, and middle age spread can be distressing.  Middle age people spend a great deal of time, effort and money trying to look young.



As far back as medieval times, a mature man was considered wise, whereas a mature woman was considered “Cold and Dry”.


In men, gray hair, coarsened skin and crow’s feet have been seen as indicators of experience and mastery; in women, it was a sign of being “over the hill”.


Today the double standard is diminishing; men also suffer from the premium placed on youth.  This is especially true in the job market and business world.  Today men spend as much time as women on cosmetic products and are turning to cosmetic surgery in greater numbers.





Generally, women can no longer bear Children at this stage in the life span.  However,


Some couples still desire children during middle age.






       parents over 35 might be more secure Financially


       Parents may be ready to give more time to child rearing


       Parent better educated, or have more secure work situation.


       Parents may be more informed about Health Care


       Parents may be more mature and responsible in general






       Some women have greater chance of miscarriage after age 40


       Older mothers often have greater risks of health complications such as hypertension or diabetes


       Greater risk of chromosomal abnormalities such Downs Syndrome


       Older parents may be anxious about having a child





Although men can continue to father children until late in life, many middle-aged men experience a decline in fertility and in frequency of orgasm and an increase in erectile dysfunction.




Sexual enjoyment can continue throughout the adult life.  Sexual activity generally diminishes only slightly and gradually, and the quality of sexual relations may improve.





Generally, most middle aged people are healthy and have no functional limitations.


For the most part changes from Young Adulthood to Middle Adulthood are gradual and almost unnoticeable.  Some changes that might be noticeable are:


Visual: Can’t read fine print in telephone directory.


Hearing: A gradual hearing loss that was barely noticed in earlier life speeds up in the fifties (Merrill & Verbrugee, 1999). 


Taste:  Sensitivity to taste and smell generally begins to decline in midlife (Cain, Reid, & Stevens, 1990; Stevens, Cain, Demarque, & Ruthruff, 1991), especially in people who take medication or undergo medical treatment.

Strength:   Strength and coordination decline gradually from their peak during the twenties.  Some loss of muscle strength is usually noticeable by age 45;  10 to  15 percent of maximum strength may be gone by age 60.



Hypertension (chronically high blood pressure) is an increasingly important concern from midlife on.


The leading causes of death between 45 and 64 are cancer, heart disease, accidents and strokes.


The death rate for middle aged African Americans is nearly twice that of White Americans (Twice as many African American between age 45 to 64 die of heart attacks, cancer, and three times as many of strokes).


Six Factors contributing to the vast mortality rate of African Americans are:


High blood pressure

High cholesterol

Excessive weight





The first four maybe attributed to heredity, but lifestyle plays an important role in all six.




The ancient proverb of Solomon, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine” (Proversb 17:22) is being borne out by contemporary research.


Negative moods seem to suppress immune functioning whereas positive moods seem to enhance functioning.


The more stressful changes that take place in a person’s life, the greater the likelihood of illness within the next year or two.




Normal Day to Day Stress

Burnout Stress

Occupational Stress



Normal Day to Day Stress =  Traffic, Taking kids to daycare, etc.


Burnout Stress = Exhaustion that comes from a feeling that one can no longer accomplish anything on the job (most prevalent in helping Professions, Teaching, Medicine, Therapy, Social Work, Police)


Occupational Stress = Bosses who Nags; project deadlines


Unemployment Stress = The greatest work related stress is stress created from fear of Loss of Job!


When one becomes unemployed its not just loss of income, which is troublesome enough, but loss of self respect. Some   men define their manhood based on being a provider.  This could account for the reason some individuals are reluctant to retire.


The workplace is designed for efficiency and profits, not for the worker well being.




(Do they Improve of Decline in Middle Age)


Mentally speaking, middle age people are in their prime.  To arrive at this conclusion, two type of intelligence was measured.   Fluid Intelligence and Crystallized Intelligence.


Fluid Intelligence is the ability to apply mental power to problems that require little or no previous knowledge.  Fluid Intelligence is thought to peak during adulthood and then decline slightly with age.  An example of Fluid Intelligence might be Identifying matching or non-matching objects flashed on a screen.


Crystallized Intelligence is the ability to remember and use information acquired over a lifetime.  Crystallized Intelligence is thought to remain the same or perhaps increase with age.  An example of Crystallized Intelligence might be doing simple math problems, adding, subtraction, multiplication, etc.




The traditional life structure in industrialized societies is age differentiated.  In other words, ones role at a given time is based on his or her age.  Can you give example?


An example of age differentiated structure might be as follows:


Young People are suppose to be      Students

Middle Age Adults are suppose to be  Workers

Older Adults are suppose to be at    Leisure


However, current trends are toward an age integrated society, that is, one that permits individuals to be at any of the above stages regardless of age.





The “use it or lose it”  concept applies to the mind as well as the body.  Work can influence future cognitive functioning.


Adults who continuously seek more stimulating opportunities are likely to remain mentally sharp.


The current perspective concerning education is one of Lifelong Learning.  If you expect to remain current, learning must be a lifelong process.

At 41 and the mother of three children, Margaret Mead had worked in the travel department of a large international corporation for nearly twenty years when she lost her job as a result of downsizing and changes in the travel business.


Changes in the workplace often entail a need for more training or education


Expanding technology and shifting job markets require a life-span approach to learning


To Accommodate the practical needs of students of nontraditional age, some colleges grant credit for life experiences and previous learning.  They offer part-time matriculation, Saturday and night classes, independent study, childcare, financial aid, free or reduced tuition.


Distant Learning via computer or close circuit broadcast

Independent Study

Colleges Grant Life experience credits


Unfortunately, some learning institutions are not structured to meet mature adults’ educational and psychological needs or to take advantage of their cognitive strengths.


Adult learners have their own motives, goals, developmental tasks, and experiences.  They come with their own expertise and, often, with post formal thinking

Skills and they need knowledge they can apply to specific problems.


Some adults simply enjoy learning and want to keep doing it throughout life.




As you might have noticed, I attempt to allow you the learner to share your knowledge and expertise with the Class for we are all learners.















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