The always interesting Gretchen Reynolds points out that while Americans are living longer, they are not necessarily living better. The increase of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease are up thanks largely to overeating and inactivity. (“The Weight of the Nation,” a great documentary series on HBO by a friend of mine John Hoffman offers a fascinating look at our collective weight problem.)
“Those adults who had been the least fit at the time of their middle-age checkup also were the most likely to have developed any of eight serious or chronic conditions early in the aging process. These include heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and colon or lung cancer.”
There is hope, though. A new study shows that even longtime couch potatoes can dramatically improve their health by starting to exercise in middle age.
“Being or becoming fit in middle age, the study found, even if you haven’t previously bothered with exercise, appears to reshape the landscape of aging.”
”…the results show, in essence, that being physically fit “compresses the time” that someone is likely to spend being debilitated during old age, leaving the earlier post-retirement years free of serious illness and, at least potentially, imbued with a finer quality of life.”
Read the whole story here.
New York Times readers will remember this June 2011 magazine profile of Leslie Blodgett, the chief of Bare Escentuals cosmetics and QVC star. I was surprised and blushingly flattered when she wrote me a fan note about my book, “In Our Prime.” She was especially interested in the chapters on advertising and the Midlife Industrial Complex. We met for coffee at the Times today, and what was so amazing about this cosmetics mogul is her own perceptive critique of the beauty industry, and the company’s attempts to avoid the demeaning messages embedded in so much advertising. Now that I have a goody bag of Escentual treats, I can hardly wait to start swirling and tapping.
As I’ve noted before, middle age is a land with indistinct borders — there is no clear year where it starts and ends. Dictionaries and researchers don’t agree and neither do survey respondents, whose answers shift depending on their age, gender, race, and profession. A new study by Anne Barrett, a researcher at Florida State University, comes to the same conclusion — but with two interesting caveats.
First, she found that both women and men think that middle age begins earlier for women than for men. This is a definite change from the 1990s according to the mammoth research project, Midlife in the United States.
Secondly, she found that on average, most people think middle age begins at 44 and ends at 60. That’s younger than I would have thought, particularly with the retirement age being pushed back a bit from 65. (After all, a 2009 Pew Research Center survey of 50-to-64 year olds found that respondents thought middle age ended at 71.) I haven’t looked at the data yet to see exactly who she interviewed.
What I concluded after researching the subject, is that middle age is a Never Never Land — younger people never want to enter it and older people never want to leave it.
The study, “Mapping Midlife: An Examination of Social Factors Shaping Conceptions of the Timing of Middle Age,” was published in the journal Advances in Life Course Research. Here are some of the findings:
“• Both women and men view the start and end of middle age as occurring earlier for women than for men, consistent with the argument that a “double standard of aging” exists that disadvantages women.
• Younger adults tend to see middle age as occurring at younger ages than do older adults. In other words, as people grow older, they tend to see this life stage as occurring later.
• People who are more socioeconomically disadvantaged or belong to racial or ethnic minority groups tend to view this stage as occurring earlier than do their peers.
• Others likely to view middle age as occurring earlier include those in poor health, those who began families young, those who are divorced, and those without living parents.”
Harvard magazine writes about the photographer and author’s novelistic venture.
As Nell Porter Brown writes:
“Reading The Red Book, an often funny and entertaining Harvard-inspired confection, is a bit like watching the women of Sex and The City return for their twentieth college reunion. Except we don’t get to see their splashy designer outfits. The new novel by Deborah Copaken Kogan ’88 chronicles the midlife stories of four fictitious friends from the class of 1989 as problems in their messy lives of privilege come to a head during a long weekend in Cambridge. (The title comes from the nickname for the anniversary books put out by the Class Report Office—part of the Harvard Alumni Association —every five years, in conjunction with class reunions.)
One unhappily married character, a dabbling artist questioning her sexual identity, is arrested for a mountain of unpaid parking tickets from her undergraduate years. A Vietnamese adoptee and international journalist mourns the death of her mother, while grappling with a partner’s infidelity. A third roommate tends perfectly to four children in place of her once-promising acting career. And their biracial friend, raised in a hippie commune in California, hopes to solve her infertility problems with the unwitting aid of her once Adonis-like freshman-year boyfriend (whose WASP parents rejected her so long ago). Oh, and she was also recently laid off from Lehman Brothers.”
Variety reports that HBO has signed up Ira Glasser to work on an HBO series based on “This American Life” segment — The Midlife Cowboy.
‘This American Life’ seg inspires HBO project
Rob Thomas, Owen Wilson, Ira Glass developing drama
HBO has teamed with Rob Thomas, Ira Glass and Owen Wilson to develop a drama series inspired by a “This American Life” segment about a man who deals with a midlife crisis by rescuing two kidnapped kids in Mexico.
Thomas (“Veronica Mars”) is penning the script for the project, tentatively titled “Thrillsville.”
The series will be a fictionalized spin on aspects of the “Midlife Cowboy” seg that aired on the public radio series in March 2010. James Spring, a San Diego man who had in his youth been a methamphetamine smuggler before becoming an advertising copywriter and family man, detailed the story of how the approach of his 40th birthday inspired him to do something significant to help others.
His quest led him to mount a search for two young girls who were kidnapped in Northern California in connection with drug-trade violence and taken to Baja California.
The media coverage of Spring’s success in finding the girls led him to a new career investigating missing persons cases.”
At petside.com, Amanda Kelly writes that a new report from the American Veterinary Medical Association has recategorized the age groupings of dogs and cats.
“With their new age classifications, the AVMA concedes that small dogs and cats are considered elderly at age seven, and larger dogs are considered geriatric at as young as six.
On the surface, the new labels may not mean much to the everyday pet owner. But for those in the adoption world, these new labels raise the question: what does this mean for shelter dogs?
With the new labels, dogs normally considered middle age will now be viewed as “old dogs”, an undesirable label for pets seeking to be adopted. According to an AP-Petside.com poll that ran last November, only 15 percent of Americans looking to adopt a pet were in the market for a senior pet.
Despite the age labels, there are many benefits to adopting an older dog.”
I will be speaking about my book, “In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age,” at The National Arts Club, at 8 pm on Tuesday March 27. The address is 15 Gramercy Park South and the event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (212) 475-3424 or visit http://www.nationalsrtsclub.org.
In writing his classic history of advertising in America, the historian Roland Marchand collected a wonderful archive of images that I used while researching my book. You can read about it here.
“The forthright presentation of lustful middle-aged women is probably the starkest example of a change in media portrayals….”
Check out the rest of the excerpt here