One of the gifts of longevity is that we have added new years of life that transforms every life stage. For example, young people are taking longer to complete college and find careers. If they will live to 100 or older, what’s the rush? Similarly, of the 30+ years of increased life expectancy, we have added additional years to the middle of life. So, as a midlife world we are grappling with questions like where do we want to live, how long we will work, what kind of work we WANT to do, and who do we want in our lives?
Barbara Waxman, a gerontologist and leadership coach, coined the term “Middlescence” to describe this stage of life, when everything seems to be in flux and we feel a little uneasy about our status quo. She likes it to Adolescence, but with wisdom.
She says, “Just like adolescence, our bodies are morphing. But now, because of shifts in our hormones and wear and tear on our bodies, we require more time spent on health and wellness than when we were younger. Just like adolescence, we have questions about our place in the world and wonder what our future holds. The life scripts we’ve been following may no longer feel right. We’re learning that decisions made in our 20’s don’t feel relevant now or for our future. We’re no longer young, but we certainly aren’t old.”
“Like adolescence, our sense of self, our identity is evolving. We crave an understanding of who we want to be when we grow up—even though we are grownups! And most importantly, our relationships may be shifting. We may be empty-nesters, divorcees, caregivers, or even newlyweds. We’re finding it’s time to revisit and reprioritize our most important relationships, as we’re reassessing what’s most important to us and who needs us most,” she continues.
Our lives are touched profoundly as we live longer. The workplace has to consider the shifting needs of aging employees and the management of multiple generations. We question our value in an increasingly technology-based world of work, while younger generations adapt effortlessly.
At home, our nests empty and our hearts break a little, only to have our necks snap as grown children rebound home. Our idea of “success” for our kids must adapt to a new normal, as we adapt it for ourselves as well. Our parents become dependent on us and transfer their mantel of caregiver. We celebrate the birth of grandchildren as we mourn the loss of our friends. Again, like adolescence, we are filled with mixed emotions.
The difference now is that we have wisdom and resilience that we could not have imagined in our younger days. We have more confidence in our decisions and less fear about big changes. And though our relationships are changing, we have a strong sense of who is really important in our lives, and why they are here.