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Young, middle-aged and old

Gordon Ansell Opinion, Society 365 words.

I was 55 last year and I don’t much like it. I have a body that’s a bit broken and I can easily pick up a back strain simply by getting out of bed. Sometimes I don’t even need to get out of bed. Sometimes I wake up with a back strain I somehow picked up overnight. Sleeping should be categorised as a dangerous sport.

Anyway, I was wondering when one stops being middle-aged and starts being old, so I did some research. I do of course have a vested interest here.

Wikipedia quotes a couple of dictionaries on the matter. The Oxford English Dictionary says that middle-age runs from 45-65. Merriam-Webster is a little more pessimistic and says it runs from 45-64. The entry in the Collins English Dictionary was clearly written by a pimply youth because it casts middle-age as 40-60. That was probably penned through a fog of marijuana smoke, though, so I’m simply going to ignore Collins’ take on the matter.

Back in 2018 YouGov had a poll about what people perceive as young, middle-aged and old. I’m not generally a fan of asking the people what they think but I quite like the outcome of this particular poll. The general consensus is that you are young up to the age of 29, middle-age starts at 48 and you’re not old until you’re 70.

The mathematicians amongst you will notice there’s a gap covering the ages of 30-47 when you’re in a sort of fermenting no man’s land. This implies the public see a fourth era of one’s life between youth and middle-age for which they have no name. Yiddle-aged, perhaps.

Graph of YouGov study polling what folk call young, middle-aged and old.
Credit: YouGov

The bit I like, though, is that old-age doesn’t start until 70. The people are very wise indeed on this matter and I wouldn’t dream of ignoring them, so this is the definition I’m going with. Well, for another 10 years or so, that is. No doubt I’ll then be scrabbling around to find some obscure research stating that old-age doesn’t really start until you’re 80.

Ageing is a battle between mind and body. My head says I’m somewhere in my early 20s but my body says otherwise and it’s rather insistent on the matter.