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50 Isn’t the New 30

Nov. 8, 2015 Psychology Today

This year, the oldest members of Generation X turn 50. Gen X, or those of us born from 1965 to 1980, pride ourselves on our perpetually youthful and edgy spirit. We pioneered the “delayed transition to adulthood,” as demographers like to call it. We stayed in school through our 20s and 30s, tried a few jobs and romantic partners before deciding on “the one,” and waited much longer than our parents to settle down and buy homes (partly due to exorbitant housing prices). Some appear to be aging backwards, with Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez  looking more luminous with each passing year. And Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler have creative license to act like high school class clowns, even as their 50th birthdays near. Gen X parents forged the Alternadad and “martini mom” movements, eschewing stodgy business suits and “mom jeans” for ironic T-shirts and overpriced yoga pants – both signs of youth and fitness.

The hard truth is that we’re not 30 anymore. The more ‘senior’ members of Gen X are squarely middle-aged, although ‘midlife’ has a much nicer ring to it. With each passing year, our bodies grow a bit rustier. For many, waistlines are thickening, hairlines receding, and laughlines multiplying. For others, optometrists have dropped the dreaded word “progressives.” For a few, the once-energetic hop out of bed each morning is now a slow crawl, as arthritis prematurely invades our joints. Even the fittest among us may have a few new aches and pains after a strenuous hike or grueling body pump class,  The challenges of midlife aren’t just physical.  Many Gen Xers are “sandwiched” between the dual responsibilities of caring for unhealthy parents, while also looking after kids who are years away from leaving the family nest.  Some researchers have gone so far as to argue that midlife is theleast happy time of our lives.

But getting older also has earned us benefits that we should eagerly embrace and celebrate.  While most people look back nostalgically at their youth, very few people actually want to be 22 again. The uncertainty and anxiety of our 20s is replaced by a sense of acceptance, equanimity, and self-knowledge once we reach our 40s, 50s, and beyond.

Click Read More for three things to celebrate as we age.

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