A New View Of Middle Age
The most positive findings her research revealed: the qualities of the middle-age brain. Even though a younger brain may perform better at some tasks, in midlife we are more capable in significant ways. “We have had a giant leap in brain research in recent years,” she explains."Now we know that different kinds of skills come to the fore as we get older. Our judgment, our social reasoning, our vocabulary skills, and our assessment of risks all improve. “
The changing views of middle age, Cohen believes, have always been, to some degree, a double-edged sword, especially for women. In the early part of the twentieth century, middle-aged women were not expected to be as attractive or sexually appealing as women now can be, but they were respected and vital members of their communities. Often it was middle-aged women who were at the forefront of reforms and social change. Women now in middle age are healthier, with more opportunities than ever before, but at the same time they are expected to be youthful looking and energetic. What Cohen calls “the midlife industrial complex” has sold the Boomer generation on looking good and staying sexually attractive. She comments, “It is an oppressive burden to always see aging as a bad thing.”
What has writing the book taught Cohen? “It has given me an appreciation of the cycle of life and that every age has its pluses and minuses,” she says. And in the book’s final paragraph she writes, “Middle age can bring undiscovered passions, profound satisfactions and newfound creativity. It is a time of extravagant possibilities.”
Myrna Blyth is editor-in-chief of ThirdAge.