Things you were never told about approaching 50
July 22, 2017 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm not far out from being a half-century. Recently, in discussions with peers of a similar age, we've discovered several commonalities. For example, most now have little problem in dropping time-consuming people who drain us from networks, or even in mid-conversation, or saying "no" to pressurised requests. On the negative side, nearly all have annoying or restrictive medical ailments of food, bowel or colon. None of this we were told would be a fact of deep-middle age, at school, or college, or in the media. What else - good and bad - is a commonality of most people around the age of 50?
posted by Wordshore to Human Relations (60 answers total) 97 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Peeing, often. Night sweats and other menopause-related fun. Creaking joints, and understanding why people praise or slate hotel mattresses in reviews. Marked decline in alcohol tolerance. Less stuff than you arrived with: gall bladders, appendixes, molars, wisdom teeth, tonsils, adenoids. And the motherfucking weight gain.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2017 [24 favorites]

Best answer: Trying to avoid saying "in MY day..." when conversing with youngsters.
posted by scorpia22 at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: End-of-life stuff with parents. And wondering if you'll be done getting them through it before you start going through it yourself.

Also, receiving professional services from people who all appear to be ten years old, and wondering if you can remit payment in lollipops.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:19 PM on July 22, 2017 [42 favorites]

Best answer: 'Deep-middle age'? Do you mind? :) I got to your mark last month and still don't think of myself as that. Otoh, I do deliberately use "in my day..." at every oppportunity. My marked decline in alcohol tolerance happened at 35 though.

What I certainly wasn't told was that sex gets better and better though...
posted by tillsbury at 12:21 PM on July 22, 2017 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Presbyopia begins to set in, making it difficult to read small print up close.
posted by mr vino at 12:46 PM on July 22, 2017 [21 favorites]

Best answer: Not being able to just walk all damn day if I want to. Sometime between 10,000 and 15,000 steps my feet start hurting and my back and joints start seizing up.

Finding myself a little lost and depressed after getting where i wanted to professionally. Not having a goal is such a strange and disconcerting feeling and makes living seem kinda pointless sometimes. Mid-life crisis stuff I guess. I'll figure it out though and think the answer is at least partly about to giving back, but it's a process.

Having fewer friends as some die, some I realise I don't have anything in common with anymore and some who drift away - and it feels like real, meaningful friendships are harder to form in mid-life.

I can feel myself becoming more fearful of trying new things. As a twentysomethig I just up and moved to a different country one day where I didn't speak the language and didn't know anyone. Now I want everything planned out when I just go on holiday. I hate it and am trying to fight it, though.

Not being able to concentrate quite as much on reading or feeling as engaged with the novels I do read.

Growing pretty flowers and my own fruit and veg in the garden has become a satisfying past time and not just something boring older people do.
posted by hazyjane at 12:50 PM on July 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: More concrete concerns about finances for retirement.

Less concern about "what people think." Less concern about what you "should do."

And yes...the weight gain.
posted by bookmammal at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The weight and terror of having other people STILL depending on you... and realizing it isn't really going to end when they turn 18. And you yourself STILL don't feel any more capable or "grown up" than you did at 18.
posted by stormyteal at 1:08 PM on July 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Amazingly clear hindsight about past mistakes and how past problems could have been averted with better knowledge and more imagination. Wistful desire to travel back in time and just have even five minutes advising sixteen-year-old self what not to do. Belated sympathy and understanding for long-deceased annoying parents. Belated ability to see situations from viewpoints other than my own. Belated ability to keep big mouth shut. Greater tolerance for grey areas and not-knowing. And the weight gain, obvs.
posted by Grunyon at 1:10 PM on July 22, 2017 [24 favorites]

Best answer: I was not prepared for minor dear god please just be normal cognitive decline at a year short of 50. I do written translation all day on a computer and make a lot more minor typos, omitted words, that kind of stuff than I did 10 years ago when I started in this profession. And everyone says for women sex gets better but I had a fantastic libido and orgasmic response and all that in my 20s and it's all kind of gone to hell in this decade. I don't know how much is physical and how much is psychological but I've been separated from my 2nd husband for over a year now and I feel more or less "over" the relationship but have zero physical desire to re-partner yet.
posted by drlith at 1:11 PM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The weight gain, the need for reading glasses. But also: a bone shifted position in one of my feet, more or less out of the blue, and I will need orthotic insoles from now on. Even then, I will never be able to walk as much as I used to. In other words, wear and tear. I will be fifty next year.

On the other hand, people more and more tend to believe me if I state that I know what I'm talking about. And I do in fact feel more knowledgeable and competent. So that is nice.

I now pretty much know what I want and don't want out of a relationship and I even managed to be in a very pleasant and stable one. I don't think I've ever been this happy, for such a long time. It may not be the exciting rollercoaster and fireworks that relationships sometimes were in the past, but it's lovely, like a warm bath.

I don't have the patience anymore to see whether bad books get better. If it doesn't grab me, I don't struggle to finish it, I just let it go. Life's too short.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:24 PM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: How about a positive instead of a negative?
I've reconnected with old school chums.
During childrearing years, we didn't have much time for each other. Now that we are empty nesters, we actually get together once or twice a year and are delighted to find we are still enjoy each others' company and are exactly the same people as we were at 22. With much more interesting life stories to share!
posted by scorpia22 at 1:25 PM on July 22, 2017 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: How about a positive instead of a negative?

Yes! Definitely! And also negatives that turn into positives - an example that have discovered is common amongst peers is waking up quite early.

I've always been a late morning person, and still preferably am, but sometimes I wake up much earlier e.g. before or around dawn. If I don't think I'm going to get back to sleep soon, and the weather is set fair, I'm sometimes out of the door for a pleasant stroll by the river, or over a nearby hill. Nothing too epic, just a few miles. At that time of day, well before the rush hour, the roads are deserted and apart from the sounds of nature, it's very quiet. And curiously, I've noticed, when someone does (rarely) appear, they are often around my age and I wonder if they are up and about because they woke up unexpectedly early too. I might start asking them.

In a nutshell, it means that before most people have even started their in-car commute, I've gotten in a pleasant stretch of nature and exercise for the day. That never happened before my forties.
posted by Wordshore at 1:46 PM on July 22, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Don't know if this happens to men but after I hit menopause much of my pubic hair disappeared. Disconcerting.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:50 PM on July 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: From mid-to-late-40s perspective: I'm more cautious than I used to be, especially physically. Minor injuries like stubbed toes or fingers caught in a door seem to hurt more than they used to, though I don't think they last any longer. Definitely minor cognitive decline. I used to be a really good speller who never made typos - hah, those were the days. Being more aware of retirement as an actual thing that will (ideally) happen, not just something that one plans for in the abstract.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 2:53 PM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Weird scraggly eyebrow hairs. Weird sprouty ear hairs.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:18 PM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a few years ahead of you. Just from responses already you can see that there is a whole lot of variation.

Medical stuff does tend to multiply, even for the basically-healthy. Aches, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. You may find yourself taking several pills every day for maintenance. Don't freak out about that, or about iffy answers from routine diagnostic procedures.

Sexual response becomes, shall we say, somewhat less reliable for many people. But counterbalancing that is that you, and people your age who want to have sex, tend to know what they're doing and aren't going to get pregnant accidentally.

If you can, try to be one of those people whose equanimity increases - realizing what's important and what's not - as many of us do, rather than one who worries about omg in a few more years I will be even older and then ...

But also the eyebrows and ear hairs.
posted by sheldman at 3:27 PM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: And also if you get a minor burn from the stove or oven it takes FOREVER to heal.
posted by sheldman at 3:28 PM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Genuinely enjoying my own company, and not just pretending to prefer it to being with anyone even mildly annoying. At the same time, less inclination to write people off for small irritations and greater ability to appreciate the positives that they do bring, rather than focus on shortcomings.

Also, much less consumer pressure. You're not really the target market anymore, except perhaps for medical and other weird things, which I personally find easy to ignore.
posted by rpfields at 4:00 PM on July 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I got brittle. Always been a klutz, but before 50, I'd stumble, bruise, and go on with a normal day, nursing a minor pain that didn't slow me down. After 50, I had 5 fractures in as many years, including one trip over a dog dish in the kitchen that resulted in a total hip replacement. And no, I am not osteoporetic. Just no longer nimble enough to soften the fall.
posted by peakcomm at 4:24 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Being more comfortable in your own skin.
Not caring as much what other people think.
Everything aching.
posted by newpotato at 4:31 PM on July 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm 49...

People around you start to have serious health issues (wife has breast cancer, several friends have had strokes / heart attacks, parents may be on the decline)

And related, we aren't experienced enough at this health scare stuff to deal with it well.
posted by COD at 4:44 PM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The amazing lack of giving a toss what people think anymore and an inability to put up with peoples BS anymore. I don't go out of my way to hurt anyone, but I'm sure as hell not going to tiptoe around things anymore & hope people guess what I want.

Having said that I find I'm kinder in general as I'm not protecting my feelings anymore. I know I can cope with whatever life throws at me by this point.

I could do without the aching & the weird chin hairs, but mostly I have loved the past few years of my life.
posted by wwax at 4:45 PM on July 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: The big one for me is the amount of time I spent providing care for my parents.

Physical stuff: the weight gain, and the increasingly-limited return on exercise investment. In other words: I fall out of condition faster and it takes longer to get back into shape.

Backache and spasms unless I am religious about my core exercises.

No longer being able to wear heels basically at all, or cute shoes/sandals without arch support.

Injuries and illnesses don't really get better: they recede a bit, but I have to be aware and account for them for the rest of my life. So I'll always be susceptible to BBPV, back spasms, plantar fasciitis, etc.

Emotionally: I'm a lot more confident and emotionally stable. So that's nice.

My hair looks great since I cut it short and stopped coloring it.

However it would be nice to be able to flag down a bartender once in a while...
posted by suelac at 5:14 PM on July 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You might like the positive stuff here in this question I posted a couple of years ago.
posted by rpfields at 5:19 PM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'd like to second scorpia22 who mentioned reconnecting with old chums now that child-rearing responsibilities have diminished as a positive development.

Feeling that same kind of 'outside society' feeling I had in my teens, but now it's from the opposite side.

Needing to wear a hat in the sun.

Not looking good in black.

Worrying about how I'm going to support myself when I'm 90.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:21 PM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The biggest thing for me at 53 is just realizing that there's more of life behind me than in front of me. I don't necessarily mean that in a maudlin way but it does hit you somewhere between 45 and 50 that time's a wasting and you need to do what you want to do now.

I wanted to get into serious photography and possibly filmmaking since I was a teenager and somehow never found the time and/or money to do those. I asked my wife for a decent camera for my fiftieth birthday and then started taking college classes in photography a few months later and I'm most of the way done with a photography certificate now.

So, yeah, it sounds corny but at fifty you really realize how valuable every fucking second of your life is and you really don't want to waste it not doing what you want to.
posted by octothorpe at 5:46 PM on July 22, 2017 [21 favorites]

Best answer: The fact that pretty much every conversation with people over 50 turns to health, and recitations of things that don't work right anymore, and their cousin who has a similar health issue, and their neighbor who has an even worse version of the same thing.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:13 PM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'd like to mention that some things like brain fog, bruising more easily, sleep issues, weight gain, disappearing body hair, etc. can be a sign of a vitamin or endocrine imbalance, and treatable. If you're noticing these things, it can't hurt to get a physical and a blood test.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:16 PM on July 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I could repeat a lot of what was said above, but I won't. More trivially, I have to shave my legs much less often because the hair is thinner and lighter. However, the chin hairs and the nose hairs make up for it.
posted by matildaben at 7:11 PM on July 22, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin both personally and professionally. Some of it being more comfortable not knowing things, not needing to impress and some of it is actually knowing more and being confident in my expertise. I'm good at what matters so I can own up to a mistake without feeling threatened. Before I used to push myself hard to achieve - now I can appreciate where I am while still wanting to better so I can be much accepting of myself without letting go of my ambition.

Also, I used to hate doing anything I was bad at - even when it didn't matter. I've learned to let go of that and allow myself to be sing or dance or paint badly just for my own pleasure - which means I have more joy in my life.
posted by metahawk at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I just turned 50 a few months ago. My whole life I was skinny to average weight, and I just didn't really notice that I'd gained weight. Well, then I did notice, when I had to buy larger pants, but I honestly didn't want to think about it, so I hadn't gained weight, right? But one day I took a good long look at my stomach, and then some Googling for BMI came up with one of those lists that told me my weight put me in the "obese" category. Not "overweight," but "OBESE." I got disgusted and sad and a bit scared, and started an insane amount of walking every day, dragged myself back to the Y and am now swimming three days a week, and rigorously keep track of everything that goes into my mouth except for water, seltzer and coffee (which is pretty much all I drink anymore). I have managed to drop about 30 pounds so far, and will keep going, since I am now "overweight" but not happy with that.

Also, yeah, I have less time for people's bullshit. Be straight up and don't play games, and don't expect me to either and we'll get along fine.

I do find it almost impossible to make new friends anymore, though.
posted by old_growler at 8:01 PM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Sleep, though, is a battle. I wake up frequently just about every night, often to pee but sometimes just because.
posted by old_growler at 8:02 PM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Lots of responses have mentioned health issues. I've had some of my own, but most have been related to stress, lack of exercise, and weight gain—which isn't inevitable, just difficult to avoid.

I was a fat kid, lost weight in grad school, then gained it back when I got a stressful job and cut back on activity while still eating as if I exercised all the time. Then from 45 to 47 I lost the excess weight. As a consequence, I also lost the elevated blood pressure and lower back pain that had started to bother me. That suggests to me that at least some of the problems of middle age aren't inevitable, even if they're common.

At 49, I'm quite possibly in the best shape of my life in terms of endurance and overall fitness, but with a big caveat: I'm no longer as resilient as I was in my 20s and 30s. I plan to do a 65-mile bike ride tomorrow, but I know that I'll need to take it easy on Monday to allow time for recovery. On the other hand, I accept that as the price I now know I need to pay for keeping active. I ran for a while, until it seemed to cause a chronic injury; I'm doing PT for that right now, and if it seems to be OK in a month or two, I'll take up running again. If it's not OK, though, I still have cycling, hiking, walking, swimming, etc. to stay active. My focus now with regard to exercise is on being active without injuring myself in a way that will inhibit staying active in the future.

As I look around at my friends, colleagues, and family, I see a big difference between those who keep active and those who don't. Physical activity doesn't just maintain physical health; it also seems to have a significant effect on mental health and resilience. Of course there are exceptions, but I'm really struck by the importance of physical activity, especially when I consider my friends and family in their 70s, 80s, and 90s (like my 80-year-old stepfather who works several hours a day on his feet in a shop and who is sharp as a tack).

There are inevitable declines: resilience, which I mentioned, but also presbyopia. I had to get progressive glasses last year. Driving at night is a bit harder, especially immediately after sunset. On the other hand, I'm in less of a hurry and don't mind slowing down a bit so as not to overdrive my headlights. I need to write down reminders of things to do, but I'm not sure that's because I forget things more readily or because I have more things to remember now than when I was starting out in my profession. I'm slower to learn new languages in my 40s than I was in my 20s.

And I'm sure that, at 49, I'm over being anxious about how other people perceive me. That doesn't mean that I'm walking around like a beachcomber; however, I dress and act the way I think I want to be seen, and I just don't care about whether that's how people see me. There's not that constant anxiety that I felt in my teens and early 20s about how others saw me. I think it slowly faded in my late 20s and 30s, but by this point, it's gone.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:48 PM on July 22, 2017 [15 favorites]

Best answer: There came a point where I realized I no longer absorbed new music via osmosis and, similarly, don't recognize a lot of pop culture references. I understand better now the people who wear their hair the same way they did a long time ago, or listen exclusively to whatever was popular when they were young.

I sometimes find myself marveling about crossroads and roads not taken in my personal life more... not so much wondering whether I made a mistake, but just what life might have been like if I'd gone to medical school or whatever.
posted by carmicha at 8:54 PM on July 22, 2017 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I have to say I'm really glad I'm not the only one with the brain fog.

Sleep is a real problem but in the department of silver linings I can get by on so much less than when I was younger. 6 hours is doable now - good thing too or I'd really be doomed - whereas when I was in my 30s and early 40s getting less than 7 or 8 was a disaster. I can't imagine sleeping a full 8 hours through anymore but it's okay.

The hardest thing for me has been watching my parents' generation pass. Not just losing my parents and aunts and uncles, although that has been very rough indeed, but my friends' parents and my own older friends and teachers and mentors. I don't know why I didn't anticipate it, that it would just be an ongoing wave of loss, but I didn't. It does make you much more aware of age and end of life issues and so on.

Driving at night if it's not in a really well lit place, yup, that's over. Getting fat, ah yes, but fortunately I can't bring myself to care all that much. Becoming invisible was startling, but it really has its perks - oddly, I feel much safer now. Nobody bothers the weird middle aged lady. Time goes faster. Whole years disappear in moments. And I didn't expect that I would still feel like one of the young ones at 54. I forget that I'm an old sometimes and then I get confused as to why people I momentarily think are my peers are treating me so oddly. I am also shocked, when I run into people I haven't seen for a while, by how old my actual peers seem to be getting.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:28 PM on July 22, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Cultural reference and death. The obituaries for the celebrities of youth (John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn). then then passing of celebrities near your own age (Whitney Houston was younger than me? Huh.) Then the decline and deaths of celebrities that are contemporaries of your children -- now that seems really off. Particularly when your child has to remind you who these people are.

Health issues... and the point where you just get sick and tired of being sick and tired. My digestion and sleep issues are getting better with a 25 lb. weigh loss since March on keto / modified Atkins. I've decided that if I never have mac and cheese again in life, so what? I've had 56 years of it, I can let it go and be in better health. Ditto soda and most sugary foods.

Accepting caution in a body that is supposed to last for another few decades. Knee pads and safety goggles while doing construction projects are a thing now. Bike helmets. Sun hats and liberal use of sunscreen. Dust masks during lawn mowing.
posted by TrishaU at 12:03 AM on July 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Positives: in my 20s I found it hard to make new friends after college. I was fairly rigid about being with peers who were like me and fit my aspirational vision of myself; it was sort of a teenaged clique thing holdover. At 45, my closest friends are 27, 34, and 60. I make friends easily because I am interested in all kinds of people and do not think who I am standing next to is a reflection on me by which I will be judged. (Nobody is looking, nobody cares, and also who gives a fuck.)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:22 AM on July 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I recently realized that my heart and lungs have worked continuously for over 45 years just keeping my body going. I found that pretty impressive.

Realizing the value of maintenance (exercise, sleep, eating decently, keeping my house reasonably clean) and that it's generally worth doing these things even if I don't really want to in the moment.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 3:50 AM on July 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I'm 50 next year, and much of what is mentioned above, largely the negative stuff, has not been my experience at all, but wordshore has asked for the experience of "most" people, so maybe I am an outlier? For example, I've had to keep an eye on my weight since my mid-20s, so weight gain is not a new thing, and I've been running and strength training a lot and so am in good physical shape compared to some other periods of my life. (I have noticed that if I'm not super vigilant about exercise and eating right and keeping my weight down, cellulite has become a lot more aggressive.) And mentally/professionally/socially I haven't experienced a decline. But here are some things that surprised me:

How happy I am. Things aren't perfect--far from it!-- but by and large, I'm leading the life I want to be leading, to a greater degree than ever before. I've always been pretty adventurous, but I think I'm more fearless now than ever before (tempered with a healthy dose of caution/common sense I may have lacked in my twenties) because I realize how short life is and that you might as well take the risk.

How weird it is to often find myself the oldest--often by a decade--in any given group.

How weird it is that in what feels like overnight, people in my age group became the old guard. Also a lot of weird misconceptions about our age group, as though 40/50 somethings eternally grew up in some strange conservative 1950s landscape. Case in point: recently there was a question on Ask Mefi from a woman in her late 40s who strongly disapproved of divorce. One answerer said that was understandable because of course she had grown up in an era when divorce was stigmatized but times had changed. And I was all whaaat? We were the era of the latchkey kids! Everyone's parents were divorced! I know few people my age whose parents are still together! It reminds me a bit of the old saying that every generation thinks it has invented sex.

Like Darling Bri, I find it easier to make friends than ever before, and across all age groups--I count as friends people ranging in age from 20s to 70s. I also value my friendships more than ever before.

Pursuant to the above, I'm a lot more forgiving of people's foibles, but I've also become ruthless about setting boundaries. This was always hard for me before, but I find now I just don't really care that much if someone can't deal.

My perfect vision went to hell in a handbasket.

Sex. Better than ever.

Didn't expect so many people within a decade of me on either side to become seriously ill and/or die. I had thought it would be a couple of decades before that happened, and that has been sobering.

Recovering from running myself ragged does take longer than it used to.

On balance, I'm just surprised that far from leading a life of quiet desperation, which is how middle age is often portrayed, I'm really happy.
posted by tiger tiger at 4:22 AM on July 23, 2017 [20 favorites]

Best answer: I just turned 53.

Not great stuff: As a lifelong highly active person, I was sure it wouldn't happen to me and I eat incredibly clean, green food, but the weight gain just happened. 15 pounds in a year.

The medical rabbit holes. I had a swollen lymph node which ended up in my visiting at least 5 different specialists. Every single specialist found some type of atypical thing (diverticulosis, hernia, scoliosis (!), etc.) but nobody could figure out why I had swollen lymph nodes. In other words, at this age we just have a lot of atypical shit going on--none of it in and of itself is problematic, but beware of getting lots of different tests done because you're going to find out all these weird little things that doctors will tell you aren't a big deal.

You gums and teeth will decide they hate you. You'll need root canals, fillings replaced, crowns, gum surgery.

Healing/getting over colds takes much longer. Used to be I could shake off a cold in a week, now it lingers for 4.

Really good stuff:

Taking years of education and work that I love and being able to create the job I want.

Being perceived as a respected authority in my field.

Having a major mindset shift where I no longer see problems, I see opportunities for positive change. Seriously, I never grar any more--I find what I can learn from that moment. Like yesterday my son and I were moving a freecycle sofa and it was at least 300 lbs and it was clear we were not going to do it easily so we were getting pretty short and angry with each other. On the way home (with the gorgeous new sofa), I was able to reflect how we're both such good listeners that during the moving process, every time one of us was explaining an idea, the other had to stop to really listen, which ended up further exhausting us. But the point is I really seem to naturally find optimism everywhere.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:56 AM on July 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Same negatives as many above have mentioned; arthritis (hands &feet) digestive issues, yadda yadda. I look at it all as a sign to take good care of myself, and have been consciously practicing this. I took to heart the advice given to me by my nurse practitioner-use it or lose it. At our age, you don't get back mobility after illness or accident like you do when you are young. I am frequently horrified at the level of physical dysfunction that I see when out in public. I want to keep the spring in my step as long as possible!

The pluses, again, sex is wonderful! Duration has changed, but quality is exceptional! I appreciate the abilities my body gives me, and do not take anything for granted regarding movement and mobility.

I credit my adult children for a lot of my attitude toward aging. They include me in their lives, and as I used to encourage them to be open to new experiences, they now do that for me. This means the world to me!

I have always been an observer. I pay attention to people older than me, what makes them happy, how they deal with health issues. The ones that are most positive seem to have realistic expectations, positive attitude, and activities in their lives that engage them on many levels.

My partner and I have started looking at our lifestyle, and are beginning to make changes in our home, to make our daily life easier and safer. I aim to enjoy my life to the end, and embrace everything positive to that goal!

I love this thread!!
posted by LaBellaStella at 6:13 AM on July 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Being perceived as a respected authority in my field.

Sigh. Not in my field. I work in software development and one of the hardest parts about being middle-aged for me is having to work constantly to keep up with technology that kids less than half my age seem to know intuitively. The next dozen or so years are going to be a tough upstream fight just to stay relevant and more importantly to stay employed.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 AM on July 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Age discrimination. Young people who would never dream of saying anything racist or homophobic make casual ageist comments all the time. In some media outlets, articles about how baby boomers have messed up the world appear and there are generalizations about baby boomers (apparently we're all in great financial shape). The messing up the world idea is all about money - no sense of the very real and beneficial social changes boomers fought for. Suggestions that we should retire to make room for the younger generation (would love to but I need the money).
posted by FencingGal at 7:54 AM on July 23, 2017 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Most of the physical things that trouble me, like digestion, have been going on for 15+ years now, so its nothing new. But I have hurt my lower back in yoga class recently and that sort of threw me for a loop. Im not used to my body saying no to any physical thing I want it to do. Its frustrating. And definitely on the list of "cons" is being treated like an old person by people like doctors and dentists who keep asking if you're "absolutely sure you feel fine," and nothing is falling apart/off your body. Also I miss making new-to-me discoveries like , "Oh god, sushi is actually delicious !" I'm sad that it seems harder now for me to find books, movies, shows, podcasts etc. that have something fresh and interesting to say. I guess I might be a little jaded...

In general though, I'm surprised at how good life is. My finances are better, I'm a better romantic partner, a better friend and better at staying (mostly) out of trouble. That's a big one. Life is so much better with good impulse control! I hope I have the courage, strength and compassion to face whatever comes since this great stuff must at some point be tempered with loss. But meantime, I'm really enjoying finally having the time, money and a trusted/loved partner to enjoy my life with.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:19 AM on July 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: All of your doctors are going to be younger than you. Like, really really young.

It will be disconcerting.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:57 PM on July 23, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Hoo boy.
Exercise - tired acceptance that I'll never be able to do what I could do when I was younger and when I exercise, there are stretches and strengthening exercises that I have to do or pain ensues. But I doggedly continue because health.
Diet - my metabolism is definitely slowing down and I have to watch what I eat pretty closely. I'm eating much more in the way of vegetables and fruit as a result.
Booze - not nearly as much as when I was younger. It just doesn't hold as much appeal.
Sleep - I blame my kids for ruining my sleeps patterns, but I still wake up frequently.
Eyes - presbyopia for the win and getting more blind every couple years.
Music - my playing isn't as technically proficient as it once was (no time to practice), but it has a whole lot more feeling and emotion to it. Points for am emotional life.
Dying - I've lost more friends than I like to think about and I'm intensely aware of the passage of time and how comparatively little I have left.
Appearance - I'm trimmer than I've been in years and age has chiseled my face in a good way. Apparently I won the genetic prize for gray in that it's only really showing in my beard so far. Go figure.
Memory - total fail for names at this point, long term is as good as ever, short term is not as good.
Appreciation - I do find more joy in the mundane and really look forward to the garden every year.
posted by plinth at 6:11 PM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: mudpuppie: "All of your doctors are going to be younger than you. Like, really really young.

It will be disconcerting.

Not only is my manager a decade younger than me, so is his manager and his manager.
posted by octothorpe at 7:48 PM on July 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Positive: I no longer care even a little bit about what other people think about my appearance, clothes, etc. I'm much more in control about which social "obligations" I respond to and which I ignore. I am no longer talked up by older men who think they can impose conversation and flirtation on me because I'm too polite to walk away.

Negative: painful nostalgia for the way things used to be. I'd give anything to be sitting on the shag carpet in the den watching Columbo with my parents and getting up to answer the dial telephone when it rings.
posted by JanetLand at 6:10 AM on July 24, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: mudpuppie: "All of your doctors are going to be younger than you. Like, really really young.

It will be disconcerting."

Although, my wife (53) is discovering, now that she's experiencing some age-related health problems, the older/middle-aged doctors are jerks who don't listen and have their opinions on everything (including stuff not in their field) and are unwilling to try alternatives -- you're supposed to just do what they tell you and what they tell you is the best thing for survival, bar none.

The younger doctors, however, are easier to work with, friendlier and communicative, and are less focused on how hot shit they are for being a doctor.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think that was a slam against young doctors, it's more about feeling old when the doctors --- who you know logically have spent years and years and school and aren't really 21 -- look so young. The last surgeon who operated on me wouldn't be served without showing his ID, but I trusted him implicitly. (I also don't think being an older doctor automatically makes you a jerk or a bad doctor, and I wouldn't dismiss one out of hand.)
posted by Room 641-A at 7:26 AM on July 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A negative - when I touch my skin it feels weird, especially on my chest and neck. It's kinda crepey and rough and doesn't feel as resilient as it used to. Plus lots of little growths that I always have to get checked by a doctor and sometimes removed. I'm a pale-skinned person who grew up in a hot climate so ymmv.

A positive - damn am I a great cook after about 30 years of practice. Pretty much every meal I make tastes delicious to me because I cook to my own personal tastes (and my husband's tastes when I cook for him too) quite easily. And I don't have to buy a bunch of fancy ingredients or follow recipes to the letter, either. Doesn't help with the weight gain, though.
posted by hazyjane at 8:49 AM on July 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm turning 50 this year, and this is the first time I've ever thought that I wasn't 'with it' as far as keeping up with technology. I have always been the go-to person for fixing computer problems and knowing about the latest tech advances. Now, I just find I don't care as much. My younger sister kind of forced me into use Snapchat, but I just don't get the attraction really. And Instagram and some other social media things just wash over me. I don't use Tumblr, never will.

I'm finding myself less sure about my position at work. Will I be able to stay up on the latest technology? Do I even care anymore? Will my mind get less 'springy' over time? Will I be the one who people roll their eyes when I ask a question at work? I work with some older people now, and I can see them just coasting along until retirement, or they are let go, whichever comes first.

On the more positive side, I don't know if I am more self-confident now that I'm older or what, but I don't have the social anxiety I once had about walking into a room filled with people I don't know. As many have mentioned above, you just kind of stop caring what others think and realize they probably weren't thinking much about you to begin with. :)
posted by BeBoth at 10:59 AM on July 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Almost none of this describes me (just 50). I feel healthy and just as adventurous as before, I've got good friends and easily make new friends, and I'm not gaining weight.

What totally blows my mind though is understanding, deeply, that life isn't fair. Yeah, I'd heard that all my life, but no, I didn't really understand it. I always had some notion in my head that there was some grownup out there balancing things (probably from reading too much Jane Austin).

At 45 my perfect husband blew up our marriage with an affair, became physically and emotionally abusive to me and our daughter, and changed the whole path of our lives.

My dear friend M's husband's Huntington's kicked in, he lost his job, her finances tanked, her mother went into a home with dementia, and then she tripped on her dog and broke her shoulder, and then pipes in the second floor of her home burst and flooded the main floor, and a killer storm filled her beach house with sand and starfish.

My dear friend H's son developed an autoimmune disease that made him violent and phobic of the outdoors, strangers, bathing and even food, so she had to quit her job to take care of him, and then her husband lost his job, and you can imagine what all this did for their marriage.

My dear friend D's daughter was raped and to deal with the pain and shame (she never told anyone), she overdosed on her granny's blood pressure meds and almost died during the life flight to the children's hospital.

My dear friend America accidentally "elected" a psychopath who is selling the country to a hostile foreign power, trying to take away heath insurance, ripping families apart, and increasing prison time for everyone against all the best advice.

All good people, all careful planners, all facing hellish conditions that were no fault of their own (except the voting thing; how could anyone have voted for that madman?). I knew that grownups had to work and pay bills and take out the trash. I didn't know that they'd be dealing with all. this. shit., and further that not everyone deals with all of this -- that perfectly nasty people, poor planners, and lunatics can do just fine, get lucky breaks, inherit money, have wild sex, you name it.

The thing that my late forties taught me is that life really isn't fair, and I wasn't prepared for that.
posted by Capri at 11:20 AM on July 24, 2017 [12 favorites]

Best answer: On the minus side:

Friends and classmates from your youth dying, and the realization that this will start happening more frequently.

The vision issues: the adjustment to bifocals or progressive lenses is tough.

The general aches and pains.

It's much harder to find the time to socialize with friends, even those who live relatively close.

On the plus side:

Increased ability to throw myself into fun projects, without worrying too much about the time they take up or whether anyone else will like the end result.

A radically increased ability to not give a fuck.
posted by Cranialtorque at 12:27 PM on July 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm 62. I am still adventurous and curious, and grateful for that. Some people my age and older seem to stop learning new stuff and get stuck in old beliefs and systems and they distrust all change, clinging to what is probably an inaccurate recollection of how things were. They were probably always like that; it just becomes more apparent as they age. Some old people are just interesting people but older, still seeking out learning, ideas, doing stuff, thinking, going places. Whoever you are, you seem to be more so as you age.

I really hate that old is considered pejorative. I have mostly white hair and I look like I'm 60, and I move like I'm 80 sometimes. I'm also smarter and, in fact, wiser.
posted by theora55 at 6:04 PM on July 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm 56 and amazed because it doesn't feel like it.

One weird but welcome development is that despite no change in external circumstances between my forties and now, I feel really happy. Probably happiest since the carefree days of childhood.

I'm guessing it's to do with:
- letting go of some ambitions - when I was younger I was sometimes dissatisfied because I had goals and things I wanted to be.
- getting much more exercise now -- I used to be in tech, did a lot of sitting around.
- I come to realize how important good friends are - I was always socially awkward and I had a variety of excuses not to make friends. Now I'm getting better at it, and finally realized that I need friends, need to have a tribe to belong to.
- relationships with my parents are less tense on some issues that have dogged us in the past. This has less to do with changes on my part than an act of gracious acceptance on theirs.
- consciously pursuing mental fitness through stoicism and mindfulness/meditation.

- way more careful about physical limits and safety - so far no issues but I only got the one body. Fell in a bathtub for the first time in my life two years ago. No injuries but it was a wakeup call. Slipped and fell on a wet kitchen floor last year. Bought non-slip shoes.
- my whole perspective of life is changing because of the mortality thing. I see a lot of people who are stressed out in their jobs. That used to be me. I can barely imagine why I put myself through that. Other small things like realizing that I will only be able to read another 600 books and see 600 movies. That list - 1000 books to read before you die? I'd have muffed it were it not for a good head start in my earlier years.
- dread the day when close friends or family will die. Particularly afraid of how I will fare when my parents are gone. I'm afraid this might actually be impeding the quality of the time I'm still able to spend with them.
- mental acuity is not like it was, easier to forget things. I'm practicing memorization to hopefully keep things from getting worse. My greatest fear is mental decline.

Funny things:
- You talk to someone (younger) about a movie from the 1990s, and they say, wow that's an old movie. And you were thinking to yourself it was a new one.
- You remember your friends from high school from thirty five years ago better than the person you met just yesterday.
- You look older than you feel so you want to fit in with the younger folks but they don't fit in with you. On the other hand when you meet someone your own age there's a special pleasure about reminiscing ("remember when we had those crazy punched cards/8"floppies/dot matrix printers/rotary dial phones....)
- Eyesight isn't so sharp, so people are better looking!
- Start to dislike loud venues.
- I knew I'd start to appreciate jazz and classical music more, but it's surprising that I still love rock and blues.
posted by storybored at 9:52 PM on July 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a little late contributing to this question. I read it when I was away and I hadn't time to write an answer.

I'm staring 60 in the face now and when I look back I can honestly say that my 50th decade was one of the happiest and productive of my life. My kids became independent and myself and my wife were in the privileged position of having time to devote to ourselves. I took up loads of new hobbies including learning to play an instrument. I became fitter than I've ever been in my life. I became calmer and more tolerant of other people. I became more willing to take risks. Every year of life I get from now on I treat as a bonus and I am determined to enjoy it to the full.

I will be 60 next summer and I plan to buy a bicycle and travel some of the great cycle ways that are appearing all over the country. I also want to travel Europe by train. I've recently started to watch my diet and I'm halfway to getting back to the weight I was when I was 30.

A few years ago a friend said me, "Today is someday, so you need to start doing all the things you said you'd do someday".

You survived to see 50. Congratulations. Whatever time is left, long or short, make the most of it.
posted by night_train at 5:18 AM on July 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Personally I've enjoyed the answers to this AskMeFi more than any other I've plonked on here, and have done lots of vigorous head-nodding as I've re-read them all. What I'm getting out of these, over and over, are things that also dovetail with what peers tell me and my own experiences. In no particular order:

1) The ranks of people of a similar age are thinning like the hair on your head (or, below the waist as one person observed). Those who are not passing away are having serious health problems.

2) Related to this, our own inevitable contemplation of mortality, especially when dealing with parent issues and wondering if that means it's our turn next in the natural order of things.

3) Related to this - heck, all of this is inter-related - our own health issues both major (personally the word 'polyp' has recently been an unwelcome addition to my vocabulary) and minor e.g. things take longer to heal (oh god yes), eyesight fades a bit, it's more difficult to lose weight. A reluctant recognition that 'health issues', multiple, may emerge that become not so much long-term as life-long e.g. blood pressure tablets, or statins.

4) But on the plus side, there's a level of confidence when dealing with other people that seems to come to many of us at this age. Maybe it's all connected and our subconsciousness is saying "you have no time to waste on people who waste your increasingly mortal hours so drop them".

5) And also a level of self-confidence, contentment and happiness.

6) And highly related to - perhaps all of - this, as one comment poetically puts it:

A radically increased ability to not give a fuck.

Anyway; thank you for the comments and observations, especially those of a quite personal nature.
posted by Wordshore at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: An afterthought: I spent my 50th birthday drinking with beloved old friends on Key West. Highly recommend.
posted by JanetLand at 9:51 AM on August 8, 2017

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