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The ageing process is changing, with middle age beginning at 55 and lasting until nearly 70, new research suggests

18-Sep-12
Article By: Rachel Baker, News Editor

Youthful until 55, with old age setting in at 69 and all 14 years in between being described as middle age are the findings of a new survey on how the average Briton feels about the ageing process.

The research was commissioned by Love to Learn, a website offering informal study with online courses for adults aged 50 and over who wish to continue learning. Its results demonstrate the extent to which older people are living more active lives and undertaking new pursuits, such as learning how to use the internet and starting their own businesses.

The research found that the average age when middle age is perceived to start is 55, but nearly one in five believe that middle age does not begin until past 60 years.

These new findings challenge a Kent University published two years ago which found that middle age began at 36 and that adults were considered ‘old’ at 58. Even respondents in their eighties believed that adults in their early 40s could no longer be regarded as youthful.

So, the most recent research from Love to Learn suggests that as the UK population is ageing, we are changing our opinions on getting old.

This new research also found the desire to learn new skills peaks in the late 60s, fuelled by a desire to keep pace with a fast-changing world.

• Computers and the internet, followed by modern history, family history, gardening and digital photography are the most popular subjects the 50 plus generation want to learn about.

• 80 per cent of respondents said the single biggest benefit of learning later in life is that it keeps the brain active.

• More than a third of people (38 per cent) said later life learning had given them more confidence, self-belief and improved their wellbeing.

• For one in three (34 per cent) it improved their ability to retain information

• 43 per cent of grandparents said it has helped them to help their children and their grandchildren.

• 16 per cent said learning later in life had helped the 50 plus generation improve their financial situation.

• 12 per cent said it opened up new opportunities in business.

• 18 per cent said it had enabled them to change careers.

Respondents to the survey admitted that the poster girls and boys for the new middle age include Oscar winning actress Dame Helen Mirren, aged 67 and Alan Tichmarsh, 63 who both were identified by the Love to Learn research as epitomising the modern ‘middle age’.

Carol Voderman, 51, Lorraine Kelly, 52, Stephen Fry, 55 and Gary Linekar, 51, also featured high on the list.

For the first time, there are more adults in the UK aged over 45 than under 45 and more people aged over 65 than are under 16, according to Office for National Statistics data.

Gill Jackson, director of Love to Learn, said: “These new middle-agers are active, want to enjoy life and certainly don’t see themselves as ‘old age pensioners’!

“In fact, our research found that adults in their 50s are overwhelmingly upbeat about the benefits of their age group. They have greater freedom and financial security. More than half said they have more confidence and experience than younger people and are less afraid of making mistakes and a vast majority (87 per cent) have a huge appetite to learn new things and take up new hobbies.”

Broadcaster John Craven is helping to launch the Love to Learn website and new courses said: “I think the concept of ageing has changed so much. Only a generation ago, many people were pretty old at 60. These days, most of us in our middle and later years are much younger in our attitudes and it’s all about having an active state of mind and the confidence to experience new things.

“It’s a time to take on challenges and enjoy fresh interests - or maybe rekindle those that fell by the wayside as work and family commitments took over. I’m lucky to still be working but I do have more spare time now, so I’m building up a list of things I’m going to do, such as improve my French, study astronomy and be a better photographer.”

For more information on Love to Learn, visit: www.lovetolearn.co.uk

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