Midlife is considered a pivotal period in the life course. It involves balancing gains and losses, linking earlier and later periods of life, and bridging younger and older generations. Middle age is situated at the intersection of growth and decline trajectories. Memory and processing speed are on a downward path, whereas problem-solving and decision-making skills are on the rise. Gains come from acquiring experience, knowledge, competence, and expertise. At the same time, declines are tied to increasing demands, obstacles, unexpected events, and other constraints associated with multiple roles, increased responsibilities, and physical and cognitive changes. Maintaining a sense of mastery and control in the context of aging-related losses is a central theme. Health and well-being in midlife can be affected by early life adverse experiences, although there are opportunities for reversibility and resilience. The middle years can provide a window for a glimpse of later life outcomes while there is still time for prevention and changing course. Those in middle age play a central role in the lives of those who are younger and older at home, in the workplace, and in society at large. Both the young and old rely on those in the middle for support, to make decisions, provide resources, and solve problems. The nature of middle age is shifting in the context of sociodemographic changes. The presentation will consider the implications of these recent trends for successfully navigating the middle years of the life course.
Margie E. Lachman PhD is Director of the Lifespan Developmental Psychology Lab and the Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions. She was editor of the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences (2000-2003) and has edited two volumes on midlife development. She has published more than 150 articles in books and journals. Lachman's research is in the area of lifespan development with a focus on midlife and later life. With funding from the National Institute on Aging her current work focuses on identifying factors that can protect against, minimize, or compensate for declines in cognition and health. Lachman was a member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development and is currently collaborating on the 30-year longitudinal follow-up of the original MacArthur midlife sample (MIDUS). Lachman has appeared on the NBC Today Show, the CBS Evening News, CBS Sunday Morning, and the NPR Ted Radio Hour. She received the Distinguished Research Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, Division on Adult Development and Aging in 2003, the Distinguished Career Contribution to Gerontology Award in Behavioral and Social Sciences from the Gerontological Society of America in 2015, and the Distinguished Mentorship in Gerontology Award from the Gerontological Society of America Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences in 2021.