Fulfilment at any age

Age can be such a definitive aspect of our identity. Society and culture carefully orchestrate when we should be doing what and making people who fall outside of those margins feel like outcasts. But this narrow and imprecise measure of who we are is slowly fading.

By Samineh I. Shaheem (Out of Mind)

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Published: Sun 29 Sep 2013, 1:05 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:43 AM

We have earlier expectations from our youth and have set more challenging objectives for those older. The greener grass phenomena often applies as well like when in our teens, we couldn’t wait to be all ‘grown up,’ fooled by the perception that independence and freedom will pave the road to reckless happiness. Or as Shaw said, ‘Youth is wasted on the young,’ referring to perhaps wasted opportunities. As the years pass by in our 20s and 30s, we experienced a sense of excitement but also some apprehension perhaps about meeting our unfulfilled goals and realising how far we’ve come. Turning 40, however, seems to herald a major milestone.

Fabulous 40’s - the decade when you’re not too old and not too young. Gone are the days of silly insecurities, preoccupation with pleasing everyone, thinking that failure is final and being persuaded strongly by group opinion. This is a time when most have a clearer sense of identity, a stronger and more transcended sense of morality, a clearer appreciation for family and friends, more resilience, are able to effectively defend their values and opinions and are more interested in giving back rather than receiving. The 40’s are a turning point where knowledge and wisdom replace biased information and ridged views.

Life style changes and people’s perception of age have blurred the lines between what is considered young and old. While earlier, the 40’s signalled the arrival of middle age, old age is now considered a state of mind rather than just a chronological number. The calendar related digits simply indicate how long you’ve been alive, however it fails to consider the psychological age (how old you feel) which might not match the numerical age.

Nevertheless, there are certain physical changes that occur and although they may be subtle, attention needs to be paid to these minor shifts to avoid future complications. They include:

> A slowing of metabolism

> A drop in muscles

> Lessening of bone strength

> A decline in libido

> Difficulty conceiving

> More stress due to demands of life

> Reduced skin elasticity

> Short or long sightedness

However with better eating habits, regular exercise and medical checks as well as a positive sense of emotional well being, these concerns can be curbed. So as life expectancy increases due to health advancements, middle age has been pushed further from the 40’s and according to scientists, by around 2050, middle age will officially begin in the mid 50’s.

During the 40’s, many men and women celebrate greater confidence and love the respect and authority their age commands. Here are some other rewards you might have noticed:

> Become more comfortable in your own skin

> Focus on the positive rather than negative

> A sense of pride at past achievements

> A more balanced work and family life

> More in control of finances

> Recognise red flags much sooner

> Less tolerance for injustice

> Wiser and more pragmatic

> Clearly defined goals

> Feeling more gratitude

By the time you enter your 40’s, you might have a closer circle of friends. It’s no longer about quantity; rather it’s all about quality. The friend who often forgot his wallet when you went out for dinner is gone, the backstabbing gossip is a distant memory and the grumpy, negative girl who used to drain all your energy is no longer allowed to be your private emotional vampire. What remains is an intimate group of mature friends that enjoy each other’s company, are there for one another and celebrate each other’s achievements rather than feel envy or resentment. It’s now so much more about cooperation rather than competition.

This is such an exciting time to objectively reflect on not only past accomplishments but also future aims. The internal dialogue in our 40’s reflects the dialogue we have with the world. The more balanced and clear those whispers are, the more positive our outlook will be towards the world and ourselves.

It really doesn’t matter how old you are because it’s never too late to take up those cookery classes or learn how to ride a horse. Go back to college, take on-line courses or travel around the world if you so wish. With a healthy lifestyle and conscious living, age can be just a number. So go ahead, toss aside your reading glasses and shout ‘I am as young as I feel!’ Remember, ‘it’s never too late to be what you might have been.’ George Elliot.

Samineh I. Shaheem is an author, an assistant professor of psychology, consultant at HRI, Learning & Development advisor and owner of Life Clubs UAE. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and now the UAE. She co hosts a radio program on 103.8 FM Dubai Eye (Psyched Sundays, Voices of Diversity 10-12pm) every Sunday morning discussing the most relevant psychological issues in our community. Twitter: @saminehshaheem/Facebook: Life Clubs UAE

Please forward your thoughts and suggestions for future articles to OutOfMindContact@gmail.com or Samineh@lifeclubs.ae

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