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Story: Midlife adults

Midlife adults in the 21st century were sometimes called the ‘sandwich generation’ – sandwiched between dependent children and elderly parents in need of care and support. Still, people in midlife generally enjoyed their relationships with family, and some headed off on new adventures, changing career or spending extended periods overseas.

Story by Alison Gray
Main image: Cyclists raising funds for the National Heart Foundation

Story Summary

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Midlife is the third quarter of life – the period after young adulthood and before old age, from about 45 to 64. In 2013 about a quarter of New Zealand’s population were in this group.

Caring for family

In the 21st century midlife adults were sometimes called the ‘sandwich generation’, because they were sandwiched between – and looking after – children and ageing parents. Older people were living longer than in the past, and some needed care. People also had children later, and adult children lived with their parents longer – so many midlife adults had children living at home as well as parents who needed help.

Many people in midlife are grandparents, and a quarter look after their grandchildren regularly.

Work

In 2009, 80% of midlife adults worked full-time or part-time. People in early midlife earned the highest incomes of all New Zealanders. Many midlife people enjoy their work, which provides a sense of purpose and mental stimulation as well as money.

As people age, they often cut back their work hours, for health reasons, to do something different, or because they are caring for someone else.

Lifestyle

Family relationships often change during midlife – as children grow up they need less care, and may leave home. Midlife adults may have more time to themselves, and some live a comfortable lifestyle, especially if they earn good salaries and have a mortgage-free house. Some midlife people decide to change career, study something new or travel overseas for an extended period.

Health

Most midlife adults have good health, but some have health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis. The risk of cancer increases with age, and most women go through menopause (the end of menstrual periods) between 45 and 55. Death rates begin to increase in midlife.

How to cite this page:

Alison Gray, 'Midlife adults', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/midlife-adults (accessed 23 November 2017)

Story by Alison Gray, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Jun 2017