This work was done for the VCU School of Gerontology's Defy Ageism Project.
Challenge the negative perception of getting older.
FEAR IS THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
How do people feel about getting older? Many younger folks feel aging means physical breakdown, cognitive illness, and losing loved ones. They are afraid of what getting older will hold for them. Older people, however, feel empowered by their age saying they have more comfort, freedom, independence, and security.
WHAT'S GOING ON IN MIDLIFE?
If younger people are scared, but older people say there isn't anything to be afraid of, what is going on in the middle? We found that people's fear of aging reaches a fever pitch in midlife, which is evident by the most popular ageist punchline: the midlife crisis.
LIFE STAGE MILESTONES
When we took a look at societal expectations of different age groups, we noticed there is a steady decline in milestones as we reach midlife. This shift from constant fulfillment to the unknown causes people to use jokes about aging as a coping mechanism for their fear.
We found this trend in our interviews as well, hearing people say midlife is about "losing purpose and becoming irrelevant" and "being stagnant and boring."
People think midlife is no fun. There is a perception that the things you want to do are pushed aside for the things you have to do.
Ironically, people also report midlife is about "having money and power to do the things you want" and "being comfortable with who you are." While fear of getting older reaches its height in midlife, it is also the time you have the control to change the situation.
Shine a light on the things midlife ignores.
The Midlife Happiness Index (MHI) shows people that what we do everyday matters more to our happiness than what we do once in a while. We have the power to make aging less scary by holding on to the things that make us happy.
1 • MIDLIFE HAPPINESS INDEX WEBSITE
Much like a body mass index, the MHI calculator will ask a series of questions and calculate a score. That score will come with information like recommendations for improvement, placement in the national average, and options for sharing with others.
2 • CAMPAIGN
To drive people to the MHI calculator we created obituaries to call attention to things midlife has let most people forget.