Having recently turned 60, I have been interested in the changing perceptions of what middle age is. My father retired at 60 and has been an active member of a rural community for 30 years. While he still farms, his community involvement has finally ebbed away, but he just turned 91.
So do we need to change the categories of middle and old age? According this book, the answer is an overwhelming yes.
Patricia and Don Edgar are in their late 80s. This Australian couple explore the key aspects of aging in the first part of the book. This includes perceptions of middle age, family, work, housing, learning and alternative work. I was impressed by their research and the evidence they provided both on the current situation and on what the future looks like. As the Baby Boomers reach their mature years there are implications across all aspects of society.
I know that my own community has wonderful examples of older people making valuable contributions in the paid and voluntary workforces. Likewise, education, travel and recreation are firmly on the agenda for those wishing to pursue life after retirement.
The call made by the Edgars is for government to start planning alternatives to the traditional views of old age, such as encouraging employers to continue a different work model, where the experience of older workers is matched with reduced hours and mentoring programmes. Continuing to work contributes to taxes and engagement in work allows a longer more productive old age.
The second part of the book is a collection of life stories. These were superb little vignettes. Each story explores the possibilities for living a rich and varied life into and beyond middle age. These people are not heroes. They are tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
My copy of Peak is about to have its own long and varied life. I have friends and family lined up and we will make an action plan to follow.
Watch this space..
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
Peak. Reinventing Middle Age
By Patricia and Don Edgar
Published by Text Publishing