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Middle age 'now begins at 60'

23 April 2015 10:00

Research suggests 60 is the new middle age

Research suggests 60 is the new middle age

With people leading longer and healthier lives around the world, now is the time to rethink what defines 'old age'.

That is according to Dr Sergei Scherbov, the world population programme deputy director at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, who suggests 60 is the new middle age.

He was part of a research team that looked at future population projections for Europe, up to the year 2050.

Dr Scherbov argues that a 60-year-old would have been classed as a very old person a couple of centuries ago.

But times have changed since then, with people enjoying life well into their retirement.


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Age 'not just a number'

The new study, led by Professor Warren Sanderson, of Stony Brook University in the United States, analysed different rates of increase in life expectancy, from no increase to an increase of about 1.4 years per decade.

It claims age should not just be a number we reach but a reflection of the life we lead, with large numbers of the older population increasingly leading active lifestyles that involve getting out and about.

Researchers compared the proportion of the population that was categorised as 'old' using the conventional measure - which assumes that people become 'old' at the age of 65 - with the proportion based on their new measure of age.

Prof Sanderson says the onset of old age is important because it is often used as an indicator of increased disability and dependence.

He puts forward the idea that if old age is fixed at a certain point, the proportion of old people will rise because of increasing life expectancy.

If the threshold for being old is moved to take into account longer lives, however, the proportion of older people will actually fall over time.