Middle adulthood is a phase that falls between young adulthood and late adulthood phases of adult life. Middle adulthood entails different issues compared to young adulthood stage and the late adulthood stage of life.
Physically, middle adulthood encompasses a broad range of external and internal changes that include thinning of hair, onset of gray hair growth and the acquisition of more wrinkles on the face. It is different from the young adults’ physical experiences that involve growth of beards for boys and increased muscle mass. The internal physical changes involve; reduced efficiency of body systems like the respiratory system and the nervous system. (Hewstone, Fincham, and Foster 213)
The most noticeable sensory change during the middle adulthood stage of development is a farsightedness condition known as presbyopia. The condition is as a result of the chronological alteration of the eye lens’s shape. The condition explains why middle aged adults find it difficult to make out small print without holding it further away as compared to young adults who have no difficulty in reading small prints (213). The middle-aged adults have a weaker hearing capacity for low-frequency sounds as compared to young adults. Women going through this period of adult life experience menopause, a stage in their life cycle that they cease to experience menstruation. The experience is normally accompanied by hot flushes, emotional changes, slowed down libido, and inconsistent sleep patterns. The symptoms are, however, dependent on one’s cultures and social endeavors.
Psychosocially, midlife is a condition characterized by more cognitive stability (213). Empirical evidence supports the claim that middle-aged adults perform as competently as young adults if not slightly better. They, however, have a slow reaction especially when handling abstract tasks. Middle-aged people intellectually perform better than both young adults and people in their late adulthood. Researchers assert that there is a vital reconstitution of cognition in middle adulthood since people tend to acquire the capacity to integrate information and realize self-control. Middle-aged adults tend to have a relatively higher level of reasoning as compared to younger adults, and they pay attention to details when presented with conflicts.
Moreover, midlife is characterized by numerous challenges of development that revolve around conflicts between stagnation and generativity. It refers to the progressive process of giving a hand to the successive generation. That phase of adult life forms a vital link between the old and young generations (214). Stagnation, however, is the contradictory feeling of possession of little to offer in terms of contributions to the next generation. Some adults may feel demoralized by failing to meet family and personal goals that used to motivate them as compared to young adults who are yet to realize their goals in life. Other adults may respond to this stage in life by evaluating themselves against limited life span they have left. Most middle aged adults are likely to face both feelings; generativity and stagnation. It is during this phase that adults go through a delicate and fundamental state of conflict resolution. Those that manage to find a positive resolution develop a sense of care and concern while those that fail to realize a positive resolution embrace a sense of rejection. Generativity reflects subjective well-being. People at this stage in life experience better mental health and self-esteem than young adults or people in their late adulthood. Some of the challenges at this level are parenting challenges and piled up caregiving responsibilities.
On the other hand, the features of middle adulthood can be highlighted from a late adulthood point of view. Late adulthood presents a more sophisticated phase of adult life. Physically, this phase entails gaining of more wrinkles compared to middle adulthood, loss of skin elasticity, depreciation of subcutaneous fat and alteration of posture due to gradual reduction of collagen amidst spinal vertebras (215).
The indifferent physical alterations comprise: relative loss of cardiovascular strength, reduced muscle mass and reduced bodily functions and performances. The onsets of these changes are highly variable depending on one’s lifestyle and behavior. The nervous system’s efficiency and effective performance also records a relatively reduced performance rate compared to their prior state during middle adulthood. Visual capacity also experiences a downward trend because of the pupil’s steady drop in size making the eye lens less transparent consequently, distorting vision (215). Other senses like hearing, taste, olfaction, and experienced lower efficiency as compared to their state at the middle adulthood phase.
That phase of adulthood experiences a decline in psychosocial competence and performance as compared to middle adulthood. The downward shift in performances commences in the mid-60s onwards. Unlike middle life adults, adults in their late adulthood stage of life are characterized with relatively low task performance with reference to the reaction time and the speed at which they accomplish the task. However, it is essential to realize that the variation in performance capacity is not a reflection of their intellectual capacities (216).
Socially, this stage involves the struggle to find a balance between integrity and despair. The conflict is different from that experienced during mid-life phase of adult development that involves stagnation and generativity. The late adulthood’s conflict arises from adults’ self-evaluation of the lives they have lived and the realization of the blatant truth that they are inevitably in their final days (217). The ones who feel that they have not achieved much live in despair while those reminisce their life as successfully integrated experience are more contented in their late adulthood.
Hewstone, Miles, Frank D. Fincham, and Jonathan Foster. Psychology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. Print.