Middle age begins at 55 and extends to nearly 70 years old according to new research

Study uncovers 50+ generation's attitude to life, aging and reveals huge appetite for learning

The average Briton believes that that they are youthful until they are 55 and old age sets in at 69.  In between – all 14 years – is your middle age.

The news that 55 is the start of middle age may cheer up those who still feel they are not yet in the twilight of their lives.  They include 55-year-old actor Stephen Fry; TV presenter and gardener Alan Titchmarsh, aged 63; model Jerry Hall, aged 56; and Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren, aged 67.

The research[1] – commissioned by Love to Learn, the UK’s first dedicated website that offers a wide range of online courses for adults who want to keep learning, in an informal way, in their own time, at their own pace –  surveyed more than 1,000 UK adults aged 50+.  It asked them about their attitudes to life, aging and what, if any, were the benefits of being older today in 2012 Britain. Its results demonstrate the extent to which older people are living more active lives and undertaking new pursuits, such as learning how to use the internet and starting their own businesses.

According to the research, the average age when middle age is perceived to start given was 55 years and the mean average figure for when middle age ends was 69 years. A sizeable minority, nearly one in five, believe that middle age does not begin until past 60 years.

It pushes the tipping point for the final year of youth much further than previous surveys. A Kent University study[2] published two years ago found that middle age began at 36 and that adults were considered ‘old’ at 58. Even respondents in their eighties believed that adults in their early 40s could no longer be regarded as youthful.

These latest findings suggest that, as the UK population is aging, new cut-off points are being drawn. For the first time, there are more adults in the UK aged over 45 than under 45 and more people aged over 65 than are under 16, according to Office for National Statistics data.

As the over 50s own a disproportionate amount of wealth, the “grey pound” is increasingly important. The life style of the 50 plus is a growing market, and it’s even had its own Hollywood take on it with the release of the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel featuring Judi Dench and Bill Nighy.

Gill Jackson, Director of Love to Learn, said: “These new middle-agers are active, want to enjoy life and certainly don’t see themselves as ‘old age pensioners’!

“In fact, our research found that adults in their 50s are overwhelmingly upbeat about the benefits of their age group.  They have greater freedom and financial security.  More than half said they have more confidence and experience than younger people and are less afraid of making mistakes and a vast majority [87%] have a huge appetite to learn new things and take up new hobbies.” 

The desire to learn new skills peaks in the late 60s, fuelled by a desire to keep pace with a fast-changing world. Computers and the internet, followed by modern history, family history, gardening and digital photography are the most popular subjects the 50 plus generation want to learn about, according to the research.  And for many, they are already reaping a wide range of benefits with 80% of respondees saying that the single biggest benefit of later in life learning is keeping the brain active (80%). More than a third of people (38%) said it had given them more confidence, self-belief and improved their wellbeing.   For one in three (34%) it improved their ability to retain information and, for some 43 per cent of grandparents, it has helped them to help their children and their grandchildren. 

Learning later in life has also helped the 50 plus generation improve their financial situation (16%), opened up new opportunities in business (12%) and for nearly a fifth (18%) it has enabled them to change careers.

Oscar winning actress, Dame Helen Mirren, aged 67, and housewives’ favourite Alan Tichmarsh, 63, were identified by the Love to Learn research as epitomising the modern ‘middle age’.  Carol Voderman, 51; Lorraine Kelly, 52; Stephen Fry, 55; and Gary Lineker, 51, also featured high on the list.

Broadcaster John Craven is helping to launch the Love to Learn website and new courses said: “I think the concept of ageing has changed so much. Only a generation ago, many people were pretty old at 60. These days, most of us in our middle and later years are much younger in our attitudes and it’s all about having an active state of mind and the confidence to experience new things. It’s a time to take on challenges and enjoy fresh interests - or maybe rekindle those that fell by the wayside as work and family commitments took over. I’m lucky to still be working but I do have more spare time now, so I’m building up a list of things I’m going to do, such as improve my French, study astronomy and be a better photographer.”

Love to Learn is a new website that offers a range of online courses - from photography to modern history - to adults aged 50 plus who want to learn at their own pace and in their own time.  It offers people a chance to try each of its courses for free to help learners before they choose to commit.  This gives approx 30-45 mins of learning completely free by going to www.lovetolearn.co.uk


For more information

Please contact MB Communications Ltd

Maria Boyle
T: 0208 876 8444
M: 0788 764 78555
E: maria@mbcomms.co.uk

Mars Webb
T: 0208 876 8444
M: 07771 771 8063
E: mars@mbcomms.co.uk

Notes to editors

Spokespeople available:

  • Gill Jackson, Director, Love to Learn
  • John Craven, TV presenter

Love to Learn is a new initiative from Pearson that focuses on informal learning for people who are 50 and over (active seniors, adult learners).  Here’s a link to its website: http://www.lovetolearn.co.uk 

  • Love to Learn provides a range of online courses for adults who want to keep learning, in an informal way: in their own time, at their own pace.  The courses are designed for those who enjoy discovering new interests and acquiring knowledge – people who love to learn.
  • It is a direct-to-consumer online offering.  People can take up the variety of leisure-themed courses in the comfort of their own home, at a time to suit them and a pace to suit them.  It offers learners a hassle free way of learning something new (and does not involve having to travel to classes at awkward times and in faraway places, users save the cost of travel – there’s no paying for transport, petrol or parking etc).
  • Love to Learn online courses, run for about 8 to 10 hours, providing an introduction for over-50s to topics that can be very complicated to the uninitiated.
  • For those who are thinking about taking up a new hobby or developing new skills, the courses are a great place to start.  For example, these include courses such as Family History, Internet Basics and Starting an Enterprise.

Love to Learn courses

  • Family History
  • Internet Basics
  • Digital Photography
  • Starting Your Own Enterprise
  • Turning Points in Modern History
  • Memory Training

New courses planned for this autumn

  • How to Read Paintings
  • Web design
  • Grow Your Own Veg
  • Creative Writing
  • Sewing and Quilting
  • Scanning and Editing Old Photos


  • Love to Learn works with partners such as Gransnet (similar to Mumsnet but for seniors) for all the courses, Ancestry.co.uk, and Imperial War Museum for the Family History course, and Go ON UK (formerly Race Online 2012 promoting digital inclusion) for the Internet Basics course. For the Digital Photography, and Starting an Enterprise courses, it is partnering with the Royal Photographic Society and Financial Times respectively, and it is also working with Pearson authors who have written about these subjects.

Key benefits

  • Flexibility: Learn at your own pace, in your own time, access the course on PC and ipad.
  • Topical information, quiz, activities and video, combined offer a complete experience all in one place.
  • An expert video tutor introduces each course and guides the learner through the material.
  • Each course uses video and activities on and off screen, delivering learning via bite-sized modules.
  • Customers are encouraged to respond actively to the material, with questions posed to aid and review learning.
  • Each course offers the learners the opportunity to have ‘personal take away’ through their online workbook.

Prices for 2012

  • Full price course: vary between £24.99 to £44.99 incl. vat
  • First part of each course is free to trial (approx 30-45 mins of learning).  Gift option on the e-commerce.

Facebook and twitter: For latest news and development, please check out: Facebook: PearsonLovetoLearn and Twitter:@Pearson_LtL

[1] Marketiers 4DC, 1,002 UK adults aged 50+ researched during August 2012.

[2] Led by University of Kent (Professor Dominic Abrams) European Social Survey, March 2010.