Peak: Reinventing Middle Age (Patricia & Don Edgar, Text)
I opened this book expecting ‘middle age’ to cover approximately the ages 45-65 but noted social policy experts Patricia and Don Edgar believe that extended life expectancies—an added 25 years in the last century—have pushed middle age later, to 50-75. The first half of Peak explores the issues. What is a workable retirement age? Is Australia’s ageing population a problem or a resource? How can we best keep ‘middle-aged’ minds active and bodies healthy? Social policy prescriptions offered include better workplace flexibility (allowing workers to transition to part-time), combatting age stereotyping by employers, and prioritising reskilling ‘middle-aged’ workers (one suggestion is to make local schools available as learning centres and community hubs for all ages). In the second half, 10 inspirational older Australians (some of them over 80) are profiled. The authors’ definition of middle-age can be inconsistent: for example, 94-year-old Iris Apfel is used to make a point about ‘today’s middle-agers’. The book is defensive about intergenerational inequality, particularly regarding housing affordability, in a way that could raise the hackles of millennials and Gen-Xers. The target age-group, however, will find this a thought-provoking, affirming look at the years ahead, and how society might meaningfully restructure to accommodate ageing Baby Boomers.
Jo Case is a bookseller at Readings Doncaster