David Stuart 29 February 2012 - 12:13pm
Middle age as we commonly believe it to be represents the beginning of our inevitable physical decline and the approach of death.
In a world that idolises youth and beauty, many try to forestall the inevitable approach of middle age by dying their hair and spending a fortune on moisturisers of dubious effectiveness; David Bainbridge, however, looks at mankind’s middle age from the perspective of evolutionary zoology (as well as drawing on many other disciplines) and provides a far more positive vision of middle age, showing a period that should more rightly be considered the summit of our lives.
Bainbridge demonstrates how the uniquely human phenomenon of middle age not only provides important evolutionary advantages for the group, but is also a time of many advantages for the individual. It is a time that facilitates cultural transmission from one generation to another, as well as being a period where we often have greater control, higher well-being, and are at the peak of many of our abilities.
Bainbridge does not try to persuade us that there are no downsides - in fact he sets aside a whole chapter to detail our wrinkles and sagging skin - but by the end the reader will have a greater understanding of why many of the changes occur and will recognize that there is plenty to look forward to in middle age. Whilst it will be of interest to anyone who enjoys popular science, it is essential for anyone apprehensive about turning 40.