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Joan Lunden discusses middle age and the myth of the midlife crisis

This week, the TODAY show is taking a closer look at middle age, for a special series titled "The New Middle Age."
/ Source: TODAY

This week, TODAY is taking a closer look at middle age for a special series titled “The New Middle Age.”

The series aims to address topical questions like: Is the midlife crisis a real thing? What age are you really "old"? And what is it like to be midlife in today’s world?

Joan Lunden, former co-host of "Good Morning America" and author of the best-selling book "Had I Known," is kicking off the conversation.

“We need to change the way Americans look at aging and change the social discussion around it,” Lunden explained.

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Most people think that once you hit midlife, you’re over the hill. What age is that, exactly?

According to a TODAY poll, 52 percent of readers consider someone 55 years old to be “middle-aged.”

“Fifty is an eye-opening age. It’s a time to reflect and figure out what you want to do next — it’s not the time to slow down," Lunden told TODAY. "You’re still healthy and vibrant, and if you think that way, you’ll stay that way."

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As for the midlife crisis myth, about 52 percent of TODAY readers think it’s real, though they note that it doesn’t happen to everyone.

Experts, on the other hand, think it’s a myth — and point out that you can have a crisis at any age in life. There's nothing special about being 50 or 55.

“We’re living a lot longer these days,” Lunden elaborated. “We’re not dying at age 65. In fact, most people will live until they’re 85 or older. We need to stop living like we’re in decline once we hit 50 years old. We’re actually at the peak of our lives at 50!”

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So how do we change the conversation as a society? First we have to change how we talk about age, and how we look at the 50+ population.

“What should we call ourselves? We’re not 'elderly' and we’re certainly not 'seniors,'” Lunden remarked. “People have suggested we refer to ourselves as ‘lively lifers’ or ‘masters,’ but if any readers have new ideas, let us know!”

Check out Lunden's Facebook page to join the conversation, and tune in this week for more from "The New Middle Age" series.