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date: 19 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores variations in cultural meanings that three different cultural groups attach to the middle years of life. Each conception of the middle years emerges as the unique product of cultural assumptions about the life course and the meaning and purpose of life: for middle-class Anglo-Americans, it is to be able to pursue one’s interests without hindrance; for middle-class Japanese, it centers on personal growth and cultivating one’s talents and abilities during every phase of life; for Odia Hindus, it is to be fully engaged in the world so as to fulfill one’s duties to family by ensuring its material prosperity and spiritual well-being. However, despite these cultural differences, a universal aspect of the experience of this life-phase is its centrality in the life course: being in the middle, this phase of life is shaped and defined by its linkages and connections with the generations that precede and succeed it.

Keywords: middle age, mature adulthood, the prime of life, pure action, possibilism, social maturation, mass longevity, decline ideology

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