January 30, 2022

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.

Certain things happen to midlifers that don’t get talked about much.

Sometimes, it’s because we think it’s just normal stuff that to talk about it would be inviting a “No duh” response. Other times, it’s the opposite. We think it’s not normal and very unique to us that to talk about it would be to invite raised eyebrows.

Case in point: Do you know that many midlifers get dismissed by their doctors?

They tell their doctors something — a medical concern or a pain they’re experiencing — and their doctors go, “Oh yeah. That’s something that happens as people get older.” End of conversation.

Have you experienced this yet— your concerns brushed away or minimized as simply a symptom of their age? Blame it on menopause, declining hormones, or just, you know, the aging process. No need to diagnose further. Next.

Many go home from their doctor’s appointments frustrated. So what do they do? Google to the rescue, relying on their fingers instead to find the answers to their burning questions.

Sigh. It’s one of the indignities that we suffer as we get into midlife and older.

Age management physician, Dr. Mickey Barber, knows all too well how this feels from her first-hand experience when she got sick in her 40s.

“When I was ill, I saw over a hundred doctors. Many of them wrote me off and told me it was all in my head. Many said it’s just something that happens when you turn 40. It was very frustrating.”

This experience opened her eyes to the challenges midlifers face. It’s one of the main reasons she switched specialization from anesthesiology to age management. Today, she is on a mission to spread the word that you can look and feel great at any age.

Take control of the conversation.

Dr. Barber believes in shared responsibility between the doctor and the patient. While it’s the doctor’s responsibility to listen carefully to our concerns, the sad truth is that not all doctors will do it adequately. To have a better chance that our health concerns are heard, we need to have some control of the conversation.

These are some steps she suggested:

(1) Start by selecting a doctor that “walks the walk”.

If they’re saying get to the gym and they look like they haven’t seen the inside of one, I’m out of there.”

(2) Come prepared for your appointment with a prioritized list of questions.

“What’s most important for you at that point in time? You can say something like, ‘I’m really concerned about xyz.'”

(3) Stop the conversation if you feel like you’re not being heard.

“I’ve learned to say now, ‘Are you telling me that this is normal, that A, B, and C are normal?’ Ask for clarification.”

Bottom Line

It’s not always easy but Dr. Barber suggests that, to the extent possible, we select doctors who specialize in age management or at least are well versed in seeing patients who are in midlife or older.

After all, we know to bring our small children to pediatricians because we understand there are unique health challenges and needs for this age group. It’s time we think of our health in the same way. For instance: A doctor who has never studied menopause in-depth, let alone experience it, is unlikely to give us the full perspective we need.

(Here’s my full conversation with age management specialist, Dr. Mickey Barber.)

MIDLIFE CUES: A newsletter about intentional living and personal growth in our middle years. Subscribe for weekly dose of nudges and curated resources to feel better, do better, and be better in midlife. 

Some Suggested Readings:

  • Turns out that Gen Xers, and in particular Gen X women, are who’s losing the most sleep in the US according to a recent survey. “Industry analyst Ted Rossman pointed to the many roles Gen X women must play as the stress-inducing reasons for their trouble catching some Zs. They often take care of their children and their parents, handle home-schooling, and work from home (assuming they still have a job, and if not, they contend with being unemployed).” Why Gen X Women are Losing The Most Sleep | Fast Company
  • “Q: I’m a woman in my late 40s and for the first time I’ve developed belly fat. Is there any way to target it through diet or exercise?” If you’re noticing the expansion of the mid-section, you’re not alone. It’s a physiological change, a transition from a pear-shaped to an apple-shaped body, that many women experience as we move from pre-menopause to menopause. Unfortunately, this isn’t simply a question of body shape for vanity’s sake. There’s an increased medical risk associated with some of this belly fat — what they call “troublemaker fat”. Here’s how to distinguish which is which and some suggestions on what we can do. Why Do Women Gain Belly Fat in Midlife? | The New York Times


“Do not lie about your age. Be proud of the years you’ve lived, the talents you’ve contributed to your world, and the importance of your being a witness to decades of history.” — Elaine Soloway, writer and one of the inspirations behind the TV series “Transparent”


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.