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Adulthood and Aging

Discusses milestones that occur during early, middle, and late adulthood.

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What does adulthood mean to you?

You might think sometimes that you can't wait to be an adult! In adulthood you have greater freedom, but you also have greater responsibilities. Like this man, you might have a house and children to take care of.


When is a person considered an adult? That depends. Most teens become physically mature by the age of 16 or so. But they are not adults in a legal sense until they are older. For example, in the U.S., you must be 18 to vote. Once adulthood begins, it can be divided into three stages: (1) early, (2) middle, and (3) late adulthood.

Early Adulthood

Early adulthood starts at age 18 or 21. It continues until the mid-30s. During early adulthood, people are at their physical peak. They are also usually in good health. The ability to have children is greatest during early adulthood, as well.

This is the stage of life when most people complete their education. They are likely to begin a career or take a full-time job. Many people also marry and start a family during early adulthood.

Middle Adulthood

Middle adulthood begins in the mid-30s. It continues until the mid-60s.

During middle adulthood, people start to show signs of aging. Their hair slowly turns gray. Their skin develops wrinkles. The risk of health problems also increases during middle adulthood. For example, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes become more common during this time. This is the stage of life when people are most likely to achieve career goals. Their children also grow up and may leave home during this stage.

Late Adulthood

Late adulthood begins in the mid-60s. It continues until death. This is the stage of life when most people retire from work. They are also likely to reflect on their life. They may focus on their grandchildren.

During late adulthood, people are not as physically able. For example, they usually have less muscle and slower reflexes. Their immune system also doesn’t work as well as it used to. As a result, they have a harder time fighting diseases like flu. The risk of developing diseases such as heart disease and cancer continues to rise. Arthritis is also common. In arthritis, joints wear out and become stiff and painful. As many as one in four late adults may develop Alzheimer’s disease. In this disease, brain changes cause mental abilities to decrease.

Exercising the body and brain help prevent the physical and mental effects of aging. The stages of adulthood are pictured below (Figure below).

This family picture shows females in each of the three stages of life. Which stage does each represent?

Despite problems such as these, many people remain healthy and active into their 80s or even 90s. Do you want to be one of them? Then adopt a healthy lifestyle now and follow it for life. Doing so will increase your chances of staying healthy and active to an old age.


  • adulthood: Period of life after childhood.
  • early adulthood: Period of life after adolescence that lasts until the mid-30s.
  • late adulthood: Period of life that begins in the mid-60s and lasts until the end of life.
  • middle adulthood: Period of life that lasts from the mid-30s to the mid-60s.


  • Adulthood is divided into the stages of early, middle, and late adulthood.
  • The risk of health problems increases in middle adulthood and late adulthood.


Use the resources below to answer the questions that follow.

  1. Why is it important to learn to prioritize activities?
  2. What are some techniques people use to manage stress?
  3. How can eating well, sleeping, and exercising help people with stress?
  4. Do adults get to do whatever they want? Why or why not?
  1. Does reaching late adulthood mean you have to give up physical activity?
  2. Do people in late adulthood still learn new things?
  3. How are other people important to people in late adulthood?


  1. How are early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood defined?
  2. What changes occur during late adulthood?

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