Middle age starts at 55 but you're old by the time you hit 69, say Britons
More than half of older adults said they thought they had more confidence than younger people
Digital photography and computer and internet skills among most popular courses for over-50sA quarter still haunted by not passing school entrance exams

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UPDATED:

16:21 GMT, 18 September 2012

Middle age begins at 55 but only lasts for 14 years before old age kicks in, a survey has found.

The poll found Britons believe they are youthful up to the age of 54 and old age sets in at 69 – although one in five optimistic souls say middle age does not begin until you are past 60.

Oscar winning actress, Dame Helen
Mirren, aged 67, and housewives’ favourite Alan Tichmarsh, 63, were
identified as epitomising the modern ‘middle age’.

Dame Helen Mirren

Alan Titchmarsh Show

Modern middle-aged models: Dame Helen Mirren, 67, and Alan Titchmarsh, 63, are seen to represent 'young' older adults

The finding, from online company 'Love to Learn' pushes middle age far higher than previous research, with a Kent University study two years ago saying middle age began at 36.

A spokesman from the adult education website, said it could reflect that fact that for the first time there are more Brits aged over 45 and more over 65 than under 16.

Gill Jackson, Director of Love to Learn, said: 'These new middle-agers are active, want to enjoy life and certainly don’t see themselves as ‘old age pensioners’.

'In fact, our research found that adults in their 50s are overwhelmingly upbeat about the benefits of their age group. They have greater freedom and financial security.

'More than half said they have more confidence and experience than younger people and are less afraid of making mistakes and a vast majority (87%) have a huge appetite to learn new things and take up new hobbies.'

Fuelled by a desire to keep up with modern life, the over 50s most want to learn computing, internet skills and digital photography, alongside the more traditional pursuits of family history and gardening.

The majority of older adults (80%) said the biggest benefit of later learning was keeping the brain active. For one in three, it boosted their ability to retain information.

Later learning has also helped the 50 plus generation improve their financial situation (16%), opened up new opportunities in business (12%) and for nearly a fifth (18%), it has enabled them to change careers.

Modern mindset: Over-50s are keen to learn internet skills, a survey found

Modern mindset: Over-50s are keen to learn internet skills, a survey found

Broadcaster John Craven said: 'I think the concept of ageing has changed so much.

'Only a generation ago, many people were pretty old at 60. These days, most of us in our middle and later years are much younger in our attitudes and it’s all about having an active state of mind and the confidence to experience new things.

'It’s a time to take on challenges and enjoy fresh interests – or maybe rekindle those that fell by the wayside as work and family commitments took over.

'I’m lucky to still be working but I do have more spare time now, so I’m building up a list of things I’m going to do, such as improve my French, study astronomy and be a better photographer.'

The study on 1,000 Brits also found failure of the 11+ still haunts many – 23 per cent who would have been young in the 1950s and 60s said they were still haunted by their experience of not passing the school entrance exam.

The experience knocked the confidence of women more than men, with nearly one in three saying that they lack the confidence that they can 'still learn', compared to just over ten per cent of men.