The myth of the male mid-life crisis

Dr. Thomas Pearls, a gerontologist at the Boston Medical Center and an expert on aging, says the whole notion of a "fountain of youth" goes back hundreds of years. "A few years ago, it was melatonin," he said. "Then it was DHEA. Back in the 1800s, it was ground-up goat testicles."

Dr. Pearls sees not the benefit of testosterone, but a laundry list of side effects:

"In 2010 there was a very high profile New England Journal of Medicine article that came out in which they've already been studying older men in their 60s or so getting testosterone, and they found a very high rate, about four times greater rate, for cardiovascular events," said Dr. Pearls. "Things like arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, angina, congestive heart failure. You hear things like that and it just really - the risks far outweigh the benefit."

His prescription to reverse a mid-life slowdown? Do it the old-fashioned way.

"Go to the gym and just work on the weights," he said. "Look at all the people out there on the weights. I would wager that the vast majority of them are not taking any drugs, and they're feeling great."

I know so many people who don't call it a mid-life crisis; they call it an opportunity. Okay, I've gotten into my 50s. Where have I been? Where do I want to go?

And it allows people to think about retooling.

Re-tooling is the perfect word for what comedian Ray Romano did at age 47, when he found himself suddenly adrift.

"I was 47; 'Raymond' had ended. All the sudden there was nothing, [and I] found myself wondering, What the hell am I doing? Who am I?"

So Romano, along with his friend and producer Mike Royce, decided to explore their own middle ages ... on television.

They call their new show, co-starring Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher, "Men of a Certain Age." And yes, that means middle age.

"Would you go back to your 20s?" asked Petersen.

"I wouldn't go back," said Romano. "I don't want to be 20, because I had a rash for about a year and a half."

"It's a lot of acceptance: You can't do this anymore, you can't do this. Woman aren't going to be attracted to you anymore. A big crossing-over, being at peace with who you are and finding your own happiness.

"And it is there," he said. "There is contentment to be had at that age. It just takes adjustment."

The show has helped all of them gain a new perspective on old age.

"I went for a checkup at 55," said Bakula. "My doctor said, 'Welcome to the second half of your life.' And I'm thinking, 'Wow, 110?' That might be a real solid reality."

Bakula is on to something, say researchers, who suggest contentment - not crisis - is the true reality of mid-life for most men.

And what's ahead can look pretty good, says psychologist Margie Lachman.

"Mid-life is a very good time to take stock," she said. "To really take a review of your life. How far you've come, what you've done, what you've accomplished in life. And then think about what you can do in the future.

"Because at this review, very often people do find some things that they're not happy with. And there are things that they want to change, and other things they may be very satisfied with."

Just remember to sprinkle in a bit of humor.

"One of the benefits of being older - this is just an odd one - I was playing basketball with my kid the other day, and took a knee in the groin," said Romano. "Didn't hurt as much! There's a little more give down there."

And perhaps most of all, a touch of optimism.

"I think actually men in this age range can be pretty damn happy," said Petersen. "Is that a fair description of you guys?"

"Yes, fair description of me," said Bakula.

"Yeah, but you have to work at it," said Romano. "But I had to work at it in my twenties! You just have to find a way to go. That's how it is in life."

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