Middle-aged and too tired to leave the house? Lucy Corry on going out when you’re over 40.

Kirsty Hamilton used to be quite the party animal. She survived an epic five days of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, loved meeting random strangers while living in London and thought nothing of staying up all hours. These days though, she'd rather just stay in.

"Overwhelmingly, I can't be bothered," the 45-year-old Lower Hutt strategy manager says. "What compels me to stay home is always much stronger than what compels me to go out."

Hamilton's story is probably familiar to lots of people in mid-life. Once upon a time she was a free agent with youthful resilience and few responsibilities, but now she's got two small children, a demanding job and a mortgage.

"My biggest problem with parties is that when I was younger I used to like to meet people," Hamilton says. "Now I just can't be bothered. I don't want to invest time and energy in someone I'll probably never see again. I went to Auckland recently and was staying with an old friend who was going to invite her antenatal group over for drinks. I wasn't happy at the thought of having to talk about babies and pregnancy with a bunch of people who I'd never see again, on a rare weekend without my children. I was so relieved when it didn't happen."


Hamilton, who moved back to New Zealand from London in 2014 with her partner and their two young boys, says it's easy to find reasons why she doesn't go out. She's often tired, they don't know any reliable babysitters and because she no longer drinks alcohol, she can't "drink a bad night better". Living out of the city adds another layer of logistical hassle.

"Getting out to the Hutt on the late train with lots of drunk young people is not appealing at my age. When I became a mum I became a lot more aware of my personal safety and I don't want to be walking through dark car parks late at night. I think all of these things just collided and it's easier not to go out at all."

Hamilton says her partner is similarly minded: "He's very extroverted, but he just wants to see his old mates now and then. I do insist that we go out three times a year together — my birthday, his birthday and our anniversary — and we do have a nice time, but it takes a huge effort. I guess if we really, really wanted to go out we'd try a bit harder, but we don't."

Clinical psychologist Ben Sedley says it's common for priorities to change as we age.

"There might be less tolerance to feeling tired or hungover the next day. And if you don't go out very often, then it might be a bit anxiety provoking — what will you say to people you haven't seen in ages, or to new people? There can also be too much pressure on the night for it to be good."

Sedley, author of Stuff That Sucks: Accepting what you can't change and committing to what you can, says there's nothing wrong with staying in, as long as you understand why you don't want to go out.

"Maybe the things you enjoy have changed … if you actually do want to go out but anxiety is making it challenging, it might help to reconnect to what's important to you. Do you still value seeing friends, or meeting new people, or maintaining your own distinct identity? If you're able to remind yourself why going out matters to you, it can be easier to find the energy and motivation to go."

He recommends noticing what you say to yourself before you go out. Do you imagine all the ways it might go wrong?

"Do you put yourself down for feeling anxious or tired? What tone of voice do you use when you talk to yourself — would you talk to anyone else like that? Are you able to talk to yourself in the same way you might talk to someone else you care about?"

Sedley, 43, has first-hand experience of the going out/staying in condundrum.

"I have three small children to get to bed, work to do, Netflix shows to keep up with … I do push myself to go out when I can though, even if it's just meeting friends for a drink or going to a film. It's great to go to a gig or party now and then too. I enjoy them once I'm there, but sometimes before I go out I spend time feeling sorry for myself and wishing I didn't have to go."

That kind of feeling is complete anathema to 60-something Paul Archer, who maintains an extremely full social life.

"I don't really go out to bars and chat away to people who I'm not in a social network with, I'm hopeless at that. But I get great satisfaction from introducing different groups of friends to one another," Archer says. "It's a lovely feeling when you see people really bond. I'm going to Sydney at Easter and I've got Sunday lunch planned with 12 people who don't all know each other."

Archer, a fashion wholesaler from Christchurch, is genuinely gregarious and has friends and acquaintances scattered worldwide. He doesn't buy into the concept that staying in is the new going out.

"I don't think I've ever had a stay-at-home phase in my life," he laughs down the line from Shanghai. "I wasn't a raging teenager, I suppose my social life revolved around sport when I was young and it just grew from there."

Archer says his greatest nights out are with his partner, George, and a group of friends.

"When I'm overseas it's more about going out, but when I'm in Christchurch I'll entertain at home three or four times a week," he says.

"I socialise in a very mixed world, with both gay and straight, because I find it very predictable if you're just with one set or the other. I'm lucky to have so many friends but I know it can be overwhelming sometimes. It's our 10th anniversary soon and George said, 'Promise me we won't be going out with 20 other people every night.'"

While Archer has seemingly endless stamina, he finds many of his contemporaries aren't so lucky.

"It infuriates me when you see someone and all they do is go on and on about themselves or their health problems. That seems to come with age, sadly. That's why I like being with younger people, they're very refreshing. I do find it terribly hard to hear in loud bars now though."

Age hasn't dampened Bonnie Kew's appetite for live music, but it is making her search for a great pair of gig-friendly shoes more pressing.

"I was getting ready to go out the other night and I thought, 'I'm 54 and I'm still trying to find the perfect shoes that look good, that I can dance in and that won't be uncomfortable when I'm standing up at a gig for hours.' Surely by now I should be worrying about something a bit more important?"

Kew, a senior HR advisor, has had a passion for live music ever since she saw Talking Heads play the Wellington Town Hall when she was 15. "Music has been a significant drug for me my whole life," she says.

Kew has diverse tastes ("I'm more likely to listen to Radio Active than commercial radio") and she attends gigs whenever she can, often with members of a Facebook group run by similarly-minded friends.

"There are plenty of older people at gigs, they're just not down the front. The first time I realised I wasn't as young as I used to be was when I found myself closer to the mixing desk than the stage. But I want to see the band, I'm not paying all this money to be pummelled in the moshpit.

"I went to a gig on a Tuesday night recently that finished at about 11, then I got home and felt wired for another couple of hours because it was so enthralling. It is tiring, but the pleasure I get out of being at music events and festivals makes it worth it. Music is my life blood."

If you'd like to try going to live music again, Kew recommends taking baby steps.

"Gigs are dark and noisy and crowded and there aren't any chairs. You need a bit of training.

"Start small and start early with something you're familiar with. If that sparks your interest, you're more likely to go out to something that's later and bigger and less well-known. Find people who get what you're into and can give you recommendations about what's coming up.

"Be prepared to deal with the people we used to be when we were young, and don't drink, because you'll need to go to the loo and you'll lose your spot. Anyway, drunk old people are boring."

Kew is a fan of gigs put on by Eyegum Music Collective at Wellington's San Fran. There's no cover charge, bands start at 9pm and it's all over by 11pm.

"It's very relaxed and chilled and they have a whole manifesto about respect and creating a safe environment. They started out as house parties with bands. My friends and I used to go, then one day we realised that all the other people there were at high school with our children!"

She says the trick to a mid-life social life beyond brunches and box-sets is staying open to new experiences.

"There are endless sources of new music, you just need to spend a bit of time listening to them. But if it's not your thing, don't go there. Go and find what your thing is."