Milestone birthdays: How To Age Gracefully (Or Disgracefully)

June 15, 2014
milestone birthdays, aging, turning 40, scary age, Botox

I’m turning 40 this week and it’s a mark of how much I’m struggling with this momentous milestone that I can barely say the “F-word”, as I’m calling it. It’s not that I’m unhappy with my lot in life, far from it: I have a husband and children whom I adore, fabulous friends and family and a great, new and interesting job (thanks,!). And, sure my bits aren’t as perky as they used to be, post-two babies, but I don’t even have a problem with the aging bit in itself.

It’s just that 40 (shudder – even typing the number makes me cringe) is my “scary age”. And when I happened to mention this angst to the straight-talking psychologist in the family (who shall remain unnamed), she was typically less than empathetic: “What’s the alternative? Would you rather be dead?” she snapped. Um, no thanks, not dead, just a little less exhausted, jaded and broken!

So, how do we age gracefully (or disgracefully) come milestone birthdays? Should we just drink to forget? Or what about writing a list of all the things we’re grateful for? I could start mine with: “I’m not dead…” And are the 40s really the new 30s, now that we’re all living longer, or is that just a silly statement a 40-something dreamt up to make themselves feel better?

Social demographer, KPMG partner, keynote speaker, social editor/columnist The Australian, Bernard Salt, says if we reach the age of 60, we typically have another 25 years of life expectancy. Interestingly, Mr Salt believes women age better than men. “Women tend to lose their partners in their late 70s and have 10 years of widowhood. Women cope much better in retirement than men because they have better social networks. Women can blossom whereas men can retreat – that whole ‘grumpy, old man’ stereotype rings very true.

“Men don’t age well when they are forced out of the workplace – it’s more of a social, psychological issue – whereas women struggle with aging due to losing their youth and beauty. Botox can hold things together, but you can do it to excess, and there comes a point when it just looks sad, it just looks plastic.

“The trend we see now is towards narcissism and self-promotion – a whole generation (Gen X) who deal badly with the loss of youth and beauty. This generation has made the most of their 40s and 50s through good diet and exercise and reinvented what it means to be that age.”

Mr Salt says our increased life expectancy has also had an interesting impact on our relationships. “There’s a new breed of Gen X-ers who no longer accept a bad relationship, cut their losses and go it alone,” he says. “We’ve also seen the rise of ‘companion relationships’ popular in the 1920s and 1930s when a whole generation of men died going off to war. Companion relationships are non-sexual, same-sex relationships. And pets also often come into play as a human substitute.”

My top three signs I’m ageing:

  1. I’ve had to Google strange, new Twitter acronyms, such as ICYMI, FTW and TFTF just to find out the lingo meaning.
  2. When a Gen Y texts me in their native language: “OMFG hun, dat’s obvs totes ridic,” I have to take deep breaths to quell my rage.
  3. After a misspent youth wearing 16cm heels all day/night, I have developed degenerative joints on one of my feet. I really am old!

How do you cope with ageing?

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By Nicole Carrington-Sima

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