From products to procedures, women often go to great lengths to reduce the physical signs of aging. And while we may bemoan the swiftness with which the years pass—and the addition of birthday candles on our cake—we’re entering an era where aging is enthusiastically embraced rather than dreaded and disdained.
For good cause: Research suggests that a woman’s ideal physical age may be 31 but she feels most at home in the world when she’s “past” what’s traditionally considered her prime. The women at the forefront of aging agelessly are a testament to this fact, from Diana Nyad becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage—a feat she completed at 64—to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who became the second female to serve on the Supreme Court at the age of 60.
Indeed, there’s much to celebrate as the years tick by. Whether you’re barely out of your 2os or just beginning the third phase of your life, here are 6 reasons to rejoice in another orbit:
1. Decreased anxiety
If our 20s, 30s and 40s have a common theme, it’s anxiety. From finding a life partner to finding a job that fulfills (and supports) us, we’re often mired in a state of unease—and this is to say nothing of our apprehension about showing the signs of aging. In fact, a Florida State University researcher found that younger women spend a significant amount of mental and emotional energy worrying about wrinkles and “deteriorating health,” which ultimately leaves them with a lower emotional well-being than their older counterparts.
"Our society's marginalization of older women can have consequences for women across adulthood," says sociology professor Anne Barrett. "It can erode their emotional well-being long before they reach old age." Middle aged to older women, however, engage in strategies that boost their perception of themselves—primarily through adopting the truism that age is nothing but a number.
2. Enhanced confidence
Confidence plays a crucial role in those lower levels of anxiety. While it may be true that a number of women feel a dip in their self-confidence mid-life—a phase that may be characterized by the weight gain that can arrive with a slowing metabolism, a spiritual or relationship crisis, an empty nest or a career switch—most women report feeling heightened self-assurance as they mature. By mid to later life, many recognize that they’ve accomplished a great deal, whether that means buying a house, earning professional accolades, finishing a degree or raising a family.
As the journal The Conversation reports, we also “become more proficient in our work, learn how to manage our finances better and our bonds with loved ones deepen. With time and practice, most of the core domains of our lives improve as we develop skills and strategies to manage our lives with more mastery.” With all this arrives a realization that we are more resilient than we thought—and, bonus points, can now rest a bit on our laurels.
3. Better sex
You may dread menopause and the sexual dry spell that’s rumored to follow—not to mention health issues and physical changes you or your partner may encounter—but the truth is that sex can and often does improve as you age. (As The Huffington Post reports, “Many women experience a sexual renaissance in their later years,” and, fortunately, “sexual prime can peak at any age.”) Why—and how? As we mature, we tend to develop a stronger relationship with our physical and emotional selves, and, with the confidence that accompanies this, learn to voice what we desire.
Not convinced? Take a new study that was featured on Today, which analyzed 39 women whose ages ranged from 46 to 59. On average, these women reported increased understanding of how their bodies “work when it comes to sex,” “increased self-confidence,” and “improved communication skills.” Makes sense, doesn’t it?
4. More zest for life
Chances are you’ve spotted more than one elderly couple with sheer delight written all over their faces. It isn’t just happenstance: Studies show that, for some, enthusiasm for life increases with age (something that’s often referred to as the “aging paradox”). It could be partly due to the fact that “you have finally learned to balance your emotions after the tumult of the previous decades,” the BBC reports.
A 2016 study out of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry affirms this, stating that, out of a sample of 1,500 individuals aged 21-99, older people experienced less anxiety, depression and stress—and greater levels of happiness. “There’s this idea that old age is bad, it’s all gloom and doom and older people are usually depressed, grumpy and unhappy,” said study author Dr. Dilip Jeste. Instead, “as they got older, it looks like things started getting better for them. It suggests that with age, there’s a progressive improvement in mental health.”
5. Fewer allergies
We may accrue more wrinkles as we age, but we also lose some of our youthful complaints—including our allergies. “Most people with allergies first develop them as children or infants,” LiveScience reports. “But as they age, some individuals seem to leave their hay fever, pet allergies or even food allergies behind. Doctors don't know exactly why, but people's allergies actually can disappear over time.” In other words? That Camembert you’ve had to eschew for years may be a possibility in your future.
6. Increased intelligence
Worried about losing your wit or your ability to speak French as you age? You’re not alone: it’s one of the leading fears people have about getting older. But wisdom has long been associated with the elderly for reasons that are increasingly becoming clear. Researchers have “recently made some surprising discoveries about what's really happening in our heads as we age,” Oprah says.
"We are identifying ways in which older minds hold their own against younger ones and even surpass them," Margaret Gatz, PhD, professor of psychology, gerontology and preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, confirms. Chief among those findings? A sounder ability to utilize both the right and left sides of our brains, a bolstered capacity for solving and managing problems, greater empathy (and, thus, better “people skills”) and, to echo earlier points in this post, a more positive overall outlook on life. Aging smartly, indeed—and so very much to look forward to.