Turning Forty – Why Is It So Significant?

By David Shreeve


What is it that traumatises some people about moving from age 39 to one year older? After all, if 39 didn’t seem so bad why does a mere one year later make such an impact? Many people refer to it as the “Big Four-O.” The big 4-oh? What makes it big? 50 can look big because, I suppose, it’s half a hundred. Sixty is something of a big Six-O. That’s probably because it was for many years the official retiring age for many men. But forty isn’t big in any particular way.

Many young people probably think of forty as middle aged but that can’t be. If we apply the mind to the description “middle” and think of the old definition of “lifespan” as ‘three-score-years-and-ten’ then the middle of the traditional lifespan, in fact, is 35. But no one of 35 would accept that they are “middle aged!” Anyway, everyone over 35 knows that the definition of “middle aged” is anyone who is ten years older than you are at any one stage!

Many people who work in a corporate environment reach significant positions in their forties – positions that will lead them to top jobs when they reach their fifties. Their forties are a sort of “apprenticeship” to prepare them for the really senior positions in the company.

Their advantage is that, being in their forties, they have the best of two worlds: they have an impressive number of years experience and they also have the energy to create, develop and carry out new ideas and strategies. People in their 20’s and 30’s have plenty of energy but limited experience; others in their 50’s and 60’s have the experience but often do not have the energy.

One of Bob Hope’s many famous one-liners was about this “significant” age of 40: A Woman said to me ‘I’m approaching forty, you know;’ I thought to myself ‘From which direction?’

Turning forty is a particularly huge hurdle for women. It has more significance than most birthday anniversaries which is difficult to understand.

Maybe it’s the word “turn” that is the problem? Milk “turns” sour; meat “turns” bad; butter “turns” rancid. Maybe you should think of leaving 39 behind and “becoming” forty or “achieving” 40. Many people (particularly those in their 50’s and 60’s) believe that life really begins at forty – because their’s did!

Many Hollywood actresses are still making waves in their forties. Think of Halle Berry (44) Jennifer Aniston (41) Sarah Jessica Parker (in her 40’s) Julianne Moore (49) Annette Bening (52!) and Julia Roberts (42.) The highest-earning woman in Hollywood last year (who made a cool $56-million) was Sandra Bullock and she’s 46!!

And what about that dynamic ball of fire, simply the best, Tina Turner? She’s turning 73 next birthday – never mind forty! She is living proof that birthdays are good for you: the more you have, the longer you live! So don’t stress about turning forty: it’s only a number.

David Shreeve has been writing for various media for many years including radio, TV, print media and the internet. He currently publishes a general interest blog for over forties entitled [http://www.magazine4over40s.com] which is aimed at “those with a more mature outlook and sense of fun!”

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