Skip to main content

10 reasons it's great to turn 50

By Peggy Drexler
updated 3:14 PM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
First lady Michelle Obama, who turns 50 this year, has accomplished much in her lifetime: She earned degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School before going on to work for a Chicago law firm. She later entered academia and public service. Obama, who will celebrate her birthday Friday, January 17, grew up on the South Side of Chicago as the daughter of a homemaker and a utility company employee. And she is not the only one to turn the big 5-0. Here are 50 others who are marking that milestone. First lady Michelle Obama, who turns 50 this year, has accomplished much in her lifetime: She earned degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School before going on to work for a Chicago law firm. She later entered academia and public service. Obama, who will celebrate her birthday Friday, January 17, grew up on the South Side of Chicago as the daughter of a homemaker and a utility company employee. And she is not the only one to turn the big 5-0. Here are 50 others who are marking that milestone.
HIDE CAPTION
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
50 people who turned 50 in the past year
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peggy Drexler: Michelle Obama turns 50, and shows it isn't about slowing down
  • Drexler: The list of powerful, in-their-prime women and men over 50 is miles long
  • She says: You can forget about contraception. You know who you are.
  • Drexler: You're OK staying home on a Saturday night. You can start anew

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler.

(CNN) -- On Friday, first lady Michelle Obama turns 50, and the party, we hear, is going to be fantastic. There's even a rumor Beyoncé will perform. The first lady proves 50 is certainly no signifier of slowing down or calling it quits, even if the AARP does consider you worthy of membership. The list of other powerful, in-their-prime women and men over 50 is miles long.

Chances are Brad Pitt, Rita Wilson, Oprah Winfrey, Janet Napolitano, Daniel Day Lewis, Meg Whitman, and their many, many cohorts can attest to some of the pros of turning the Big 5-0, among them:

Peggy Drexler
Peggy Drexler

1) You can forget about contraception. Probably. Although it is biologically possible for many women to get pregnant after 50, it's generally much, much harder and less likely: Women older than 47 account for just .01% of births.

Of course, the children you already have might be teenagers. Many women, like Michelle Obama, who chose to have children in their 30s will reach 50 with teens living in the house, and might be facing all the stress, angst and struggle that comes with seeing a child through adolescence. Up next: College tuition!

First lady Michelle Obama turns 50 on Friday.\n
First lady Michelle Obama turns 50 on Friday.

2) You're perfectly content to stay home on a Saturday night. In your 20s, you might have felt a certain self-consciousness -- guilt, perhaps, or anxiety -- if your Saturday night was spent in your sweatpants on the couch rather than out being social. These days, whether you're married or single, you might have less energy, but you also know that a weekend night in doesn't spell doom for your social life.

3) Yes, it's hot in here—those are, after all, hot flashes you're having. But that's OK. While menopause can be a slog lasting as long as 12 years, the upside is not having to deal with periods. Ever again. Not to mention PMS, cysts, fibroids, or the aforementioned late-in-life pregnancy. Depression is less common post-menopause. Besides, there's nothing like a hot flash on a cold day.

4) Fifty years in, you know who you are. As Michelle Obama told Parade magazine last summer about reaching 50, "I have never felt more confident in myself, more clear on who I am as a woman." Many people cite their 50s as the best decade, when you know what you want personally and professionally and know -- at least better than you did in your 20s or even 30s, at least -- how to go about getting it if you haven't already.

5) That said, it's not too late to change direction. More and more people over 50 are taking on "encore" careers, reinventing themselves in professions that might more closely align with their passions. Nonprofit group Encore.org, dedicated to helping professionals find their "second act," notes that as many as 9 million people age 44 to 70 are getting paid for work that combines their personal passion with a social purpose.

First lady celebrates turning 50
Michelle Obama opens up as she turns 50

6) Mentorship isn't over. Though the traditional mentor-mentee relationship puts the older, more experienced worker in the teaching role, just because all your mentors have retired doesn't mean you have no one left to learn from. A recent trend has seen millennials mentoring boomers, teaching them about technology and keeping them current and vital. Some companies have introduced "reverse mentoring" programs designed to pair younger employees with older ones.

7) You sleep less -- and can therefore do more. Studies have found that people need less sleep as they age, leaving them plenty of time to go for a run, work on a project, or do anything else your 20-something cohorts aren't doing while they're dozing an average extra seven hours a week.

8) You can age however gracefully you'd like. If you're going gray, you can flaunt it, and you can be proud of your laugh lines. But if your crow's feet or other signs of 50 years well-lived bother you, there are more options than ever before to do something about it, with fewer stigmas attached. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that minimally invasive facial rejuvenation procedures such as Botox, Juvederm, chemical peels and the like have reached an all-time high. Also growing: eyelid surgery and facelifts.

9) You're your own meteorologist. Medicine has long disputed that achy joints can predict coming rain, but the old joke may have some truth to it. Doctors are coming around to the idea, admitting that those with arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibroid myalgia, or nerve damage in the knees, elbows, and other joints -- more likely, of course, as you grow older -- can indeed feel ambient changes.

10) You're not 60! Enough said, right?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peggy Drexler.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 12:50 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 3:38 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
updated 5:22 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
updated 12:08 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
updated 12:20 PM EDT, Sat September 13, 2014
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 6:11 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
updated 6:18 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 1:30 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT