Skip to main content

10 reasons it's great to turn 50

By Peggy Drexler
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 2014 GMT (0414 HKT)
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
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT