Beware; biological (40 year old) hazard ahead. In an age where 12-year-old YouTube stars’ pocket money resembles most of our annual (gross) income, whilst the Greta Thunbergs of the world render the rest of us overawed with their youthful chutzpah, it’s easy to feel a tad... over the hill. We live, after all, in an age of ‘compare and despair’ as we’re invited on a minutely (it’s a word!) basis to compare the meerkat, compare the pay gap, and, if you’ve ever fallen down the Victoria's Secret-lined rabbit hole of the Hadids’ holiday snaps, compare the thigh gap. According to researchers at Australia’s government science agency, who have developed a genetic ‘clock’ to estimate the lifespans of living beings, our maximum natural life expectancy is 38 years. Which would add a heap more pressure were it not for advances in medicine (thank you NHS) and lifestyles that have almost doubled that rather bleak figure. Thank goodness then for the late bloomers, who, like an ambrosial tincture, are living their best older lives, calmly quelling the ageist anxiety that we need to start hustling from the get-go and inspiring us all to think that it’s never too late. Adulting is, after all, hard enough as it is. “The rise of social media stars has made us focus on and evangelise the concept of ‘youth’ even more than before and naturally causes us to reflect on how much we feel we have made an impact in life whether that is in our younger years or more latterly,” says Lucy Sheridan, author of The Comparison Cure. “It’s important to remember though, that not all successes and achievements have to make the cover of Time magazine - how can we get clear on our own goals and what’s important to us and use that insight to activate it now? Rather than feeling like we’ve failed by looking back ,we can use it as fuel to do our bit in the present.”
Apparently there’s been a recent boom in inventions by people over the age of 50 (50 being the new 40, which is of course the new 30 and so it goes on). But even back in the day when 50 was considered fairly ancient, a former study-shy biologist by the name of Charles Darwin presented his theory of evolution in his book Origins Of A Species, which was published in 1859 and went on to make him one of the most influential people in history. From birds to fried chicken, the finger lickin’ good Colonel Sanders was 62 when he opened the first KFC franchise having had a medley of different jobs in his youth. Engineer Henry Ford was 45 when he developed his first Model T Ford car - the first automobile middle class Americans could afford - whilst Barbara Beskind became Silicon Valleys’ oldest designer at the age of 91 (she’s now 95) designing tech for older generations.
Acting has always been touted as a young person's game with many entering the arena as soon as soon as they were able to belt out a Disney tune (and we all know how that court case-strewn trajectory often goes). Thank goodness then that some of our most beloved screen stars took a little longer to get there, the tortoise winning the race ‘n all. Case in point - Morgan Freeman who didn’t get his big break in Street Smart until he was 50. Then there’s Liam Neeson who was 40 (Schindler’s List), Samuel L. Jackson who was 46 (Jungle Fever) and Christopher Waltz who was 53 (Inglourious Basterds). The ladies, who deserve their very own gong for having to contend with smashing through the casting couch culture based on youth-worship are also killing it. Finally actresses ‘of a certain age’ are being recognised for the talented powerhouses that they are and we’re suddenly seeing resurgences from stars like Laura Dern and Viola Davis, who are experiencing career highs in their 40s, 50s, and, we’re looking at you here Dame Judi Dench, 60s and beyond.
We’re not entirely sure if Susan Boyle can be classed as contributing to cultural enrichment but budding crooners may still be pleased to hear that she did release her first album at the age of 48...
For frustrated creatives, the fact that comic book ‘marvel’ Stan Lee didn’t catch his big break until the age of 40, when he created the Fantastic Four might lend a little superhero morale. Meanwhile, Vera Wang was 40 when she entered the fashion world (before that she was a figure skater and Vogue editor), whilst domestic doyenne, author, businesswoman and, for five months, fellon, Martha Stewart was 41 when she published her first book. Speaking of books… Whilst the national institution that is J.K. Rowling technically published her first books in her early thirties, she was 40 when Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince came out and broke all record sales in the first 24 hours of its release in the process. And to that we say “Alohomora”.
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