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40 Myths About Life After 40 Everyone Still Believes

Don't let these fabricated "facts" about life after 40 get you down. This is the truth about middle age.

There are a lot of preconceived notions about what it's like to be in your 40s. Despite the TV commercials about hair loss, low libidos, and wrinkle creams, your 40s can actually be the best era of your life. But in order to enjoy everything that your fifth decade has in store, it's time to start rejecting some ageist myths about life after 40.

After all, you're the only one who can decide what your 40s look like, not a handful of statistics or unfounded "facts" perpetuated by strangers. So, let's bust the following 40 myths about life after 40 once and for all!

Most of life's major moments are behind you.

young woman sitting on the floor looking at pictures

Maybe you're done having children. Maybe you've been successful in your career. But none of these things mean that the most important parts of your life have already passed. There is still so much to look forward to after 40. You can travel more, you might switch careers, or maybe you'll even decide to do something different with your time like write a book, focus on your art, or do some volunteer work. The best is yet to come!

And becoming a grandparent is your only foreseeable milestone.

asian grandfather holding grandchild while grandmother looks on

The average age a person first becomes a grandparent is 50, according to 2018 data from the AARP—and it's definitely not the next big milestone in your life. You could change your career, pick up a new hobby, or even date someone new. Whatever it is, you're in control of your life and your milestones are a reflection of how you choose to live it.

You've reached your professional peak.

happy businesswoman gesturing while smiling

Vera Wang didn't enter the fashion industry until she was 40 and now she's one of the premiere wedding dress designers. And Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at 50. They're just a couple of examples that in your 40s, you're still just getting started.

Your metabolism begins to sputter out and there's nothing you can do about it.

Overweight woman measuring her waist.

While we don't recommend binge-eating Cheez Doodles all the time, it's true that your metabolism can be managed at any age. While it might be easier at 40 to put on a few pounds than it was at 20, by drinking ice water (which causes you to burn more calories more quickly by upping the body's temperature) and adding varied protein into your diet, you can more easily combat a slowing metabolism.

It's time to dress your age.

senior woman with pink hair

Turning 40 doesn't suddenly mean you have to frequent Brooks Brothers or Coldwater Creek for an "age-appropriate" ensemble. While it may be best to stay away from funny ties or sandals in the office, your personal style is what you make it, no matter what age you are.

You become irrelevant.

upset man sitting outdoors

Actually, you're the boss, and you're officially running the show.

People under 40 can't relate to you.

make your instagram compelling

So maybe you don't quite understand the latest slang, but that doesn't mean you're not relatable. When you reach your 40s, you do all of the same things you did before—and with the same people—only now you're much more knowledgeable.

You're no longer considered sexy.

Portrait of cheerful mature couple taking selfie picture

Not true. In fact, you're just getting started. Men and women are both sexy in their 40s—with or without labels like "cougar" or "silver fox."

Bikinis aren't an option.

neon bikini with black outline sits on blue wooden boardwalk

There is no rule that says once you reach 40, you're destined to only collect cover-ups and skirted bathing suit bottoms. You wear what you're comfortable in at any age—and that's that!

Weekends are for young people.

men doing a toast with beer bottles, relationship white lies

Sure, bouncing back from big nights might be a littler harder in your 40s, but if you feel like going out and dancing with your friends, do it! Want to hit up a bar to watch the basketball game? Be on your merry way!

You will suddenly develop wrinkles.

Side view of a woman examining her face in the mirror in the bathroom at home

Taking care of your skin is crucial no matter what age you are, and turning 40 doesn't mean that wrinkles are imminent. Be healthy, be confident, rub on some moisturizer, and stop worrying about signs of aging on your face. Even if they do crop up, they're the mark of a well-lived life.

No one will hire you.

man quitting his job, teachers wish you knew

You have the one thing every hiring professional wants: great experience.

It's too late to explore your sexuality.

barefoot woman walking into bedroom

Exploring your sexuality could mean re-discovering one's sexual orientation or sexual preferences. No matter what it means to you, there's no such thing as being past one's sexual prime or too old for new sexual experiences.

In a 2004 study by the AARP, over half of people over 45 years old described sexual activity as a very important part of their lives and said that it has a direct impact on their quality of life. Additionally, 36 percent reported having sexual intercourse once a week, minimum.

Your hair will turn gray.

man with grey hair and blue eyes stands with crossed arms in suit on blue background

Yes, by the time we hit our 40s, the body makes less melanin, which is responsible for hair color. But every person's experience is unique, so to think that turning 40 immediately means gray hair is just not the case. And going gray doesn't have as early an onset as society tends to think. In fact, according to 2012 research from cosmetics company L'Oreal, 10 percent of people over age 60 don't have gray hair.

You're too old to go back to school.

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Just turn to the statistics: The amount of "older" Americans heading back to the classroom is steadily on the rise, with the rate of enrollment increasing faster than those just graduating high school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics via NBC News, students over age 35 accounted for 17 percent of all college and graduate students in 2009. In 2020, that percentage is expected to increase to nearly 20 percent.

It's harder to bounce back from a cold.

Asian Woman Pale in the Face From Feeling Sick Signs of Poor Health Over 50

Incorrect. In fact, people over 40 get fewer colds. According to WedMD, young adults average about two to four colds a year, while people over 60 have fewer than one cold a year on average. Why? Because as we age, we're exposed to so many different viruses that our bodies develop immunity against them. Take that, kiddos!

Your teeth are more sensitive.

old man brushing teeth, things that would horrify your dentist

Actually, it's proven that people over 40 experience significantly less sensitivity in their teeth. As we age, dentin—which is the inner tissue of the teeth—increases, solidifying a stronger amount of insulation between the teeth's enamels and nerves. That means an increased amount of pain tolerance and much less sensitivity!

Your hearing will get worse.

woman's ear examined at doctor's office

We're not quite there yet, folks, so to anyone who is warning you of imminent hearing loss, tell them to relax for a little bit. Most people start experiencing hearing loss closer to age 65 when the inner structure of the ear begins to change.

You'll start talking to yourself.

senior man sitting alone on bench, photographed from behind, looking at lake

Chances are you've been doing this for years already. And actually, talking to yourself is hardly the marker of going senile (or an indication of mental illness, for that matter).

You'll forget things more frequently.

forgetful woman against a gray background

We've all misplaced our keys at one point or lost our phone charger to the impenetrable depths of the couch, but do we really experience forgetfulness at a different level once we turn 40? Nope! The brain continues to produce new cells at every age and there are plenty of ways to stay sharp.

You'll develop skin tags.

white woman lifts arm to examine skin tag

Despite what many people may say about skin tags, they are not an inescapable part of growing older. In fact, many skin tags are made by friction rubbing against the skin.

You'll need glasses.

man wearing glasses on grey background

You just might need a little better lighting, according to the American Optomeric Association. As we age, we tend to need more light in order to decipher words on a page.

You can have "safe" unprotected sex.

middle aged couple smiling in bedroom

Sexually transmitted infections do not discriminate, even when it comes to age. In your 40s, you are still vulnerable when it comes to sexual disease transmission, so be sure to practice safe sex.

Leaking while you laugh is the new normal.

Seniors enjoying holidays on the beach

Leaking while you laugh or before you can make it to the restroom is not necessarily a direct side effect of aging. It is, however, an indication of stress urinary incontinence, a problem that affects over 33 million Americans and needs to be medically treated, according to the National Association for Continence.

Your libido will significantly decrease.

over 40 myths

Sex is actually more enjoyable and more frequent for people—women in particular—in their 40s. According to 2010 research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, women between the ages of 27 and 45 had more intense and frequent sexual fantasies, and more actual sex than women in younger age groups.

You'll need plastic surgery.

plastic surgery marks being made on woman by doctor, pageant facts

There's absolutely no validity to the myth that you need plastic surgery once you turn 40. Breasts do sag over time (as do certain male parts), but that doesn't mean you have to turn to surgery for a lift.

You don't need to shave.

closeup of lower half of woman's face and under arm as she holds up razor to shave

Don't throw out your razor just yet. As you age, where your hair grows tends to change, and many women find themselves developing a bit of fuzz on their faces. So while you might not feel the need to shave your legs or armpits anymore, some women do choose to shave the bit of hair that can grow above the lip or on the chin. But that's completely your preference.

You no longer need to wear deodorant.

deodorant on table with roses

While it's true that our eccrine glands (the ones responsible for making us sweat) tend to thin out as we age, we still continue to sweat and, therefore, continue to produce body odor. So don't cross the Speedstick off your shopping list just yet.

You're destined to get physically weaker.

Mature man suffering from wrist pain at home while sitting on sofa during the day
ljubaphoto / iStock

There's no need to feel intimidated by the young people bench-pressing their body weight at the gym. Growing older doesn't have to mean sacrificing your stamina or your strength. Muscle mass does decrease as we age, but there is still ample opportunity in our 40s to work toward leaner, stronger muscles.

You'll have less energy.

Tired man rubbing his eyes or head on the couch

Energy certainly diminishes as we get older, but maintaining a steady workout regimen and healthy diet can really help with boosting energy.

You don't need to sleep as much.

over 40s myth

It is true that there is a correlation between aging and getting less sleep. But it isn't true that people over 40 don't need to sleep as much as they used to. The National Sleep Foundation maintains that "sleep needs [to] remain constant throughout adulthood," so actually, you need just as much sleep in your 40s as you always did.

There's no fighting constipation.

over 40 myths

Constipation becomes a problem as we age because we lose muscle mass all over, but we also lose muscle tonnage deep in our bowels. There's an easy fix though: more intake of high-fiber, more vegetables, and more protein.

You'll no longer be able to digest dairy.

older man with stomach pain, stomach symptoms

Gouda lovers, don't fret. It's a myth that you will certainly turn dairy or lactose intolerant once you enter your 40s. Our lactase level does decrease as we get older—which is what helps our bodies digest dairy products—but that doesn't necessarily mean that you're immediately going to become intolerant. If you're concerned, probiotics can be a great way to regulate your bowel movements and to fight off intolerance.

Bloating becomes an issue.

Man in a suit holding his bloated stomach

Anyone is susceptible to bloat, no matter your age. People in middle age are more likely to acquire belly fat, which can be mistaken for inflation. But bloating isn't the real issue, as bloating can affect anyone for any number of reasons.

You need to start drinking prune juice.

having to drink prune juice is an over 40 myth

Hey, if you want to start drinking prune juice, good on ya. The juice wrought from prunes and dried plums has an exorbitant amount of health benefits like improving digestion, reducing the urge of overactive bladder, and building bone mass—but is it completely essential to integrate into your diet once you're 40? No.

Wearing sunscreen becomes more important.

profile of asian woman wearing yellow hat applying sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen isn't a necessary part of being in your 40s; it's actually a necessary part of being human. No matter your race or whether you burn or tan, all skin is susceptible to the sun's harmful UV rays, and overexposure can increase your risk of skin cancer.

Increased bacteria causes more urinary tract infections.

an empty roll of toilet paper against a blue background, annoying things people do

In your 40s, women's bodies don't make as much estrogen as they once did, and one of estrogen's responsibilities is to protect the body against infection. But the bacteria that resides near the vulva and the remainder of the female reproductive parts is always there, so any increased risk of getting a UTI isn't a result of more bacteria. It's actually due to the body producing less estrogen.

Vaginal dryness is inevitable for women.

over 40s myths

Vaginal dryness can happen in our 40s because of those decreased estrogen levels as women age. And while it's true that many of us will experience vaginal dryness, it's not an inevitability. And the effects can be countered by using a vaginal moisturizer, engaging in regular sexual activity, and using a lubricant.

So is erectile disfunction for men.

Man Suffering From Erectile Dysfunction

While age can play a role in erectile dysfunction (ED), it is certainly not a direct cause of it. For example, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 25 percent of men under the age of 40 who sought treatment for ED did in fact have the condition. It's also worth noting that risk for erectile dysfunction is increased by smoking and drug use, no matter a person's age.

You start shrinking and there's nothing you can do about it.

a doctor measuring a woman's height

While we do in fact shrink as we age, there are ways to mitigate how much of our height we lose, which include exercise, stretching, taking vitamins, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco, according to

Stephanie Osmanski
Stephanie Osmanski is a freelance sustainability, health, and wellness writer. Read more
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