Our species is living longer, getting married later, and having children a decade (or more) later than prior generations. Due to technological innovations and advances in science and medicine, we are improving our health and as a consequence, prolonging our lives. What this means according to scientists, is that middle age is coming on later. So that by 2050, 52 years of age will be considered middle age, instead of 40 years of age, which was considered middle age in 2000. Read more about what the scientists are saying.
This idea of an older decade being the 'new' younger decade is not a novel concept. It was first tossed around a few years ago when stars like Sheryl Crow, Courtney Cox and Sarah Jessica Parker turned the big 4-0. Now that more of our most adorable starlets--Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Renee Zellweger and Taraji Henson, along with many of our leading men--Matt Damon, Vince Vaughn, Tyson Beckford, Ethan Hawke, and Malcolm Jamal Warner--have hit that number in the last couple of years, Hollywood, the fashion industry, the media and, yes, the world are rethinking the way we look at those over 40. And, to what avail? All of this posturing to be a decade younger? Are we obsessed with looking and being young? Of course we are. And, there are billion dollar cosmetics, health and fitness industries to prove it.
Who really buys into this idea of 40 being the new 30, 50 being the new 40 and so forth? As it turns out, women more so than men. In a recent poll, twice as many women vs. men think that 40 is the new 30 (Perkins-Munn, 2011). But, why the gender discrepancy?
The psychology of this belief goes back to evolution. According to evolutionary psychology, men behave in ways that demonstrate their ability to offer what women will find attractive—primarily external resources and physical protection. Male peacocks strut their feathers; male apes beat their chests; male humans show off their muscles, their bank accounts, their BMWs. In fact, according to psychologist, Glenn Wilson (1994), 'male achievement is ultimately a courtship display.' Women, in similar fashion, are constantly seeking fuller, perkier breasts, applying Botox to their wrinkles, Latisse to their lashes, fueling the multi-billion dollar dieting industry (along with men), all with the goal of presenting a youthful, healthy appearance to men, as all of these behaviors signify--in the most evolutionary sense--a fertility-ready female.
The research confirms these facts: Studies by Buss and Feingold in the early 1990’s across 37 cultures from Australia to Zambia, reveal that men, regardless of culture, nationality, ethnicity or age, feel attracted to women whose physical features, such as being buxom and having youthful faces and forms, suggest fertility. Similarly, women across continents and cultures are attracted to men whose finances, sense of power and control, and ambition suggest that they can provide for their family and protect their offspring.