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Things you’ll peak at in life after 50

Like a fine wine, here are skills that get better with age

A middle aged woman smiles at the camera as she sits with friends at a dinner table
A middle aged woman smiles at the camera as she sits with friends at a dinner table

If you’re over the age of 50 and haven’t started an award-winning business, starred in a movie or made millions, you might think the time for success has been and gone.

But, consider this… Julia Child made her TV debut at age 51, Judge Judy’s hit show started when she was 53 and Colonel Sanders sold his first KFC franchise at age 65.

So, if you think the prime of your life is behind you, think again – success can happen at any age or stage of life. In fact, there are specific skills and attributes that peak on or after your 50th birthday. Like a fine wine, here are a few things that just get better with age.

1. Arithmetic and vocabulary skills

If you’re approaching a half-century celebration, your calculator might be somewhere gathering dust. A 2015 study of close to 50,000 people, discovered that when it comes to answering basic arithmetic problems, the age of peak performance is 50 years old.

And don’t go giving up on tricky crosswords just yet; the same study found vocabulary skills peak at age 67. According to MIT News, the researchers believe the latter could be a result of three things: better education, jobs that require plenty of reading and more opportunities for intellectual stimulation in older generations.

2. Body image

People in their 20s might have fast metabolisms and wrinkle-free skin on their side, but a Gallup survey of 80,000 people found that when it comes to positive body image, youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When asked how they felt about their physical appearance, those aged 70+ were the group most likely to respond positively. Two-thirds of respondents aged 65 and older “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they always feel good about their physical appearance.

“As people age, perhaps a different set of societal expectations and appearance standards leads to a renewed sense of confidence,” says Gallup’s Justin McCarthy.

A middle aged couple sit on the ground smiling at the camera with a juice in hand

3. Wisdom

When it comes to all things tech, there’s no denying millennials have a clear advantage. But if we were enrolled in a school of social smarts, older generations would be top of the class. A team of psychologists from the US conducted research to measure wisdom in a range of different age groups.

Participants were presented with scenarios involving conflicts between different individuals and groups, and wisdom was measured by analysing their verbal reactions and their ability to use intelligence for the social good. The oldest group, with people aged between 60 and 90, outperformed every other age group in almost every respect.

4. Innovation

Researcher Benjamin Jones examined data on Nobel Prize winners across the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Economics over the past century, as well as data on outstanding technological innovations during the same time period. The research indicated that a 55-year old and 65-year old have more innovation potential than a 25-year old.

If you need more inspiration, the average age of Nobel Prize laureates across all categories is 59. Leonid Hurwicz, who took out the economics prize in 2007, was 90 years old at the time.

5. Happiness

According to a University of Melbourne study of over 400 women, growing older has its benefits when it comes to our overall happiness. Their research discovered that negative mood and depressive symptoms decreased significantly from midlife (50-64) to late life (65+), specifically during the years after menopause.

One of the study’s researchers, psychologist Katherine Campbell said the women in the study reported feeling more patient, less tense and less withdrawn as they entered their 60s. “Many women are more comfortable within themselves by the time they enter late-life and a majority have accepted and embraced the ageing process,” she said.

A US study of over 1500 adults backs this up, with those in their 20s and 30s reporting the highest levels of anxiety and stress, and respondents in their 90s coming through as most content.

So, don’t be fooled into thinking your best years are behind you. If you’re over the age of 50, the prime of your life could be just around the corner.