Madonna's voice has increased with age

At 50, women are in the prime of their lives

Klagenfurt. Feeling Too Old For Something? Madonna can only laugh about it. The singer turned 57 on Sunday, and she will continue to walk across red carpets in high boots and tight outfits. Like in February at the Grammy Awards, when she lifted her short skirt as she walked by. "This is what a 56-year-old butt looks like!", She announced in the "Rolling Stone". She does not understand why it is commonly accepted that women of a certain age are only allowed to behave in a certain way. “But I don't follow the rules. I never have, and I won't start either. "

The certain age, that means menopause. In the past, the end of fertility around the 50th birthday heralded the time as an old woman, as a grandma. It meant the end of short skirts, going out and flirting, and often the sex was over. Life seemed to be over. At least its exciting part. But that has changed completely. Women at 50 look like 40; years lived is no longer the only measure of age. Not only do women feel much younger than they are, they also look younger, and they actually get happier for a while as they get older.

A third of life in front of you

Menopausal women now have far more time to live than in any previous generation. The estimated life expectancy when a woman in Germany turns 50 is another 34 years. At the time of menopause, women are in a sense their middle age - almost a third of their lives are still ahead of them.

After menopause, women feel eleven years younger on average, according to a study by the University of Klagenfurt. The psychologists Alexandra Grillitsch and Brigitte Jenull interviewed 99 participants between 50 and 85 years of age, the average age was 58 years. “The mean perceived age, however, was 47 years,” they report in the “Journal für Psychologie”. "That means that women feel on average eleven years younger than they actually are."

Only one of the women surveyed said she felt older than she actually was. Although it is not known whether older women did not feel younger than the years of their life indicated, there are indications that women also appear, objectively, younger.

Because they actually look younger, says Renate Huch. The doctor headed the University Women's Clinic in Zurich until her retirement. If you look at old family photos and compare the grandmothers of the past with today's, you will see very big differences. The grandmas and great-grandmothers of that time looked a whole generation older than those of today - even though, on average, they became grandmothers and great-grandmothers at an earlier age.

The reasons for this obvious change are manifold: Today's much higher prosperity and the safe environment help to grow up and go one's own way without massive existential fears. Modern medicine helps to feel as healthy and fit as possible in all situations, for example during menopause with the help of hormone replacement therapy. In addition, there is a healthier lifestyle, more exercise and a balanced diet into old age. For example, not as many women smoked today as they did 50 years ago, says Huch. This relieves the hormonal balance and lowers the risk of many diseases. Equality in professional life also plays a role. “Women now have more leeway. They can perform tasks that are more important than in previous generations, ”says Renate Huch.

So it happens that women no longer have much to do with the old mother image of the age group over 50. The fact that women feel and look younger also makes them happier with their lives, as US psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema found out. Women, as she was able to show in a study with more than 1,300 men and women, do even better the older they get. According to the results of the study, women between the ages of 45 and 75 become less likely to become depressed and less likely to develop an anxiety disorder. They also felt less lonely than younger women.

For men, the trend is in the opposite direction: they tend to become lonelier, more anxious and more depressed as they get older. Nolen-Hoeksema justifies the fact that women flourish in the middle of their lives by saying that they know how to use their strengths and resources better than men. They are more likely to get support from their environment, go to the doctor more quickly, and look for tasks that give their life meaning. That makes women more adaptable, flexible and happier. An English long-term study by University College in London with more than 10,000 participants also shows that women aged 50 and over are happier and more optimistic than men of the same age group.

A positive view of your own body

In addition to women's social skills, there is another reason for this. According to research, the age of women also changes their view of their own body - for the better. Alexandra Grillitsch and Brigitte Jenull found not only that women feel younger, but also that they don't suffer too much from the weight gain that menopause often brings with it.

In the Klagenfurt study, the overweight women were even more satisfied with their bodies than the normal weight women, as the psychologists report. They felt more attractive and more confident. “The pressure to be thin could decrease with age,” the researchers suspect. Five kilos more or less simply doesn't play that big a role when you're over 50.

Renate Huch believes that too. According to popular wisdom, postmenopausal women either turn towards the “goat type” or towards the “cow type”, she says. After menopause, women tend to be rather thin or rather fat. Women would be more relaxed about it now. "In addition, the wrinkles are less visible in fuller women," says the doctor.

And something else has changed radically in the past few decades: the attitude towards sexuality of women over the age of 50. Nowadays, they do not have to spend the time afterwards as sexless beings. “In Western societies, women can live out their sexuality consciously and without fear. You can also turn to younger men without being socially ostracized, ”says the Zurich scientist.

And women definitely have lust. This was the result of a survey of 94 women between 50 and 82 years by the Munich gynecologist Gerlinde Debus. 53.2 percent of these women were still sexually active, 53.8 percent of them several times a month, 13.5 percent of them even several times a week. 68.3 percent of women experienced an orgasm during sexual intercourse and 86.2 percent during masturbation.

The conclusion of the Munich group of doctors: "Most women with menopause and shortly thereafter enjoy their sexuality to the same extent as they did during their entire fertile lifetime." There was a tendency among the older participants to be less frequent and less interested. but that's probably also due to their partners. While the maximum sexual activity in women is around 30 and after a slight decrease remains at a level that hardly changes, in men sexual activity decreases steadily from 30 onwards.

Renate Huch is convinced that feeling self-confident, young and attractive at the age of 50 will become the rule for women. Women like Madonna, exaggerated as their manner may seem to some, have helped. Of course, there is criticism that the average 56 year old butt doesn't look like hers. Then the singer says: “Yes what? But one day all women could have it. "