The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Turning 50 for Women

Your 50s can be a decade of transition and opportunity

50th Birthday Cake

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Entering a new decade of life is a milestone worth celebrating. Entering your 50s is even more exciting. Of course, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Some people understandably feel apprehensive about aging, which makes milestone birthdays particularly anxiety-inducing.

As with anything, there are good and bad aspects to turning 50 years old. Here are some of the things ahead to look forward to (or dread).

What It Means to Turn 50

For women, turning 50 means different things around the world. In the U.S, jokes about being "over the hill" put a negative spin on aging. Compare this to the Netherlands, where women who turn 50 have "seen Sarah," meaning that they are old enough and wise enough to have seen the biblical wife of Abraham (whose name was Sarah). They are honored with a birthday celebration that acknowledges their experience and superior insight.

The Downsides to Turning 50

Physical Changes

Turning 50 heralds a decade of transitions, many of them involving physical changes. Whether it's more gray hairs, weaker eyesight, or more aches than you used to feel, aging takes a toll on your body. Just remember that these changes are natural, so there's no need to feel stressed about them.

The Empty Nest

If you have children, empty-nest syndrome from kids leaving for college and beyond can certainly get you down. In the long run, though, the freedom can be exhilarating, providing an opportunity to try something new such as a career change, going back to school, or moving to a new location.

Divorce

Lastly (and perhaps least cheerfully), turning 50 years old can precipitate the infamous "midlife crisis," and divorce is a common outcome. Experts say that women tend to respond to aging with a drive to improve aspects of their lives they may have been unhappy with over the years. Thus, 50-year-old women are often more willing to uproot a core part of their lives, like a marriage.

The Upsides to Turning 50

Body Confidence

Despite the physical changes that come with turning 50, women often acknowledge being more comfortable in their bodies and less critical of how they look.

This self-acceptance, combined with a significant benefit of menopause—freedom from unintended pregnancy—often enables women to enjoy sex more in their 50s. The rise of the cougar (women who date significantly younger men) proves that interest in sexual activity does not end once a woman passes a set number of years of age.

Time for Yourself

Additionally, women in their 50s often find that as their obligations to children and family are lessened, they're able to focus more on themselves. Many women report eating better and getting into better physical shape than they have been for years. And with this comes a heightened sense of self-esteem.

For similar reasons, 50-year-old women are better able to cultivate and enjoy friendships. While getting together with female friends may have been restricted to a rare girls' night out years ago, there is often more time and resources available at age 50 for more frequent social activities.

Improved Family Relationships

Relationships with children often improve as daughters and sons advance into adulthood. Living on their own, grown children have a better appreciation of the work their mothers did to help them have everything they needed. And as those children have kids of their own, they experience firsthand the sacrifices and burdens of parenting and gain understanding and gratitude for their mothers.

Plus, many women become grandmothers for the first time while in their 50s. As a result, they get to rediscover the joy of having babies, toddlers and little ones in their lives—and the benefits of being able to hand them back to mommy or daddy when the day or the visit is done.

Seeing 50 as a New Beginning

Turning 50 is certainly momentous, but it doesn't have to bring anxiety. Instead, it can be a time to evaluate what's important and what's not, and decide if a change is needed.

Fifty isn't the end of the world—it's a threshold that opens to new horizons. Whether you view the landscape ahead of you with optimism and hope or regret and fear may determine your quality of life when you reach your next milestones—60, 70, 80, 90, and beyond.