Birthdays, Birthdays and more Birthdays – When is one officially “over the hill”?

‘Over the hill’ is a colloquial phrase used for the very simple term, ‘old’. Where did this idiom come from though? It cannot be known for sure, but the phrase perhaps came from the fact that cemeteries in the past were often built on hills overlooking lower areas of towns and villages. Therefore, someone who had passed away would be buried somewhere over this hill. This idiom ‘over the hill’ has been adapted and now has common usage in the english language. Another possibility could be that the first part of one’s life is going uphill, because you’re young and have plenty of time to experience life, explore the world and everything in it, but once you’ve done all of this and you’re at the top, it’s all then downhill, suggesting you are ‘over the hill’.  
 
I think the age that one feels or becomes ‘over the hill’ differs for each individual. I’m 21 and upto my 18th birthday, I was sure that by my 30th birthday I would be  old;  over the hill, and my parents, who were 41 years and 44 years old at the time, were definately past it. Now that I’m slowly getting closer to thirty, the goalpost for me is changing with anything past 40 years of age now being classed as ‘over the hill’. You see 40th birthday, 50th birthday and 60th birthday cards in greeting card shops littered with jokes about being ‘over the hill’ and ‘past it’. Do these jovial remarks mean that after the age of thirty nine, you can no longer make the most out of life?
 

I asked friends and family what they thought:
 
“60th or 65th birthday – Just because it’s the normal age of retirement. Really though, I think being over the hill has more to do with a person’s mental abilities than their age. I know some 80 year olds who still have it together where it counts, and some 40 year olds who are pretty senile already!”  
 
A neighbour told me that ‘It took me [him] 50 years to look this good!’ – I guess he doesn’t believe that he’s over the hill yet.
 
I carried out a survey, part-takers had to decide whether in their opinion they counted the following birthdays as being over the hill.
 
Birthday – Over the hill?

 

 Research shows that in today’s society men are living upto the age of 76 and women to the age of 81, as opposed to 66 and 71 respectively during the 1950’s. This is a dramatic increase in the length of the average life, it’s a huge 10 years extra in just 60 years or so, thanks to the development of medicine and technology. So in theory, being 40 years old is only half-way through ones life today, instead of two thirds through one’s life 60 years ago.  To conclude: people used to have shorter lifespans 60 years or so ago, living on average to the age of 66 (males) and 71 (females). The age one would feel or be classed as old in that time would consequently be younger than in today’s society where people are living upto the ages of 76 (males) and 81 (females). When then, is one officially over the hill?  From asking people and taking into account my own opinion, I think that it’s all about perception, you are over the hill when you feel and think you’re too old to live life to the fullest.
 
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