What birthday is officially over the hill?

Around a certain age people will start to tell you that you are over the hill.

But have you ever stopped to think about what actual age qualifies you for being over the hill? What is this so-called hill they speak of and at what age do we magically become over it?

What does age “mean,” anyway?

A birthday is something that happens to everyone once a year – unless you’re the Queen and are lucky enough to have two. And with every birthday that passes, a new preconception is attached to our age.

For example: your teens are characterised by puberty and all the joys that come with that. Remember braces, spots, and awkward encounters with people you fancied?

Then your twenties are said to be “the best years of your life.” Which doesn’t put any pressure on you to have a good time or anything. And the big 5-0 brings along with it a shiny, red, detachable hardtop midlife crisis.

According to Google, when do we become over the hill?

The phrase itself means to be past your prime. That your best years are now far behind you. But can we attribute this to a certain age?

A simple Google search will make the answer the most un-simple thing ever. And when even Google can’t get its answer straight, you know you’re in trouble.

Some sites proclaim that, as soon you turn 40, you’re over the hill. Apparently, forty is the average mid-point in life. Before that, you were a high-achieving young person. But after your 40th birthday, you are on the slow, irreversible decline to boring, musty old-age.

I even found a site claiming that you are over the hill when you hit the ripe old age of 27. Yes, that’s right. Twenty-seven! I hope this is untrue for two reasons:

  1. 27 is SO young. You’re still learning to tie your shoes properly in your twenties. How can can you already be past your prime after just seven years of stumbling over your laces?
  2. I’m not far off turning 27. And I refuse to believe that, in a few short years, I’ll be over the hill.

A historical look at old age

If we compare present day to the previous centuries, the age at which people are considered old is getting higher and higher. With modern science and technology, the average life expectancy is constantly increasing.

Way back when in ancient Egypt, due to high infant mortality rates and widespread disease, the average person died during childhood at 19. But if you were one of the lucky ones and survived your adolescent years, you could still only expect to reach your early thirties. Shocking right?

Whereas now, average life expectancy in the UK is 82. So “old” might start applying in your early seventies. If you believe in calling people “old,” that is. I don’t.

Hill? What hill?

In fact, I’m here to question the phrase being over the hill in its entirety. How dare someone else tell you when you are old or past your prime? Everyone knows that’s the job of your own brain, ‘round about 3AM.

If it were up to me, I’d banish the phrase altogether. Ignore it. If you ask me, you can never be over the hill, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. It’s all figurative talk anyway. There is no hill. Nor spoon.

If you don’t feel over the hill, then you’re not.

After all, life isn’t a continuous climb until a certain age, then a slow demise – it’s full of constant ups and downs. So, frankly, the imagery of the phrase to be over the hill just makes no sense.

So in answer to the original question – ‘What birthday is officially over the hill?’ – is that no birthday is. Each birthday, like each person, is wonderfully different, and brings with it new life experiences.

But as we all know, age is just a number. So don’t let yours, whatever it may be, define you. We’re all children at heart anyway, so let’s continue laughing ‘til our sides ache, dancing like nobody’s watching, and singing our hearts out when we’re stuck in traffic.


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