Victor Hugo once famously said, "Forty is the old age of youth; 50 the youth of old age." But times are changing, and in this first decade of the 21st century, 50 is beginning to take on a whole new meaning. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average U.S. life expectancy in 2004 was 80.4 for women and 75.2 for men, marking an increase of about eight years since 1970.

At the same time, a new generation is redefining what it means to be 40, 50, 60, and beyond. Not only does today's "middle-age" set look years younger than their parents did; they feel younger and are living richer, fuller, healthier lives. How can you follow their lead? Try these six tips to start revealing a more youthful you.

  • Sleep well. In addition to decreasing your energy and overall daily performance, the National Sleep Foundation reports that lack of sleep can increase your risk of developing serious health conditions such as diabetes, depression, and even heart problems. Everyone's sleep needs are different; to find out what yours are, experts recommend you turn off the alarm clock when you're well rested, and see how long you naturally sleep. While you're at it, ask your spouse if you snore, as this may indicate sleep apnea, a condition that causes sufferers to temporarily stop breathing. An estimated 18 million Americans have the disorder, but many don't know it, the National Sleep Foundation reports.
  • Strengthen your core. Yoga and Pilates are low-impact programs, but they can greatly increase strength in the core section of your body. Pilates practice has also been praised for its ability to help prevent injury; adults undergoing serious rehabilitation therapy can even use Pilates to increase their range of motion and overall muscle strength.
  • Learn something new. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost half of the adult U.S. population is enrolled in some form of lifelong learning. Enriching your mind with something new, such as a foreign language, a dance routine, or a home renovation skill, offers benefits such as improved memory and increased self-confidence. It also provides a good social outlet and a chance to meet new people.
  • Whiten your teeth. A bright, fresh smile can take years off your appearance, and it's easier than ever to whiten your teeth. Two of the most popular options are in-office whitening, which may involve lasers, and at-home whitening with a custom-fitted tooth tray and bleaching gel. When selecting a whitener, be sure to look for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
  • Go easy on makeup. Although makeup artists recommend using foundation to even out skin tone or cover problem areas, they generally discourage using it to cover wrinkles. Instead of concealing signs of age, heavy foundation tends to emphasize them more.
  • Cover the gray. Dyeing away gray is a great way to appear more youthful; you may even choose to add a few face-framing highlights. Not only will this add shine and luster to your hair, it will also help disguise changes in older skin that can lead to a dull, sallow complexion.