It’s noon on a Sunday morning, and Matt C. is just waking up. The married father of two works during the week at a securities firm in Chicago, but Saturday nights belong to him. “It’s my way of taking care of myself,” he says. He spent the evening at the Green Mill in Chicago, a popular local club once owned by gangster Al Capone in the ’20s — there are bullet holes in at least one of the booths — that hosts a late-night jazz party that runs till 5 a.m.
Matt was one of the last customers to leave. This is only surprising because Matt is 42, an age in which adults are expected to outgrow their enthusiasm for late-night carousing.
Matt was surprised to hear about a 2017 survey from a UK electronics retailer that found an overwhelming majority believes that 37 is the age when a person is officially too old to go clubbing. “That’s such a weird, arbitrary number,” Matt says, laughing. “At 37, you should stay home and play pinochle and be asleep by 9?”
The UK “survey” cited several examples of why older people don’t go out: It’s too expensive. They’re tired. They can’t find a babysitter. But let’s focus instead on why people over 37 do keep leaving the house to hit the clubs. We assembled an informal panel of late-night enthusiasts, all in their 40s or older, and asked what keeps them excited about going out at night — despite being “too old to party.”
1. They’re still partying late, just not at the same clubs their kids are.
“It's kind of arrogant to assume people of a certain age aren't going to clubs just because you don’t see them at your favorite spots anymore,” says Dennis, 47, a Brooklyn native. He steers clear of places with pulsating house music and singles looking to mingle. Instead, he goes to a place called Retro Club NYC, in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, which opened this summer. “It caters to the over-35 set in a noncondescending way,” he says. “They play music from the ’80s and ’90s, it’s quieter and has better cocktails, and I just feel less out of place.”
Nightclubs like this exist all over the country, from the Velvet Tango Room in Cleveland to the Edison in Los Angeles, where mixology and elegant dancing replace our youthful “tastes.” Matt, who claims the crowd at the Green Mill jazz nights is mostly 40 or older, says the trick is not being afraid to let your club tastes evolve. “I grew up going to punk clubs,” he says. “But in my 30s, it wasn’t as much fun to be in mosh pits. I go to jazz clubs now and have bocome a bonafide nerdy jazz freak.”
2. Drinking is more fun after 40.
“I didn’t have a healthy relationship with alcohol in my 20s,” says Henry L., 58, of San Francisco. “But now I sip booze rather than gulp it. Which makes going out and partying till 2 a.m. a lot more fun — and I can function the next day!”
It’s not even just about avoiding a hangover. New research from the University of Cambridge, published earlier this year by the British Medical Journal, found that moderate drinkers — those who drink two to three cocktails a few times a week — were less likely than nondrinkers to suffer from cardiovascular issues such as heart attack, aortic aneurysm and stroke.
3. Being social might make you live longer.
Bob T., 39, has been married for a decade, but he still goes out clubbing with his male friends. But they aren’t trolling for hotties anymore. “Nobody makes me laugh — or forget my troubles — like these guys. If we didn’t have the clubs, I don’t know when I’d find the time to see them.”
According to a 2017 study by the University of Oxford that examined the neurological effects of male socializing, Bob has the right idea. Physically getting together with at least four male friends two times a week can help strengthen a man’s immune system and decrease his levels of anxiety.
4. Everyone is more self-conscious than you.
When Rene T., 52, of Philadelphia doubts whether she really wants to go out on the weekend, she just reminisces about herself at 23 — when she was broke, insecure and desperate to hook up. “We were all just walking nerve ends in leather pants.” But today, she runs her own company, has a family and is more comfortable in her own skin than ever.
“That helps me get out of my head,” she says. “Why am I worried about being too old? I can't possibly be more needy and self-conscious than literally everybody else at the club. That's like staying away from church ’cause you're worried about being judged by the congregation. Trust me, everybody there is way more focused on their own sins.”
5. Not all millennials are out having more fun than you.
If your biggest concern about staying home is that only old people skip the clubs, think again. Another UK study, this one from 2016, found that a whopping two-thirds of millennials prefer staying in over a night out.
“Going clubbing sounds like a slice of hell,” says Josh F., 24, a recent college grad living in Atlanta. “Why would I do that to myself? There’s a reason my generation invented the phrase Netflix and chill” — a slang term for staying home and having sex while watching a Netflix movie instead of going out. “It’s because we all know that spending all of your money to shatter your eardrums and get groped at some sweaty club can be awful.”
Eric Spitznagel has written for Playboy, Vanity Fair and the New York Times Magazine, among others.