With female friends of the same age group I wanted to find out what had been the biggest challenge they have so far faced on turning 50.
Here are some of their responses.....
- Menopause = hormones. Period.
- Getting breast cancer at 55 – thankfully I’m now ok and enjoying my 60s
- Losing my husband at 50
- Divorce and becoming self-employed
- Coping with my husband’s new found heart condition
- My parent’s difficulties: my father’s descent into severe senile dementia and subsequently going into permanent care, and my mother’s sadness and bewilderment at being on her own for the first time in her 80 years
- Being a mother to my mum who has Alzheimers
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Divorce, breast cancer and redundancy in that order, in the last 5 years
- Seeing the years crawl across my face
- Joint pain
- Worrying that, no matter what I do, the fat around my middle keeps expanding
- The fact that my "female bits" have dried up and have to resort to artificial means to enjoy a "love life" (regardless of whether I want one or not)
- Hairs on my chin that are thick white bristles and can't be removed by electrolysis, together with failing eyes that need reading glasses over contact lenses, and the difficulty of seeing clearly to tweezer said bristles.
- Learning to support, letting go and allowing ‘grown up’ children to get on with their own problems with work and relationships.
“Going self- employed and loving it”
By the time we reach our 50s, we also have to try and continue to be resilient and healthy, whilst retaining the enthusiasm and energy to still enjoy experiences such as building new relationships, perhaps re-kindling old friendships through digital and non-digital platforms, learning new skills, developing exciting life plans such as travel and self-employed business ventures, and throwing ourselves into a new hobby.
“The challenge for me is simply not being perceived in the same way as before.”
Those of us currently in our 50s are of the baby-boom generation who had, and still hopefully have, the mind-set that we can achieve whatever we set out to do and the endless possibilities that can bring. A study carried out by the National Studies/Older People/Audit Commission Report clearly recognises that “...independence is about exercising choice and control.” “.......the make-up of the older age group is beginning to reflect the first generation immigrants of the 1950s and the post-war baby boomers who, during the 1960s, redefined what it means to be young.”
“The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.” ― John Lennon.
But, of course, a healthier and longer life with more responsibilities (such as looking after increasingly elderly parents, continuing to financially support our children through University..... and until they find a job, being fit enough to continue to enjoy our leisure time etc.) does come with a price tag - in as much as a bottomless pit of disposable income and heaps of reserve energy that we have to draw on.
“My biggest challenge has been leaving paid employment, re-training and becoming self-employed - but only working when I want to so I can enjoy my leisure time”
As our life expectancy increases, is it really the only way forward to believe that being 50 is the new 40? Will this help us to remain current, active and employable?
“My challenge is always having to keep up with trends, but at the same time just being who you are.”
When I began my working life in 1977 the retirement age for women was 60 years old. It has now crept up to 67 years of age (66 years and 10 months, for me, to be precise) and, therefore, I will have to invest almost a further 7 years (or 84 months or 2,555 days) of my precious life at a workplace, in order to be able to draw the State pension, by which time I will have been contributing to the HM Revenue & Customs' coffers for a total of 50 years (I started work at age 17). See the This Is Money article which explains the rule changes to the State pension age which will see people work longer. Find out when you will be allowed to retire (scroll down for the latest exact dates)...
Indeed, will I still be relatively fit and well enough, at 67 years of age, to enjoy my delayed retirement, or will I be exhausted from almost a continuous 50 years of full time working, currently 9 hours a day with a daily 2 hour commute?
Furthermore, when I began my career in 1977, the average working week was a respectable 35 hours – it’s now an average of 48 hours with the (compulsory) expectation that you opt out of the Working Time Regulations directive and don’t get paid any extra remuneration for any overtime worked.
“Ageism is, unfortunately, rife in the workplace”
May I be bold enough to ask the question, “Why should employed staff work for no extra reward over and above their contracted hours?” In my books, working for no financial reward is called ‘volunteering’ – something one can do once one has retired from being employed/self-employed. Or should I really feel gracious that I am very lucky to actually be in full time employment, at my age?
I fully agree with Jessica Stillman's article entitled Why Working More Than 40 Hours a Week is Useless which explains the research behind the fact that consistently working more than 40 hours a week is simply unproductive.
BBC News – 20th August 2013
“The gender pay gap increases with each rung of the management ladder, says the CMI, with male salaries already almost 25% higher than women's before bonuses are even taken into account.”
And, to add insult to injury, since the 1970 Equal Pay Act came into force, there is still, decades later, an unequal gender pay gap! ‘Nick Clegg calls for more openness on gender pay gap.’
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Does our gift of experience add advantages to the way in which we handle the rest of our lives, and enable us to overcome all the negative aspects of getting older? The importance of continuing to exercise our mind and body, to keep our brain, heart and muscles strong is, in my view, a complete necessity.
Moreover, with many marriages breaking down, and divorce rates rising for the over-60s, notwithstanding our inherent (baby-boomer) quest for a new independence and a need for what I can only describe as an ‘I am me’ single brand recognition, this also brings with it the responsibility of ensuring all your personal future financial needs will be taken care of.
As responsible, adult individuals we have the duty to make certain that we have the means to secure a roof over our head and are fit and healthy to look after ourselves. This can be a scary realisation when private pensions are no longer performing as well as they did when we first took them out in the booming 1980s, and we now have to work additional years before we can receive our State pension.
As divorced/separated females, we no longer have the safety net of a partner’s financial input into the household pot, and may not be able to afford to retain the level of comfortable existence that we once enjoyed when gainfully employed and in a marital partnership.
With families moving away far and wide, both in the UK and abroad, and their own responsibilities to contend with, there is rarely the close knit family support that once was enjoyed by the British traditional parent/family unit.
However, it’s surely not all doom and gloom, you may exclaim? We must also highlight the positive aspects of being 50 and looking towards being 60!
“Finally respecting myself”
The positive challenge responses that I received, and which jumped out for me, include ‘having the courage to go it alone’, finding a ‘new sense of freedom’, being ‘self-employed and loving it’ and ‘enjoying new experiences’.
“My challenge has been starting my own curtain making business - but it’s the best thing I have ever done!”
Personal achievement and the confidence to go ‘all out for it’, with both arms outstretched, is something to be greatly admired. An inner strength not to give up is a very admirable and a commendable trait which I believe women, of any age, do extremely well.
In the main we, as females, are of course, the natural nurturers, the carers, the ones that ‘hold it all together’ for the family and, by the time we reach our 50s, we may have the new found opportunity and time to turn that ‘giving’ to personally receiving the gift of our own ‘unconditional love’.
Last week I read a motivational quote which summed it all up for me. A great way to direct my thoughts and feelings when I have specific problems and everyday challenges to face.....
“Draw a line. Live above it”
I truly believe, by not allowing any negative aspects to infiltrate above this imaginary line, by calling anything below this line ‘well-earned experience’, we may all have the opportunity to continue to move forwards, and really be able to enjoy our 50s and far into our 60s – indeed, whatever life may throw at us!