Published in Yorkshire Post August 2007
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Living life to the full in your prime
by Dianne Bown-Wilson
When we're young we tend to think that by the time we're 50 we'll know it all. We fully expect we'll be successful, wise, confident, accomplished, likeable and fun-loving people with everything going for us, most of our ambitions achieved and very little about our lives that's wrong. But in 2007 many are finding it's not like that. In fact, many over 50s are stressed, striving, and still wondering when, if ever, they're going to "get there". Today in the UK, the 13 million or so who are between 50 and 70 have never had it so good. Sandwiched between middle and old-age, they're a rapidly growing, vibrant generation whose attitudes, aspirations and interests are a million miles away from those of the truly elderly. This is the generation with the greatest amount of disposable wealth, a hugely extended life expectancy, and a massive amount of freedom. So, if the media and marketing messages are to be believed, all over 50s are pushing the boundaries, being adventurous and living life to the full.
But things aren't as rosy as they seem. A huge proportion of over 50s are rocketing into retirement with insufficient funds to sustain them. Even those with good pensions who seem to have "made it" can find that this is a time when things start to turn sour. Questions of meaning and mortality start to sneak in. Boredom with the status quo, including jobs and relationships, combines with uncertainty about what to do next. Suddenly words like "set in your ways" and "past it" seem a bit too close to home. It all adds up to a state of restlessness and disquiet that they never expected to feel.
If you're "in your prime" and you don't feel as fantastic as you should, it can be difficult to know what to do. It's not always easy to create new goals. Even if we think we know what we want, how do we judge whether what we aspire to is admirable or embarrassing? What if we end up feeling foolish rather than fantastic? Where do we draw the line when for years we've been used to doing the same things in the same ways with the same outcomes?
In 2006 myself and Richard Ciechan who are life coaches, writers and business consultants looked at what it meant to be over 50 and we decided to establish an organisation to "help mature people rethink their lives".
Being over 50 represents a broad spectrum of experience. At one end there are those who are satisfied and happy and are looking for little more. At the other, there are those who are economically underprivileged and whose main concerns are focused around their health, wealth and fundamental well being. In the middle, there's a big group who are comparatively successful but find themselves wondering "Is that all there is?" There's a realisation that if we just accept that the best is behind us, then the future really isn't very bright.
We decided to write Primetastic! – 50 tips for life when you're over 50 as a simple self-help guide for like-minded over 50s to use as a starting point for change. It represents a distillation of 50 of the most common issues we come across. It's no exaggeration to say we could have written volumes but we decided it would be more useful to reduce the information to short, practical tips which people could dip into, think about and act upon in whichever ways would be meaningful for them. And it seems to have worked. People who've read it tell us they like its "back to basics" simplicity – it even looks like a journal or workbook.
At this age, we all really know what we need to do and be, but somehow, in some areas, we just get into bad habits. By reminding ourselves of those things we've always known but maybe have overlooked or forgotten, we can focus on seeing ourselves as others see us now – not as we were. And we can determine to find the courage, confidence and self-belief to become the best we can be. And for all of us that has to be not just "good for our age", but Primetastic.
Primetastic! – 50 tips for life when you're over 50 by Dianne Bown-Wilson and Richad Ciechan is published by Phosphorous Press, price £7.99. ISBN 978-0-9549229-1-7. It is available from www.inmyprime.co.uk or you can order a copy from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop on 0800 0153232 or online at at www. yorkshirepostbookshop.co.uk. P&P is £1.95
Tips for life when you are over 50
Keep learning. It keeps your brain active, improves your memory and speed of recall and ensures you remain an aware, interesting and dynamic person. Try to learn and use something new and valuable every day. And don't forget to revisit some things you think you know – you may find they've changed!
Lead a balanced life. Juggling the often conflicting needs of work, relationships and self isn't easy, but if you don't get the balance right, you'll never be happy. What worked earlier in life may not now, so take responsibility for your own and others' happiness and look at what you need to do differently for a more fulfilling and less stressful existence today.
Learn to listen. At this age, whether out of laziness, habit or disinterest, we often tend to jump to conclusions and assume we know what's being said. No wonder there's a stereotype that older people don't listen! So make an effort to demonstrate real interest by talking less and listening more, particularly when dealing with people from different generations.
Let go and move on. We've all had negative experiences in the past, but continuing to use them as an excuse for our lack of ambition or progress, or as a weapon to beat up someone else, ultimately leads to a lonely and embittered old age. So, grieve appropriately, lick your wounds, and make new plans – work hard at putting it behind you.
Find out what fun means for you. In our society, we tend to think of fun as loud, brash, high-octane activity but if that's not your style, it's not a problem. Fun is an individual emotion which involves doing something that you find absorbing, challenging and amusing. If takes you out of yourself and makes you feel life is worth living then it's fun – a great weapon in the war against ageing.
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