Turning 50? It’s only middle-age if you say it is
Four women share their experiences and advice for those in their 50s
Anne Brannick out on the water
Age is just a number. Which is a very easy thing to say when you’re still in your 20s or gracing your 30s. When turning the big 5-0, we’re told we’re at middle-age and it’s time to slow down. This couldn’t be further from the truth for many women. Turning 50 is a time to feel incredible and move yourself out of the so-called middle-age scenario. We may fear this number as menopause hits or settles in and as massive life changes unwind our world, but there is a revolution happening. 50 is no longer considered an age to begin settling.
Award winning interior designer and winner of RTÉ’s Showcase, Anne Tuohy, never truly felt her age. Her biggest rule for walking into your 50s is determining for yourself when middle-age starts. “For some people that is at 40 or 50, and if you believe that, middle-age will start for you then. I’m looking at 70, so I have a while to go yet.”
Tuohy trained as a nurse, was a stay at home mother and discovered a passion and love for interior design when she was technically hovering around middle-age.
Stepping outside the box and reinventing herself, her life and career, she began Room Junkie, an interior design business which sees her specialising in new builds and extensions, regularly contributing to national radio and writing a popular design column for a women’s magazine. Reinventing houses allowed her to reinvent herself.
Crossing our 50s comes with life changing events and a chance to embrace life despite it being a tough time. “When Mum died,” says Tuohy, “I had a massive void and emptiness in my life and that’s when Room Junkie was born. I focused all that energy into creating beautiful homes for my clients, which still gives me incredible joy and satisfaction. My biggest challenge was determining my personal ‘amazing’, that which sets me apart from every other designer.”
Tuohy reminds us to push ourselves to do things which are out of our comfort zone. “I knew nothing about business,” she says. “This was such a powerful learning journey for me, and I loved every minute. I survived the setbacks and major losses.”
Wellness mentor, yoga teacher and international speaker, Louise Tyrell, found turning 50 to be a difficult period in her life. “I was feeling very low as I was struggling with the grief of my dad dying and other losses. I remember tossing and turning at night, wondering where the years had gone as I reminisced about my roller-coaster life.”
These crossroads can be a positive wake up call for many of us who battle with the challenges and curveballs life throws at us. “Along with poor sleep,” says Tyrell, “I was having hourly hot flushes, declining confidence, diminishing eye-sight and a slower metabolism which led to a 15-kilo weight gain. I also made the decision to close my business.
“Even though my energy was low, I knew deep down something had to change. Staying on the slippery slope meant I was heading for disaster. Working as a wellness mentor since 1999, I had helped hundreds of people to change the course of their health. Surely, I could help myself. After several months following my own wellness programme, I managed to shed the excess weight, improve my fitness, re-gain confidence and frankly feel better than I did at 40.”
Tyrell founded ZenLife Yoga and WOW: Wellness of Women, an online safe space for women who are ready to achieve their wellness goals. She returned to teaching yoga full time and is delighted that at 52 she is offering yoga and wellness programmes online.
Find new interests
Investing in your health is a necessity at this age, to ensure you can enjoy every day with family, friends and at work. Life coach (FCCA) Mary MacRory says, “Fifty is a turning point for most women, not just because of the psychological impact of the number 50. Their minds are still alive, alert and living to the full. Having a good and positive mindset is a huge bonus after 50. The downside of the menopause is another story, however. But knowledge is power. Well Woman Centres are a good place to get well-balanced, women-centric advice and it’s advisable to locate a GP who is particularly knowledgeable on this area.”
Be confident knowing that the process is normal, MacRory reminds us. “Our shape changes - naturally - so stop beating yourself up trying to fit into clothes you wore at a different stage in your life. Engage in suitable exercise such as yoga, walking, golf or Pilates for over 50s, or gardening. Take up new interests like art, pottery or music and learn new creative skills.”
Put your own oxygen mask on first
Anne Brannick, fully accredited member and former chairperson of the Irish Association of Relationship Mentors found turning 50 a breeze. “It was a steady release of all the rules and regulations I had made for myself in my head. Practicing as a parent and relationship mentor keeps me in a daily practice of self-reflection on my own thoughts, actions and dreams.
“At 50 it suddenly came to me that I was no longer going to be afraid of what other people think. Easier said than done. The unconscious shadow will rear its head until we become aware of our struggles. Kayaking was one pursuit that helped me with this. I had been feeling down with very low energy even though life was going well. I had seen a vitamin therapist who recommended Vitamin D but felt no change taking the supplements.
“Kayaking ignited something in me and at 57 I travelled down regularly to Cahir for lessons. The excitement of being on the water was like nothing I had experienced before. Here I was someone considered an oul one at something vitally new. The natural flow of the river creating obstacles to be negotiated kept my mind in the present moment and focused on where I was going.”
Brannick has learned many metaphorical lessons from the river, the boat and the skill of kayaking. One essential lesson being, put your own oxygen mask on first. You are in no place to look after anybody if you can’t look after yourself first. Brannick recognises when we identify with being the carer, we will unconsciously meet the needs of others even though not meeting our own needs causes us stress and struggle.
Brannick’s advice at turning 50 is recognising that all of our behaviour makes sense and to get to know your inner self and what makes you tick. One step at a time in your own time.