We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘Life begins at 40’. However, more and more women are having a complete new lease of life at 50, 60 and beyond.
Financial security, increased life experience and the fact that children grow up and become more independent mean that women over 40 have more freedom than ever before. And with this freedom comes a whole world of opportunity.
Mention middle age and inevitably the word ‘crisis’ springs to mind. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing—a recent survey highlighted that almost two-thirds of Brits considered a mid-life crisis to be beneficial by serving as a catalyst for positive change. A further study shows that people are happier in their 40s than they were at 18, with happiness peaking at the age of 69, an indication that the best is yet to come!
This ‘anything is possible’ attitude means that women are taking action and refusing to settle, whether that’s for uninspiring careers, relationships that have run their ground or the general monotony of middle age. As a result, it’s becoming the norm for women over 40 to take control of their lives by pursuing a new career path, embarking on a new relationship, achieving a trimmer, healthier body shape, realising lifelong ambitions or travelling to far-flung places—proving that it’s never too late to re-invent oneself.
To find out more about making these positive life changes, we spoke to the experts:
It’s all about you
Staying fit, maintaining a healthy diet and respecting your body will help ensure that you’re physically and mentally equipped to fully embrace all the opportunities open to the over 40s, as high performance and productivity coach Abigail Ireland explains:
We often take for granted the wonderful job our bodies do to keep us healthy, mobile and energised. As we age, we start to sit up and take notice as body parts perhaps don’t work as well as they used to. Backache, joint pain, muscle tightness, lethargy… wear and tear continues as we grow older and wiser. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. By making a conscious decision to nourish your body and mind, you’ll be better equipped to achieve physical and mental goals at all stages of life.
Here are some reasons why it pays to prioritise your wellbeing:
Stay strong and independent—Being physically active gives you the freedom to remain independent in later life. Research shows that thousands of people aged 65 and older die each year from fall-related injuries, with 20%–30% suffering from major issues such as hip fractures and head trauma that result in reduced mobility and independence. If you improve your balance, bone density and cardiovascular health, you’re essentially protecting yourself against dangerous falls, broken bones and ailments such as heart disease and osteoporosis. And as a bonus, you’ll notice a welcome change in your physical appearance and energy levels.
Slow down an ageing brain—Exercise and food support the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, both of which are needed to stay focused and mentally alert. Numerous studies point to the beneficial anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and other foods including cinnamon, oily fish and garlic. The curcumin in turmeric is said to slow down the onset of brain-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Reduce aches and pains—Muscle mass deteriorates from our late 30s onwards, so it’s crucial to preserve what we have for as long as possible. Muscles support our skeletal system, reducing pressure on our spine and joints as bone-buffering cartilage wears down over time. Getting an adequate amount of protein helps to build and replenish our muscle cells, while foods such as berries and pomegranate fight free radical damage and cell inflammation.
Be happier and less stressed—Making smart food choices is vital if you want to boost your performance, mood and overall wellbeing. Studies are increasingly proving that a two-way connection exists between the gut and the brain, which makes sense given that around 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract.
So, is it worth making more effort with fitness and nutrition? Definitely. Take control and achieve your goals with your body and mind to support you.
Improved body image
Middle-aged spread didn’t get its name for nothing—it’s an undeniable fact that it becomes harder to shift stubborn fat off the hips, stomach and chin as we get older. Sometimes exercise and diet alone can’t remove these unwelcome lumps and bumps, which is why an increasing number of women are turning to non-invasive surgery such as Sculpsure to refine their figure.
An improved body image undoubtedly increases confidence and allows us to enjoy wearing different styles and fashions, as opposed to using clothes to hide behind. One of the many benefits of age is that we’ve seen different fashions come and go and no longer feel the pressure to conform to the latest, generally unflattering look simply because the magazines say so. Instead we’re able to develop our own personal style, choosing cuts, colours and fabrics that make us happy, as personal stylist Lisa Talbot says:
“As we go through life, our bodies do change for various reasons. But I’m a massive believer that wearing what we love to suit our lifestyle, personality and body shape makes us feel more confident and happy.”
Mind over matter
We’re much better equipped to deal with the world around us if we’re in a good place ourselves. Mindfulness is rapidly becoming a way of life for many women to help achieve a balance between ‘plate spinning’ all the demands of day-to-day life. Mindfulness and meditation teacher Karen Liebenguth talks about the importance of mindfulness and how it can help women focus on themselves:
Modern life is fast-paced, complex and demanding, particularly for women who want to have a career, raise a family and—crucially for the over 40s—make time for their own personal development. A mindful practice helps us to have moment to moment awareness of our experience: of our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
Becoming more aware allows us to see our habitual ways of thinking and behaving—like running from one activity to the next. For instance, women typically will think ‘It’s selfish to focus on myself, it’s self-indulgent to meet my own needs. I should care for others.’ When we’re aware of such unhelpful thoughts, we can see that they are not true and change them into, for example: ‘It’s important to focus on myself as well as on others. It’s being self-responsible and self-caring when I look after my own needs for rest, sleep, social time, leisure, my interests, my passions etc…’
Mindfulness can give us practical tools we can use instantly to calm down, to clear the mind, to focus on what’s important to us. When we practice mindfulness we develop a good connection with ourselves, are at ease, become our own best friend and will have more to give to others too.
The ability to take a step back allows us to make wiser choices about how we respond to day-to-day happenings. It allows us to care better for ourselves, know when we need to say ‘no’, when it’s time to take a break, go for a walk, have me-time, call a friend, have a bath or enrol in a course or training in a subject we love.
Get out there
Another huge benefit of the increased time, money and freedom that comes about with age is having more opportunity to see the world. Travel consultant Britt-Marie Monks explains how the sky really is the limit when it comes to realising your holiday dreams:
It’s wonderfully liberating to be an older woman these days. With fewer responsibilities and much greater freedom than ever before, the world is our oyster and should be enjoyed. When the children have left home, our holidays are no longer centred around the need to entertain them and we don’t need to spend extra to get away during school holidays. Retirement means that having to ask your boss for time off is a thing of the past and with no other restraints on your time you’re free to visit all those places you’ve dreamed about, fulfil those lifelong ambitions and go on far-flung adventures.
Travelling on your own can be extremely liberating and is an experience that every woman should have at least once in their lifetime. Also, girls’ holidays are always fun. Any inhibitions and lack of confidence that may have held you back in your younger days are gone and it’s the perfect time to try new things. The choice is limitless—adventure holidays, active holidays, something sporty (sailing, cycling, walking, scuba diving, skiing), learning a new skill, volunteering for a charity overseas, a spa holiday or joining an educational trip. Alternatively, opting to go somewhere new and staying in a lovely hotel or villa with a group of friends is equally rewarding and enjoyable.
Maybe you’re thinking of something more permanent or taking a sabbatical? Dedicating a few months to travelling is a wonderful way to really get to know a country or a continent, and will be a truly memorable experience. Around-the-world tickets allow for multiple stops, which is really helpful if you’re wanting to go long distances. Many older couples nowadays are choosing to relocate, deciding to live out their retirement on the sunny Mediterranean coast or further afield. There are enormous health benefits to living in a warmer climate by the sea and you’ll never be short of visitors! Grab life with both hands and get out there!
Finding ‘The One’
There is a high chance that the person we are in our 40s bears little resemblance to the person we were in our 20s, and not just in looks. With this in mind it’s understandable that couples may drift apart over time, especially once children have flown the nest.
Of course there are many couples whose relationships grow stronger with the passing years. However, there is the undeniable fact that the 40s are a prime time for couples to go their separate ways. Relationship expert Sarah Louise Ryan talks about how the dating game actually gets easier with age:
Sarah Louise Ryan
For those who are edging towards 40 and daunted by the prospect, let me assure you that it’s not all doom and gloom. They say it’s tough to be in your 20s because you want to please all of the people all the time, while in your 30s you begin to find who you truly are. By the age of 40 most people are rocking their careers, their financial situation is just about right and they have figured out who their friends are through the good and bad times. Finding love in your 40s comes with far more emotional and financial freedom than in your early 20s—you’ve totally got this!
If you’ve found yourself single in your late 30s/early 40s and wondering how on earth this modern world of dating works as a singleton, don’t worry—half of the hard work in the search for a suitor is already done. You know who you are, what you want, what your value and what you’re willing to accept in a match. Furthermore, you know exactly what you won’t accept in a match and will be able to make your decisions quickly, effectively and without getting emotionally involved and invested in the wrong potential partners. Phew—what a relief.
Don’t get me wrong, starting over the search for your someone isn’t as easy as it once was when other generations could find someone in close social, geographical, educational and financial circumstances. Now, singles have to get to grips with online dating, where the pool is great but finding your match can be like looking for a needle in an overwhelming haystack.
My advice to any woman looking to find love at this stage in their life is to be authentic. Share learnings and experience you’ve accrued along the way in your 20s and 30s and remember that any single at this age and beyond also has a story to tell—there are no completely clean slates. Bring the best, most confident and most open-minded version of yourself to every dating profile, every swipe and every online or offline conversation and you’ll find very quickly who’s not quite right and who might be the right life-partner for you. I would wish you luck, but I don’t think you’ll need it.
Switching careers is said to be the most common ‘side effect’ of a mid-life crisis, and a quarter of Brits choose to do this after turning 40. Just as we can grow out of relationships we can equally become disillusioned with our jobs and crave different challenges. Public-speaking coach Shola Kaye talks about how it’s never too late to make your mark in business:
As a public-speaking coach and speaker, I network at a variety of different organisations and frequently see older women in attendance. These women have often already had a successful career and are now turning their hand to entrepreneurship. Sometimes it’s because they prefer to be their own boss, and often because they don’t want to work for corporates any more, with the long hours and inflexible structures that this can involve.
Many of these women have no plans to stop working, but want to continue making a contribution in a way that’s more satisfying for them. In entrepreneurship roles they’re able to enjoy the excitement of setting their own course alongside the satisfaction of being able to call upon their vast experience, both from the workplace and from life, to help them serve their clients.
Confidence among women is talked about a lot these days, and many of these women, having been successful in their careers, bring this confidence to their businesses. This enables them to speak up when advising their clients or when charting the direction of their business. Their experience leaves them unafraid to call out problems and queries and to advise clients in a frank way, which, of course, is refreshing for many! Older women are often happy to share what they know by accepting public-speaking engagements too.
Studies have shown that women’s confidence increases with age. The figures show that we lag behind men in terms of confidence until we reach our 60s, at which point we overtake them. Another reason to keep at it in business with increasing age.
So ladies, take advantage of your breadth of experience and faith in yourself to follow those career goals or fulfil your dream of running your own successful business. You’re never too old!