I turned 40 in 2012 and, living close to London, I felt like the hype and buzz of the Olympics and Paralympics turned it into a birthday ‘year’ for me. Everyone was happy, there were loads of events going on and we were enjoying the feeling as the whole country got involved. We had a postbox painted gold nearby and even though it was to celebrate a local boy getting a gold medal, I posted my mail in that box secretly thinking it was also done to celebrate my 40 years.
Now I’m about to turn 50, I’m feeling less excited. We’ve spent the last 21 months watching a virus tighten it’s grip on our planet. Each and every one of us has felt the impact on our work life, social life, family and friends. But I’ve decided to take my inspiration from 2021 – I can’t let life bring me down and just as I’ve learned to live with a new virus, I’m going to make sure I can learn to enjoy a new decade.
So what can you look forward to and how can you survive life after turning 50?
Get off life’s hamster wheel
At this stage in your life, family are now old enough to look after themselves or even leave home, so this will mean more free time and less obligations as you break free from some of those daily responsibilities. Enjoy any new-found free time completely guilt-free – exercise when you want and binge watch box sets to your heart’s content. With no specific demands on your time that revolve around family life and routines, you can eat lunch when you fancy it, enjoy relaxed walks with the dog rather than rushed ones when you get a moment, and even curl up with a book during the day rather than just getting through a couple of pages at night when you fall exhausted into bed.
Life might be feeling pretty comfortable – if you are lucky enough to be in relationship you want and settled in your career, life no longer feels like a ‘competition’. On the other hand you might not want those things and don’t actually give a shit about it – you might be feeling totally in control and perfectly happy that you don’t need to conform or compete.
Learn to love your body
I’m getting more saggy and craggy, but I’m over the initial shock. I’ve got used to boobs that now work as a compass unless bra-assisted, pointing south when I stand or east and west when I lie down. There are some bits of me that wiggle and jiggle more now than they did 10 years ago, but I’ll get over that, too.
This does mean I’m going to need to change my exercise routine. Lockdowns have taught me that if I do nothing I feel dreadful. If I’m feeling tired and achy, the easy option is to be lazy and do nothing, but that often left me with zero energy and in a low mood. I have learned that moving more every day, even just a little bit, gives me a boost and makes me feel happier.
I need this body to serve me well for a few more decades yet, so I’m going to do gentle walks, gardening, housework and anything else what will keep me on the move each day. I might not be able to do the punishing gym routines I used to enjoy any more, but I can certainly continue with more age-appropriate exercises and slightly gentler weights.
Use the new decade to revamp your wardrobe. I’ve got a lot of cheaper, tatty items that have been used and abused over the years. I’m going to reduce the portion of my wardrobe that is groaning with items that are quick to put on when I need to fly out the house in a hurry – the look of late has been a little too much ‘vagabond-chic’ as I dressed for comfort and practicality.
As life comes back on track and we begin to socialise again, the tatty lounge-wear and dog-walking outfits are going to need to be replaced. I no longer want to be a haggard, middle aged scruff. I’m going to buy some nice clothes for myself that are better quality, smarter and make me feel good when I wear them.
Get more sleep
Getting older means we can no longer burn the candle at both ends. I don’t know about you, but heavy workloads and demanding projects at work can sometimes fill me with dread these days, rather than the buzz of excitement I used to get in my 30s. I have learned that I need my sleep and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Unfortunately as I’ve got older, sleep issues have crept in. Late nights, early mornings and random spells of perimenopausal-insomnia have all take their toll.
I’ve found that getting more fresh air in the day improves my sleep. I have recently redecorated my bedroom, replaced the mattress and bought all new bedding which has made an amazing difference. I have made my bedroom calm, comfortable and a place where I can relax, and by working on my sleep hygiene and routine bed times, I’m making sure I now get the sleep I need.
Live life on your own terms
As we get older we do learn when and how to say ‘no’. If you haven’t mastered the art yet, then your 50’s should be the perfect time to start. Learn to relax, let go and enjoy the moment. Stop being a people pleaser and stop wasting your free time doing things that you do not enjoy.
Develop a ‘why not’ attitude and instead say ‘yes’ to the things that make you happy. Try new things. Make new friends. Embrace new hobbies. You now have the time and possibly the disposable income to do all the things you’ve been putting off for years.
You might be really lucky and have been able to set up a small nest egg or even be close to paying off a mortgage. This could be a time where you can enjoy life a bit more because many of your financial struggles are now behind you. Or maybe now is the time to get some financial advice and prepare for the future. Maybe you can downsize or up your pension contributions.
Now is the time when you start to think when and how you will spend your retirement. Hopefully there will be a few more decades to come, so you really need to work out a spending plan and how much longer you may need to work before you frivolously throw your hard-earned spare cash away. On a more serious note, now may also be the time to get your estate in order and even make a will.
Turning 50 isn’t the end of the world. After all, if you take life a day at a time, you are only a day older than you were yesterday. Whatever your age, you are always as young as you feel.