Today is the first day of the last year of my 5th decade of life. In other words, Happy 49th Birthday to Me!
When I was younger, I dreaded reaching this age. I couldn’t imagine what it would look and feel like, being almost 50. It just sounded so old. But now that I’m here, and I’ve never felt happier and healthier, I’m actually excited about growing older.
A few life events – some momentous, some mundane – have helped prepare me, in different ways, for middle age. Here are 7 things I think every woman should try to do before age 50:
1. Develop a daily exercise routine.
Yep, daily. We are meant to move. Every day. We need at least 60 minutes of accumulated moderate-to-vigorous activity per day (in at least 10 minute bouts), 4-5 total body stretching sessions per week, and 2-3 days of total body strength training per week. If you’re nowhere close to that, start with half of that and gradually increase over time. Consult a trainer to ensure you do it right. Then make it a non-negotiable habit just like brushing your teeth.
2. Lift weights. Serious weights.
This is important enough to emphasize with its own point: women over 50 are vulnerable to osteoporosis and sarcopenia – loss of bone and muscle. This often leads to pain, reduced range of movement, increased risk of fractures and loss of independence. If you enter your 50s with strong bones and muscles from years of lifting weights, you’ll be better equipped to weather the decline. Continue strength training for the rest of your life, and you might never be at serious risk for a fracture. Bodyweight strength training is good, but added resistance is more effective and it’s easier to progress.
3. Cut your hair short. Really short.
Okay, I mentioned some of these were mundane. But if you’ve had medium length or long hair your entire life, cutting it short makes you – and the world – see you in a different way. It’s scary but so liberating. I cut my hair short 10 years ago and loved it! (Remember, it always grows back.)
4. Become a better listener.
With so much of our modern communications based electronically, listening might seem like an antiquated skill. However, learning how to listen to others can improve every relationship you have, from work colleagues to family and friends, not to mention increasing your patience, perspective and empathy. Get started with this article from the New York Times! https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/be-a-better-listener
5. Deal with baggage.
Lots happens over 50 years. Some’s good, some’s bad. Sometimes, the aftermath of events cling to us – relationships that no longer serve us, grudges that weigh us down, habits that hold us in a repeating pattern. Recently, in a moment of reflection, I realized I was carrying some of these things around, and I didn’t want to bear their weight as I enter my 50s. I thought I had dealt with those demons in my twenties, but I realized I had just been ignoring them. Sometimes, we need a little help to do this: counseling, group therapy, silent retreats. Maybe we need to find acceptance, forgiveness – or maybe we need to hit the “delete” button. It’s often a long process, not a quick fix. But wouldn’t it be nice to feel freer in the second half of your life than you did in the first?
6. Learn to enjoy being alone.
Women live longer than men. In Canada, among people aged 55 to 59, women comprise 50.1% of the population. That increases to 63% for 85- to 89-year-olds, and 72% for those aged 90 and over. So, grim as it sounds, if you’re a heterosexual Canadian female, chances are at some point you’ll be single as a senior. Learn to enjoy your own company while you’re younger. Seek new hobbies and indulge current passions. Stay strong and mobile so you can live alone without assistance if you choose. And most importantly, maintain healthy friendships with other women.
7. Travel alone.
First, see above. 🙂
I find nothing more liberating than traveling solo. I love navigating airports and transit hubs alone. I get a thrill out of finding a trendy, crowded restaurant in an unfamiliar city on a Friday night and asking for a table – for one. Traveling alone takes confidence, and builds it too. You’ll need to figure out how to get where you’re going, and how to stay safe. An effective strategy for dealing with unwanted male attention comes in handy.
Who do you want to be?
The freedom to do and be whatever you want — with a healthy body, emotional strength and the wisdom that comes with learning things the hard way — can make you feel downright powerful. Like the over-50 woman you’ve always wanted to be.