Five Infuriating Fibs About FOFs
I turned 50 five years ago, and was ready to run for the hills. I wasn’t shocked, just unsure what it all meant, and very confused.
It was time to assess: When did those pounds magically land on my body? What did my doctor mean when he told me I was “a tad too close to osteopenia?” How did my hair end up looking like road kill? Why were my skin, eyes — and a few other places — so dry? Was I at a greater risk for developing certain cancers and other diseases? And, would I ever again fit into my 7 for All Mankind jeans?
Fortunately, I figured out how to handle the “physical” aspects of turning 50 — the weight gain, potential health issues, style considerations, money matters and so much more — after interviewing experts in every field, and following their recommendations, for my book The Best of Everything After 50. Happily, I continue to get inspiration and ideas from the many FOFs with whom I’ve connected since the book came out.
What I found most difficult to work through (and often still do), however, were the years of media messages that had wormed their way into my brain and made me believe that turning 50 meant I’d become invisible, powerless, averse to change, glum, cranky, and unsexy, and should step aside to make room for the infinitely more beautiful, desirable, hirable, acquisitive, and loveable younger generation.
Isn’t it time to change the national discourse about aging, starting with squashing some of the biggest lies about women, which only undermine our self-esteem and confidence?
A handful of the more infuriating fibs:
FOFs are invisible
Hmmm. We actually make up the largest demographic in the history of the world. Every seven seconds someone turns 50. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a projected 57.8 million baby boomers will be living in 2030, and over 55 percent will be women. Invisible? Far from it. Together, we represent a lot of voices. Now, we just have to raise them.
FOFs are undesirable consumers
Wrong again. According to Pew Research Center and AARP, Americans 50+ control 70 percent of all U.S. wealth, generate $2 trillion in annual income and account for 50 percent of all discretionary spending. We purchase 41 percent of all new cars, own more homes (including second homes) and spend more money on goods and services than any other age group. We are responsible for 40 percent of all technology and gadget purchases—far more than any other demo. We drive elections, accounting for the biggest voting blocs in both 2008 and 2010. We have more iPads and smartphones than any other group. We also record and watch more programming on our DVRs than anyone else.
Yet, advertisers still don’t want to be associated with aging. While they continue to covet the 18-34 demographic, the 50- to 64-year old demographic is the fastest growing in the nation. Ignore us at your peril, I say.
An FOF’s biggest fear is how we look as we age
Completely false. Sure, we’d all love to have the same skin we once had, but we know there are many lotions, potions and tools at our disposal to give us back some of what the years have taken away.
Actually, our biggest fear concerns our finances. Women 50+ worry they won’t have enough money to live a good life as we age, or even enough to simply get by. Many FOFs confess to me that they wish they’d made better and smarter financial choices earlier in their lives. Divorce over 50 also is on the rise, leaving women in precarious economic situations. Combine that with the poor job market, and you’ve got a perfect storm for fear. Yet, women also are the driving forces behind micro-enterprises in this country, fueling the growth of small businesses. The best things we can do are get a handle on our spending and saving, and turn anxiety into action.
FOFs can’t get our bodies back
Guess again! We often say this as an excuse for letting ourselves go, which serves no purpose whatsoever. It’s also an extremely effective tool for marketers who want us convinced that the only way we can lose weight and get in shape is by buying their specialty weight loss products and/or purchasing expensive gym memberships and hiring personal trainers. I gained 15 pounds – slowly, but surely — after going through menopause. But with a commitment to healthy eating (including small, frequent meals throughout the day), and moving my body every day (walking with running intervals, and back-to-basics strength-training exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups, squats and the Plank), I am in better shape now than ever, lost (and kept off) the 15 pounds, and am keeping osteoporosis at bay. Even if you haven’t worked out since your 20s or 30s, you can get your body back.
FOFs are averse to change
Midlife is all about change, especially for women. Our bodies are changing. Children are growing up. We’re reviewing our lifestyle options: retirement, career, relationships, everything. We want to know what our opportunities are. We’re eager to learn, start businesses, forge new relationships. We’re taking stock and figuring out what our next chapters will be. If there’s a single demographic that understands, accepts, even relishes change, it’s FOF women. That’s part of what makes us FOF.
In the book, Daring To Be Ourselves, singer Melissa Etheridge said:
“We are getting older, and we are getting wiser, and we are getting freer. And when you get the wisdom and the truth, then you get the freedom and you get power, and then look out. Look out.”