And that includes me. I’m no longer responsible for the care of my parents, and I enjoy blogging and freelance SEO work. But after nine years of shadow-boxing with Google and social media I’m also hankering for something rooted in real life, to give me some balance.
Something that will get me out of my home office, to meet people face-to-face, and deal with real, three dimensional things. (Although not as basic as the cleaning business I ran several lifetimes ago!)
A new life stage for women over 50
Traditionally people would be looking forward to winding down and retirement at this age. As a friend remarked, ‘Our mothers had started to become beige and invisible.’ But I haven’t come across anybody who is even considering retirement.
A natural time for a new start
There are many reasons why my female friends want a new start. I’ve met women over 50 who:
- want a new direction after a long and successful career
- have recovered after chronic illness and want an outlet for their new-found energy
- want or need to earn a living
- have children who have left home/no longer need as much attention
- have no/poor pension provision
- are now free of the responsibility of elderly parents
- still want to learn and grow
Over 50 is a good time because:
1. ‘It takes until you’re 50ish to work out what you’re good at,’ I was once told by someone who’d been at the very top of a banking career before setting up his own business. ‘When you have a career you get up in the morning and do it, you don’t have time to reflect on what you like to do.’
2. You’re more likely to be successful. Over 70% of the businesses started by those over 50 survive for at least five years, compared with only 28% for younger people, according to a Telegraph article about so-called ‘olderpreneurs’.
But it’s not easy
1. All the women I know are looking at a new start-up of some kind, not surprisingly since my acquaintances tend to be self-employed. But it’s just as well – society and the world of work are ageist and older women struggle to find jobs.
When her father was terminally ill Helen Walmsley-Johnson left her job as PA to the editor of The Guardian. After his death, despite hundreds of applications, she was unable to get another job to support herself while she built her new writing career (her latest book, Look What You Made Me Do: A Powerful Memoir of Coercive Control, has just been published).
2. Support is often geared to younger people, or tends to attract a much younger crowd, something I’m all too conscious of as I step back into the world of networking after a long gap.
‘…turning up at yet another support group/event to find I was the only person over 40, was so alienating, eventually I stopped going‘, says Jane Kellock, who set up a forecasting service for the fashion and lifestyle industries when she was 51.
3. The age gulf may even start sooner, in your 40s, and appear online, as well as off. Helen Redfern of A Bookish Baker recently asked Is there ageism in blogging? In her ‘very early 40s’, Helen asks ‘Where are all the ‘mature’ women…who are forging an online career? Have we fallen off a cliff?’
To which Vanessa Dennett of The Simpson Sisters, also in her 40s, tweeted ‘I have certainly felt as though I was stepping into a world I don’t belong in.’
Where women over 50 can get support for change
I’d love to know! Our own peer group is tremendously supportive, but are we doomed to feel like conspicuous outsiders, even interlopers, when we look further than our friends?
Women over 50 have such valuable experience and so much potential to continue to contribute for a long time yet, but it feels like the world needs to catch up with that reality.
(Photos from Kaboompics)