Our Willowberry Age Without Apology Insta Live Series is held bi-weekly on our Instagram page. These live chats with expert guests are designed to help you navigate age with confidence and style. Here are the highlights of our recent chat with Tracey McAlpine, Founder of online magazine Fighting Fifty. Watch our chat in full here.
Tracey McAlpine launched the online magazine Fighting Fifty after turning 50 and feeling shocked to find herself bombarded with ads for walk-in baths, stair lifts and funeral plans. Feeling that she was just beginning the second half of her life rather than facing its decline, Fighting Fifty came to life as a platform for the beauty, health and fitness information that Tracey was searching for.
During our chat we talked about going grey, changing body shapes, why you should never stop moving or learning and the unexpected news that a humble drink of water can be a great midlife ally.
Hold the stairlift!
“When I turned 50, I was pretty confident. I’d enjoyed my 40s. I’d been a stay-at-home mum for 25 years, quite a long maternity leave by any standards, and then I hit 50 and felt pretty upbeat. I was fit, I was well but suddenly I seemed to be bombarded with this negative story about ageing. I was getting details for a walk-in bath, a stair lift, a funeral plan. I thought, this is crazy! Is this how society sees me?”
Finding the answer online
“I looked online to see where I could see myself represented, somebody who still wanted to live a really active life. Now of course we look on Instagram and we have so many inspirational women putting out fantastic content, we didn’t have that 10 years ago. I started looking for a place where I could find out about how to live well and look good as I got older. I couldn’t find one place that had everything so, with no experience of the internet and no experience of running a website, I literally got up one morning, on 1/11/11, and said , “I’m starting a website called Fighting Fifty”. I wanted that creative space.”
Social media as a force for good
“With the way social media has changed and evolved, we are definitely seeing more older women in positive situations. We’ve got more older women talking about how they are living and exercising well, so in that way we are far more aware of this generation than we were 10 years ago. But in lots of respects we haven’t moved forward at all. We still have an anti-ageing message out there, it’s still underlying and we still have this pressure not to age, which I think is a shame.”
“If we constantly put a negative spin on ageing, younger people fear it. Younger women are fearing how their skin is going to change, they’re fearing lines and wrinkles, they’re fearing loss of volume in their skin. What we have to do as older women is address that and say, “Yes of course your skin is going to change, that’s part of the ageing process but it doesn’t have to be negative. You don’t have to be less attractive because you’ve got some lines and wrinkles”. It’s part of life, not something to fear.”
Menopause isn’t always a negative experience
“I was about 44 when I first started getting symptoms and about 45 when I really went through the menopause. I searched out what would work for me and I kind of embraced it. I found supplements (magnesium, omegas, B vitamins), exercise and, the other amazing thing that we take for granted and don’t utilise enough: water. If only people drank more water, some of your menopause symptoms would lessen. I’m not saying it would replace HRT by any means but I found a holistic route that I could take: a lot of water, exercise, great supplements and attitude. I think attitude has a big effect on your menopause.”
A marathon? Just get to the next lamp post
“I ran off my menopause. I was literally Forrest Gump, I just ran and ran. I didn’t start running until I was 47 and I didn’t think I could run. I literally ran from one lamp post to the next and nearly expired. The next time I could do 2 lampposts and then 3 and I just built it up until I could comfortably run a 10k. I’ve never wanted to run a marathon but as long as I can comfortably run 3 miles I’m generally quite happy.”
How to age well in 2 steps
“Two things are really fundamental to ageing well: one is to keep moving. The more we move, the better our bodies perform. We are designed to move. Our digestion, our brain, our breathing, everything works better if we move. The other thing is learning. As soon as we stop learning our brain just doesn’t work so well. It could be anything; learning to cook, to knit, to use the computer. My husband has just bought himself a new smart watch and that has been a challenge for both of us!”
60 is the new 40
“When you hit 50 somehow it really isn’t that different to 40. You just kind of glide into 50 and you still feel pretty young. I have to say when I hit 60, it feels like a step up, it really does feel that you’ve entered a different era in your life. You do feel you’ve moved into a different category.”
Our bodies change as we get older. Fact.
One thing we forget to talk about is that every decade a woman’s body will change shape and there’s a lot of that we can’t do anything about. Yes of course we can exercise and we can be sensible about how we look after ourselves, but our shape will change. It’s inevitable. You’ve got to work with that rather than fighting it. If we can just appreciate that we’re going to look different, we’re going to change, it’s a lot softer than trying to fight it. It’s a lot gentler."
How lockdown helped me embrace my grey hair
“I had no intention whatsoever of going grey. None whatsoever. Then we went into lockdown. The more I touched it up the worse it looked. I thought I’ll never, ever have a better time to do this. I wasn’t going anywhere, I was going out for a walk at the most, all meetings were on Zoom, no parties, no get-togethers. When you’re growing it out, you get this demarcation line, you do feel pretty fed up with yourself, but having two years practically in isolation was really lucky. I’m really pleased I did it now.”
Grey is just another colour
“My mother’s never gone grey and she’s 81, she wouldn’t even consider it, not for anything. She couldn’t believe it when I said I was going to let mine go grey, she was so shocked. I did post things on my Instagram with half/half hair. If people see it can be done and how you can do it, we’re taking away another stigma from ageing. You’ve got younger women with grey hair, it’s not necessarily just because of age. Grey is another hair colour. Whatever colour your hair is, it doesn’t have to be about age.”
How to age without apology?
“Just be yourself. People shouldn’t become someone else because they are older. Don’t try to conform to any kind of stereotype. Be yourself, be individual, do what works for you, there’s no rule book. If you want to wear a short skirt because you’ve got great legs? Wear a short skirt! Why not? Be who you have always been, or, who you’ve always wanted to be.”
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