Being sixty, not feeling sixty

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A lady who has read my last few posts sent me a message saying that, whilst she was enjoying reading them, she was disappointed because she thought the blog was about being sixty.   I replied that it is about being sixty and referred her to my very first post (click here to read  What’s in a name?) and said that I hoped that would explain, and I asked her to give me some idea of what she wanted; perhaps I could oblige.

Turns out that she was expecting to read how to stay healthy, what make up and clothes to wear, how to cope with ‘being older’. The latter has me completely flummoxed because although I understand the concept of ageing, of course,  I don’t actually feel older, or even old-ish . We communicated for a little longer and I ended up saying that whilst I am no expert on any of these things,  I’m up for a challenge so I’ll give it a go.


How to stay fit: do whatever is reasonable given your own circumstances. For me this means going to the gym regularly (for more about this click – The gym for women who don’t do gyms ). If the very thought strikes horror into you, then you need to find something that suits you, perhaps walking. This would not suit me because I wouldn’t be disciplined enough to do it often enough. We live in an urban area with a couple of nice parks but I’m pretty fed up with those and to go anywhere else involves quite a drive out. I work three afternoons a week (plus Saturday all day) so that’s not terribly practical because we’d have to rush back.  The key thing with regard to fitness is not to do nothing. I’m sure it really is a case of use it or lose it.  A little aside here – advice given by a paramedic who has been called many times to an elderly person who has fallen. Practice getting up off the floor. Lie down and get up again every day. It might just save your life.

How to stay healthy: stay fit…see above! Also, I think that healthy eating is really important. By this, I don’t mean that we should be obsessive about it, but should follow general healthy eating guidelines. Plenty of fruit and vegetables, good quality protein, fats, fibre and complex carbohydrates and  limit refined sugars.  If wanting to reduce weight, follow a nutritionally sound plan such as Slimming World and not some faddy, unsustainable programme.  Really, I’m not best placed to comment on this one since, although I am an SW member, I’m not the greatest at doing it properly! I do, however, eat healthily most of the time and I guess that’s the best advice I can offer.

How to do the best for mental health: barring illnesses over which we have little or no control, I do believe that it is important to keep stretching the mind. How individuals do this will vary tremendously – for me, it is mainly writing and doing research for my book. I read the newspaper daily (though I confess to the ‘reading’ being more of a speed-scan at times) and keep up with what’s going on in the world.  I do a (very) little academic proof reading/editing  and this is something I really enjoy and would like to expand. Finally, spending time with friends and ‘putting the world to rights’ is also to be recommended! Crosswords don’t really do it for me but they are great at making you think – my husband is brilliant at the cryptic variety.

Clothes, skincare and make up: Do what suits you and wear what you like wearing regardless of age (within reason). If you’re not sure what suits you then invest in getting your ‘colours’ done (e.g. Colour me Beautiful), or for a cheaper option, ask your friends to be honest!  Larger stores often offer a ‘personal shopper’ service which will encourage you to step out of your clothing comfort zone –  useful if you want to reinvent yourself! The big brand beauty counters often offer free make up lessons and offer the chance to try new colours and make-up trends without costly mistakes. Not much advice there – I did say that I’m no expert!  Both skin and hair have a tendency to get drier largely as a result of hormonal changes, so moisturise, moisturise, moisturise! I always seek out products that are paraben and sulphate-free. Deodorant is also aluminium-free. Shampoo and Conditioner are from the Healthy Hair range and skincare is mainly Weleda or Dr.Organic. Bath products come mainly from The Green People, Dr.Organic or Faith in Nature. For make up I use Benecos or Bare Minerals. Not everyone agrees that it is necessary to cut out these various additives but I’ve read enough about them to make this my decision.

Finally, don’t dismiss ‘young’ things such as attitudes and opinions, clothes or music simply because they are the preferences of young people. Much may not be to your taste but just because it’s different doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or no good. Embrace them as a new challenge and don’t allow yourself to become entrenched only in older persons’ ideas. On the day my mother retired, it was as if a switch flicked, and she became an old lady in her attitude to life.  If asked how she was, her voice changed noticeably as she said wearily, “Well, I’m alright…”, inviting the enquirer to sympathetically ask more. I REFUSE to be like that!

And that’s about it – so no great revelations or new ideas on how to live life at sixty (or older). I have no idea how I could write a blog centered only around this; I’ve already exhausted the subject in this one post! I shall continue to run it as I have been doing – a mish-mash of all sorts.

I will just say here that I did ask the correspondent if it was alright to repeat our exchange and she said it was but she asked me not to post her comment, and I haven’t. Comments are not posted onto the blog automatically but are first made available for me for approval or rejection.

Whilst on the subject, I just want to take this opportunity to reassure readers (and I’m delighted to say that, according to the stats page on WordPress, I am receiving an average of 26 per day from both the UK and other countries) that unless you want to give me your real name, then I have no idea who is making comments on my blog. You can make up a name (as I did when I started responding to other people’s blogs – that’s why I’m Eloise).  You are asked for an email address (this needs to be real but it is not shown to me, nor shown on the comment, nor monitored by WordPress ). Apparently the reason you are asked for it is to reduce incidences of trolling. So feel free to make a comment. You can agree, disagree or make a completely different point altogether. I get into some interesting ‘conversations’ on some of the blogs I log into regularly.

If you are wondering at the relevance of the photo of the single lily at the top of this post – there is none! It’s just a picture I took in my garden a couple of years ago. I’m hopeful of a few more blooms this year.

The gym for women who don’t do gyms


No lycra, no mirrors and no posters of skinny celebrities. No thumping pop music and definitely no men! Doesn’t sound much like a gym, does it?

I’ve mentioned the gym where I am a member a couple of times so I thought I’d tell you a bit more about it. Aimed at women over the age of forty, it’s far from being a conventional gym. If it was, there is no way I would ever have joined for I am so far from being the kind of woman who joins gyms, you wouldn’t believe! No wonder I chose one called Gymophobics! Joining was one of those sudden whims that I occasionally act upon without thought, which ultimately changes my life.

Earlier generations of women rarely had professional careers so retirement brought few significant changes. Today, those women can experience considerable difficulties in adjusting to the isolation felt following retirement from an absorbing career and loss of confidence brought about by the ageing process in a youth obsessed world.  Men have always dealt with this but, according to studies, women are particularly affected by the loss of social interaction at work since they thrive on connecting with others in a similar situation.  The women-only Gymophobics is providing support and friendship alongside getting fit.

Winners of several regional and national awards, my local branch of Gymophobics was awarded Women’s gym of the Year in 2013 by the prestigious Fitness Industry Association.   Comfortable sofas, bookcases full of popular fiction and complementary refreshments create a relaxed societal meeting place where women feel totally comfortable, and with no requirement for special kit or trainers (all exercise is low-impact), this is as much a social club as a gym – and thereby hangs its great success.

There are other women-only gyms but only Gymophobics offer individually tailored exercise programmes suited to their members’ fitness levels and age with members receiving personal attention on every visit.  Whilst many gyms are cutting costs to counteract dwindling membership, here we pay a little more and retention is high as staff concentrate on building relationships with members.  Prescribed physiotherapy exercises can be incorporated into members’ 30 minute programmes so dodgy hips and knees, the bane of late middle age, are well catered for!  Only last year both my GP and physiotherapist (one of those dodgy hips is mine) commented that I was very flexible! The unique exercise programme (first to be awarded a UK trademark) combines cardiovascular, isotonic and isometric exercises designed to provide a full body workout and using air resistance instead of weights is gentler on both muscles and bones.  Also on offer are exercise classes and dietary advice.

Although we have members up to 80 years old, our core membership is the 50-70 age group, many of whom are retired professionals. Understanding the well documented physical benefits of exercise, we also place enormous value on the support and friendship received from staff and each other. Gymophobics is a great leveller; it doesn’t matter what job you did, at the gym everyone is the same as they cope with the mixed emotions that retirement brings. Whilst women look forward to retirement, for many the reality is that they miss their colleagues, the intellectual stimulation of busy jobs and the buzz of personal achievement.

Holders of the FIA’s award for community involvement, we are enthusiastic charity fundraisers, amassing almost £100,000 in the past few years. The gyms key charity is Cancer Research, but many of us fundraise for other causes too. I have personally raised over £650 (shared between Crohns & Colitis UK and Cancer Research) in two and a half years by selling hand-made cards. Our most successful fundraising activity is the annual 24 hour marathon exercise relay, but seeking to do something different a couple of years ago, and inspired by the famous Women’s Institute ‘Calendar Girls’, a group of members stripped off to produce their own version and were justifiably proud  to have raised in excess of £1,500. To minimise costs, a member who is a photographer, donated her services for the photo shoot and one of the instructors produced the artwork.  In case you’re wondering – NO! I was too much of a coward. Instead I volunteered as ‘Artistic Director’ for the December photograph. In June we have a quiz evening to look forward to and a mock Ascot Ladies Day event.

We are not women who don’t want to be with their husbands and families but we all recognise in ourselves an essential need for intellectual stimulation with other like-minded women.   Meeting up with friends generally involves forward planning but the great thing about  Gymophobics is that individual members can drop in at any time, day or evening, seven days a week and there will always be someone to chat to.

If a woman approaching retirement does not already have a support network in place, this can lead to feelings of isolation which, unaddressed, may lead to depression. No-one is suggesting that joining a gym will cure depression, but we know that exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemical. Combine this with the very real support and friendship (and the cups of coffee) available on a daily basis at Gymophobics and it’s an undoubted recipe for success.

If you’d like to know more or see whether there is one of the fabulous facilities in your area, here are the website details: