How to Live Longer and Better: Design the Second Half of Your Life

Along with tens of millions of my baby boomer friends, I have embarked on a new journey at a time in life when Madison Avenue uses all its muscle muscle to convince us women that 50 is the new 30 or 60 is the new 40.
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"Mirror mirror on the wall" goes the saying..."who's the youngest of them all?" I ask myself.

Over the last 20 years, the image I had claimed for myself as perpetually twenty-something was well worn and ready for some of the late Nora Ephron's "get real" attitude.

In that time, I had relinquished my reign as a single woman, inherited two stepchildren and started my own consulting business. I considered my life as fairly standard for an educated and career-oriented woman -- save for a splash of international work in Switzerland, a new marriage and my topsy-turvy adventures as a good-humored stepmom and irreverent aunt.

Over the last three or so years, the picture started to look, well, decidedly, worn. Like a classically tailored fine dress, it held up for a couple of decades but I'm not interested in classic styles any more. Its waist is a little too cinched, it's lines too crisp and structured, and the color much too pale. As I challenge the tried-and-true design, I've decided to choose an "off the rack" design for the second half of life -- one I choose with my own internal set of beliefs, now more attractive and available to me than ever before.

Midlife as a Passage

Along with tens of millions of my baby boomer friends, I have embarked on a new journey at a time in life when Madison Avenue uses all its muscle muscle to convince us women that 50 is the new 30 or 60 is the new 40. Really?

Actually, it was in the late 70s when Gail Sheehy was in her late 30s and first wrote the book called Passages. It was a look at midlife not as a crisis but as a necessary passage into the more fulfilling "sunset" years. She would be the first to admit that the first "Passages" book fell short on what would become the real midlife, as she had no idea of what 50 might look like herself in 1976, other than distinctly "old" images of her mother and father. (Since then Ms. Sheehy has written New Passages and Passages in Caregiving, inspiring many women like me to also share my "passage".)

Designing the Second Half of Life

Things are different today, in 2012, as we now know a few things about midlife passages starting with the virtual gateway: menopause. With less estrogen running through our brains, bones and heart, it's a time to make sure that we're doing all we can to live well for the next three or four decades. Research says that if we're healthy 53 year-olds today, chances are pretty good that we'll live into our 90s.

The question then arises: What should we consider to not only live longer, but better during that time?

Well, research emerging from the 10-year old Women's Health Initiative study tells us that we can and should make lifestyle changes now to lay the foundation for the next 30 to 40 years of life. It's time for us midlife women to heed an important call-to-action to slow the progression of "chronic conditions" through healthy lifestyle changes that embrace mind, body and spirit. It's less about medical intervention and health care and more about personal empowerment.

Reframing Health in Midlife: Live Longer AND Better!

Strong is the New Thin. As we women age, it's important to set healthy living priorities, so we can live longer and better. While all experts promote the value of healthy weight, there's a message that is equally as important to convey: It's better to be stronger than thinner as we age.

What You Must Know: You need to have muscle to get rid of fat. Fat only leaves the body if it is burned. The prime motor for this process is our muscle system. If your muscle mass is low, then you burn less fat. If you want to lose weight for either health or aesthetic reasons, you cannot do this by isolated measures such as crash diets. If you lose weight just by dieting, your body will obtain its energy from the muscle in protein and you will lose muscle. Without the support of a strong muscular system, you're putting yourself at risk for poor bone health, including osteoporosis. Many women don't know that bone is crucial, not only for movement and stability, but for maintaining a balance of blood nutrients required for overall health as we age.

How to get strong and prevent osteoporosis. Poor bone health that leads to osteoporosis is preventable and, to some degree, reversible. Try incorporating strength training into your daily activities. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, diet and exercise both play a role. Here's a few muscle-strengthening exercises include activities where you move your body, a weight or some other resistance against gravity. They are also known as resistance exercises and include:

  • Lifting weights
  • Using elastic exercise bands
  • Using weight machines
  • Lifting your own body weight
  • Functional movements, such as standing and rising up on your toes

Yoga and Pilates can also improve strength, balance and flexibility but make sure you're not at risk for fracture as the postures can be challenging.

What's your story as you Design the Second Half of Your Life? What tips and strategies, emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial are you evaluating to live not only longer BUT better? I'm interested in bringing your comments into my new blog "Design the Second Half of Your Life." I look forward to your contributions and comments.

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