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The 7 Biggest Mistakes We Make After 50 (and How to Avoid Them)

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I was worried when I turned 50 a few years ago.  Like many of us, I was unsure about the right steps to take for better health, fitness, style . . . everything. Midlife can be a very confusing time, filled with all kinds of change, often making us anxious about our futures. This is the main reason I decided to research and write "The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More." By zeroing in on the most common challenges and seeking out the guidance from some of the country's best experts, I took a deep breath, squashed my fears, and dove in.

But, no matter how much information we have at our fingertips, sometimes we keep making the same mistakes (hey, we're only human!) which only serve to fan the flames of fear. Let's take a look at some of the most common mistakes men and women make in midlife and what we can do about them:

  • Feeling Invisible:  I'm 55 and part of the largest single demographic group in the history of the world. Our buying power is huge, and we are a political powerhouse. Invisible? Hardly. But when I first entered my 50s, I often felt pushed aside, ignored and not young or interesting enough to have a voice in the world, as I once did. Luckily, I got a grip, and realized that we must visualize how truly big we are, ignore the noise, embrace our age--not be afraid of it--accept that change is happening, and figure out the best way to address those changes, forging ahead with health and vitality.
  • Being Afraid of Aging:  Be fearless after 50.
    Life after 50 b&w
    Fear will stop you from pursuing your dreams, and could cause you to give up and give in, keeping you a prisoner in your comfort zone. This is the simple concept I learned from researching, writing and living the advice in my book: If you're healthy, you feel good. If you feel good, you look good. If you feel good and look good and have a vision for your future, you feel even better. If you've got all that plus the knowledge how to stay that way, you feel amazing. And if you feel amazing, who cares about age?
  • Losing Control of Your Life:   When I hit 50, I started to feel as though society had already mapped out my future: I would grow older, fade into the background, continue to pack on post-menopausal pounds, and decide that this was probably going to be how it was going to be. That's where I was headed until I stopped in my tracks, and said no. Instead, I retreated, revised and re-emerged: I took control, and created a new future for myself which includes exercise, healthy eating, smart skincare, easy makeup and hair, simple style, and a new career and a whole new attitude.Keep this in mind, always: We can't control getting older, but we can control how we do it.
  • Getting Overwhelmed by Too Much Information:   Knowledge is power, right? So when I turned 50, I went on a quest to find the answers. I searched the Internet, bookstores and magazines, but it soon turned into information overload. Everybody had an opinion -- and most of them conflicted with each other: Eat more protein. No, eat less protein. Take supplements. No, get all your nutrition from foods. You can wear jeans after 50. You can absolutely not wear jeans after 50. And everybody, it seems, wants to sell us something to lose weight or get rid of wrinkles. I was ready to throw the proverbial blanket over my head and stay there. Then one day, it hit me. I didn't want lots of information; I wanted the best information on what I need to know now about getting older. So, I cut through the noise, and figured out what really works, and what doesn't.
  • Barbara and Gunther June 2009
    Ignoring Your Inner Kid:   
    Smile, play, laugh, have fun, engage, connect. These are all essential for healthy aging. Don't take yourself, or the world, too seriously. There will always be problems, but do we have to constantly dwell on them? Do you remember how much fun it was when you were a kid to just get outside and run around? I do that with my dog. We run (with walk breaks) four to five miles several times a week. Not only am I keeping my weight at a healthy level and exercising my heart, but all studies have shown that physical activity raises your endorphins and makes you feel good. Play games, engage in a hobby, stay in close touch with friends who care about you, and steer clear of those who don't. Volunteer, and say Yay! as often as you can. It's contagious.
  • Feeling Sorry for Yourself:   It's not always easy getting older, especially if you, or loved ones, are experiencing illness, loss, or difficult financial times. But, feeling sorry for yourself is counter-productive, as it only serves to keep you stuck where you are. Instead, take control, figure out what you need to make your situation easier (or at least, more tolerable), get help from others if you need it, and create a vision of your life which includes getting and staying fit, so you can more readily shoulder whatever comes your way in the future.
  • Not Having a Financial Plan:  I interviewed Jane Bryant Quinn, the internationally known expert, author, and AARP's financial columnist, for my book. Jane is a conservative thinker when it comes to financial planning, and she gave me some very good advice for people approaching 50: as we're heading toward retirement -- which probably won't happen until we're closer to 70 due to many converging factors -- we have to ask ourselves how we're going to afford to live. One of the most stressful things any of us can go through is financial uncertainty. This is where the simple part comes in: save more, and spend less. No magic . . . just good common sense. Jane also urges us to study and understand the different kinds of insurance we need as we get older. You may want to consider hiring a fee-only financial planner to help you get started.

The last paragraph of my book succinctly sums up my simple philosophy on living a good life after 50, and I'd like to share it with you here:

For the rest of your life: love yourself, love your life, stay as healthy as you can, move your body, be informed, stay engaged, use your mind, keep a handle on your finances, be bold, be brave, walk with confidence, live with style . . . and you will always have the best of everything.

Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter  at @BGrufferman.  Check back next week for more tips on living your best life after 50.

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