How would you like to get advice on aging from the likes of actresses Kyra Sedgwick and Whoopi Goldberg, designer Cynthia Rowley and journalist Soledad O'Brien? These women participated in a "50 Over 50" panel discussion that I attended recently at Hearst Tower in New York City.
The event, sponsored by
Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day and L'Oreal Paris, celebrated 50 accomplished women over 50.
Photo by Michael Simon/startraksphoto.com
Whoopi Shares Her Advice
I was so excited to chat with one of my favorite stars on the red carpet. "What advice would you give to women over 50?" I asked Whoopi.
Being her comedic self she said, "Get over it! Why should it be any different? Oh, and always have lube!" Yes, yes, yes, I can definitely relate—menopause has dried me out from head to toe.
After I ate the entire tiramisu on my dessert plate, I settled in for the panel discussion about love, life and beauty for those of "the perfect age." (I cannot resist a delicious tiramisu—nor should I ever again during my life after 50. As the panelists attested, life is too short to miss out on the positives at this point.)
Is Over 50 #ThePerfectAge?
The conversation was lively as moderator Soledad opened by asking the panelists if they thought about 50 when they were 25. Most didn't. So, when did they think about turning 50, and what did they think?
Kyra chimed in: "I thought I had it all together at 25. The gift of getting older is that you realize how little you know and how much further you have to go. I was super nervous about turning 50. Then I turned 50, and all those clichés about being kinder and wiser are true. I have the courage of my convictions a lot more. I've earned a seat at the table."
Whoopi said she thought about turning 50 "the night before" her 50th birthday. "Be glad you get to be 50, because a lot of people (many years before) didn't make it to 50" she said. "I look the same. Sixty is a bit of a bitch." (Oh no, Whoopi. I'm approaching 60.)
She talked about her younger years growing up in the projects, having a great mom to look up to, becoming a grandmother at 33 and seeking out new opportunities whenever they were offered. "My mother said if you can take the consequences, you can do whatever you want," Whoopi added.
Cynthia said: "I'm from the denial kind of way of thinking about it. I'm always thinking about the future. We should not have any preconceived expectations about any age. It's important to always try and reinvent yourself. Keep your curiosity."
Photo by Michael Simon/startraksphoto.com
Just Don't Care
"I just don't care about the consequences anymore," Soledad said. "Nothing troubles you anymore." She asked panelists if they are more likely to take opportunities now that they wouldn't have taken earlier in their careers.
Cynthia said, "When I turned 50, my high school friend said it's like you're at the top of the rollercoaster and all you can do is put your arms up and scream—in a fun way." About her designing, Cynthia said, "Now I find myself saying 'yes' to almost everything."
Kyra told us she was filled with self-doubt when she was younger. In 2007, she bought the rights to a novel and wasn't ready to direct. Years later, there was a turning point moment, she recalled. "I went into the meeting at 50 and I wanted to direct." The film, Story of a Girl, will premiere this summer on Lifetime.
Whoopi urged Kyra and all of us: "Don't apologize. Stick up for what you believe."
The Time Is Now
"If you're not going to do it now, then when?" asked Soledad.
Whoopi agreed: "You only get one life. It only comes around once. So sometimes you have to take a shot."
Cynthia talked about how she was so focused on building her career when she was younger. Now, she is more open to taking risks. "Because what's the worst that can happen?" she said.
People Are Living Longer
The four agreed that there has been a transformation in aging. Those over 50, 60, 70, 80 and even in their 90s are more active and practice lifestyles geared to better health and wellness. "If you look better, you feel better," Cynthia said.
There was some talk of menopause. Whoopi said most women don't talk about what happens in menopause. "The greatest thing I learned is that there are certain things that were out of my hands," she said. "You shouldn't be afraid. Your body is telling you it's time to do other things."
Moms and Mentors
When asked about women who inspire you, each woman recognized her mom.
Kyra mentioned that her mom, who was sitting beside her at the luncheon, changed careers at 50. "She is 85 and continues to work every day," said Kyra. (See the picture of Kyra and her mom.)
Whoopi talked about her mom, too: "My mom was a Head Start teacher. She had a nervous breakdown and had to come back. Her illness made her really honest. She had a very good time right up until the end."
Cynthia shared that she took a little inspiration from a lot of people, as well as from her mom.
Honoring 50 Over 50
The top stars of the afternoon were the 50 strong, accomplished and confident women who were honored for their impressive array of experience and achievements during their life after 50. Being a foodie, I was glad to meet two of the honorees pictured below (l to r) Lucero Martinez, executive chef of Pompano, and Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation.
You can read more about all the winners at the following links:
- 10 Women Who Light Up the Arts Scene
- 10 Women Changing the Ways We See the World
- 10 Power Players Blazing New Trails Beyond the Boardroom
- 10 Women Redefining the Meaning of Success at 50+
- 10 Women Who Live to Change Lives
Taking the Next Step
"How do you feel about changing course at the age of 50?" asked Soledad in her closing question. "About next steps?"
Cynthia remarked: "Make sure you pare down all your other responsibilities. Get nimble. Get naked and dive in!"
Kyra quoted author Brene Brown: "Be bold and dare greatly." She also said, "Ask for advice. When I was becoming a director, I met with every director who would meet with me."
Whoopi said: "Life is short. If you want to make a change, try it. There's nothing wrong with a fail. You're not going to be able to do everything, but you can try everything.
What advice would you give women turning 50? Please comment below.
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.