“A few years ago I began to interview interesting women who were nearing or passing the age of 50” says Jaki Scarcello, author of Fifty & Fabulous. “I started the project for a variety of reasons, in response to circumstances in my professional life to questions that arose in my personal life. By the time I stopped asking questions, I had interviewed women between the ages of 45 and 102, from five countries. At the end of the interviews, I knew I needed to write these women’s stories. My enthusiasm came from a desire to share what they had shared with me, along with a strong sense that others – both individuals and our society – needed to hear what I had discovered and needed to hear it soon.”
As the interviews progressed, Jaki had discerned that women facing their fiftieth birthdays and/or the event of menopause fall into two categories:
Those who are horrified by their ageing, who look out on their future as a time of decline and diminishing capacity to be postponed and denied as long as possible.
Those who aren’t fazed by the physical milestone of menopause or the chronological significance of turning 50, but who celebrate the new possibilities each stage of their lives brings.
These women, whom Jaki calls the Women of the Harvest, are not oblivious to the changes happening in their lives. They have simply embraced the idea that being over 50 and female at this time in history is an opportunity richer and more ripe with potential than ever before. “Our reaction to change is linked to our personality type. If I take some poetic license, I can divide people into three types according to the way they face change,” says Jaki.
1. Heel Diggers cling to what they believe is the present but in reality has already become the past. At the extreme, they might admit to preferring death to change. They have shut down their logic receptors, so it is difficult to give them the information they need to consider the advantages of change.
It may seem to them that it’s easier to lie down and let progress march over their graves than to learn to use an iPhone, consider driving a Smart Car, or accept footless tights as suitable attire for a dinner party.
2. Fence Sitters – I never understood these folks – it can’t be comfortable. But perhaps some may have sat up there balancing on the pickets for so long that they imagine they are in a comfy armchair. Or maybe they’re just numb.
From the fence, in theory, they can see both sides, where they came from and where they could go. You would think that with such a panoramic view it would be easier to chose a side, and some Fence Sitters do eventually, but others are truly stuck… impaled in their position. Again I wonder, how comfortable can that be? Obviously it’s more comfortable than making a decision.
3. Early Jumpers, on the other hand, grab on quickly to new theories and are the first to move into the new world. The risks of danger in the new order don’t seem to bother them. Sometimes they even jump a little too soon – but they are flexible and can usually jump back or jump somewhere else. Early jumpers like change, so it is easier for them, and if change is not happening quickly enough to suit them, they sometimes initiate it.
Many of the Women of the Harvest are Early Jumpers, but some, by their natures, fall into the category of Fence Sitters. The difference was they jumped off those fences and moved on just before things got too painful. She did not find any Women of the Harvest who were Heel Diggers, because by definition they do not move on – or if they do, they’re the very last to – and this is not the way of harvest women.
“Sure, the women I interviewed struggled and grumbled with new technologies, fashions, and politics as much as anyone, but in the end these were not barriers, just hurdles. The Women of the Harvest pick themselves up, work around or over or under the problem, reinvent, redesign, and keep going.”
In Fifty & Fabulous, Jaki Scarcello reveals how changing our attitude toward ageing can spark a ‘virtuous cycle’ of rejuvenation and renewal. Women who know this embrace the years after 50 with a spirit of optimism and energy that is truly liberating. They understand that in maturity a woman has the potential for genuine elegance, a beauty more than skin-deep that sparkles confidently and generously from the eyes, and a whole new brand of personal sexiness. On a deeper level, they possess a secret power and joy that radiate outward into the world and illuminate everyone around them.
‘Scarcello bubbles with enthusiasm over her subject…’ LA Times
Fifty and Fabulous by Jaki Scarcello