Why community is good for us in midlife.
There is a much cited community in Japan where people have one of the longest lifespans. Researchers have been fascinated by both the health, harmony and happiness of those that live there. They accept that diet and activity levels enable longevity. But the secret ingredient appears to be not what they’re putting on their plate… but the power of being valued… every stage of life. And a lifelong philosophy focused on finding life’s purpose. But perhaps what makes this practice, called Ikigai, particularly powerful, is that this purpose evolves and takes on more shape over time. Your life’s purpose at 21 should be very different to what you focus on and what brings you fulfilment at 61.
In the West we have a complicated relationship with the process of ageing. Culture teaches us, quite simply, that ‘old’ is bad and ‘young’ is good. That purpose is only useful in our youth.
Many of us also live outside of a traditional community dynamic. We’re further away from our families, which means the natural process of ageing often happens on the edges of our everyday. We live in places designed for young, mobile single people (and for anyone who has had a child, definitely not designed for prams!). We don’t see diversity because people gradually slip away from places and environments where they don’t ‘fit’. This includes all facets of society: not just the social gatherings, the workplace too.
Yet, the people of Okinawa remind us of the richness of life when everyone is together. And this is even more true for us as females navigating midlife and beyond.
Scientists tell us that the female body responds, on a biological level, to being in the presence of other females.
Spending time with each other is literally a form of medicine. And it needs to be REAL time. Not over Zoom. Not on the mobile. But up close.
As significantly, spending time intergenerationally brings even more value. It signposts tomorrow and allows us to remember yesterday through each others’ eyes. Which is why it’s so important that menopause is a discussion open to women at all stages in life. Because when we hear stories from across myriad walks of life and life stages our own paths become clearer. We know from the conversations we have everyday that with the right support, our post menopause years are often the most fulfilled and exciting. For some there is a building of confidence: a new found conviction, more comfort with our bodies. For others, a sense of liberation - the motivation to put ourselves a little further up the priority list… new-found purpose.
Yet too often we feel that society wants us to fade away. To cover that light. That menopause and beyond should happen in the shadows.
So, this weekend, if your body and mind needs a little boost, find time for that coffee with a female friend. Book in more so they’re regular moments in your diary. Talk to someone 10 years’ older than you… and then 20 years’ younger. And remember, you’re needed, your experiences are valuable. And the world is better when you allow yourself to shine.
With love, Rebekah and the MPowder Team.