Challenging a generation to redefine middle age
Kent mother, writer and business woman, Siobhan Stirling, is laying down the gauntlet on her 50th birthday to her peers to join her in redefining middle age with the launch of 50 Challenges
50 Challenges, which aims to inspire those aged 50 and over to do more, achieve more and be more than they ever thought possible, will be launched by Siobhan on 5 November when she runs the New York Marathon, the day after she turns 50.
“I came up with the idea of 50 Challenges after emerging from the Foul Forties stronger – physically and mentally – than at any other time of my life. For a while it was no more than a personal ambition, until I realised that my friends and peers were either in the same place or in need of a new definition and identity for the next chapter of their lives,” explains Siobhan, from Tunbridge Wells, a former BBC journalist who now runs marketing agency Sharp Minds Communications.
“The previous role models for what it means to be 50 plus no longer fit: we are the first generation to hit 50 in the expectation of another good 40 years ahead of us. 50 years olds today are competing in endurance races, wearing the same clothes as their teenage children and taking up new professional challenges at a time when previous generations were counting down to retirement. 50 Challenges is about creating a new blueprint for mid and later life, when the best decades are yet to come.”
The aim with 50 Challenges is to complete 50 challenges or goals across the decade of being 50. “This is not a mad, bucket-list dash for a year; this is a way of life, as we regain time for ourselves to think, act and be after the demanding decades of establishing ourselves in our careers and bringing up children, with an active Facebook community to inspire, support and celebrate Challengers,” explains Siobhan, a former Langton Green primary and Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School pupil.
Challenges are grouped into Mind, Body and Soul and cover everything from reading a poem a day for a year to paying a compliment to a stranger every day for a month, from learning to swim to cutting your food waste by 50%.
“They should be relevant to you; if you can already hold a passable conversation in French, learning to speak French wouldn’t be an appropriate challenge, but becoming fluent would be,” said Siobhan. “Similarly, if you can run 5k comfortably, you might want to step it up to completing a 10k.”
One of the first Challengers to take up the gauntlet is Lisa Beaumont, of Langton Green, who is rebuilding her life after suffering a debilitating stroke six years ago. She completed the very first Challenge when she walked into her 50th birthday party unaided: “I am taking part in 50 Challenges because setting goals has become even more of an integral part of my life since I suffered and survived a life-threatening brain haemorrhage when aged 44. 50 Challenges is about celebrating life, which is something that I do every day.”
Lisa’s other first challenges include speaking in public for the first time since her stroke, earning her own income again and learning to crochet one-handed.
Stephen Rigby, from Tunbridge Wells, is taking part to give him a new focus away from being a dad and lawyer: “My life can seem pretty challenging already, but I love the idea of putting more focus on things I want to achieve for myself, of carving out time to shape how I want my future to look when family and work are no longer quite so demanding.”
50 Challenges will be officially launched on 5 November, when Siobhan starts her two first Challenges: completing the New York Marathon and raising £50,000 for the MS Society, which she aims to achieve before turning 60: “Very dear friends have Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating – but overlooked – condition which affects more than 100,000 people in the UK, so it’s a cause dear to my heart. £50,000 is a scarily big target, but they say if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough!”
Running has been key for Siobhan to rebuilding her physical and mental health after suffering severe depression in her mid-Forties: “I took running up almost by accident, but it has been central to helping me reclaim myself after the side effects of medication left me on the maximum dose of anti-depressants and barely functioning. The strength it has given me has been key to inspiring 50 Challenges, so it seemed natural to launch it with a run.”
Siobhan’s first run was the Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon in 2014, which encouraged her to take part in the London Marathon in 2015. She ran Beachy Head Marathon later that year and Rome in April 2016. “I injured my ankle in Rome and have been battling to recover from that ever since, so – even though I have run marathons before – I am still very nervous ahead of New York and really hope I can complete it in style to give 50 Challenges the launch it deserves,” she said.
You can find out more about 50 Challenges at www.50challenges.org. To sponsor Siobhan, visit her Virgin Money Giving page: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SiobhanStirling