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Making major life changes after turning 50

14 minute read

As life expectancy gets longer, and patience with sticking with the status quo gets shorter, here are three people who have discovered that turning 50 is a great time to be bold enough to make big changes.

Whether it’s a new career, a new hobby that becomes a passion, a change of location, or a new family, your fifties can be a decade of genuine renewal and opportunity. As Adela, Sam, Andy, and Kate can attest to.

Adela Mei: “I knew I had to get a bike!”

With her 50th birthday approaching in 2022, Adela Mei (image) had a successful coaching business, but she found herself online all the time. This was affecting her work/life balance, so she told herself that her 50th year would be her ‘J-Lo year.’

“I wanted to look and feel fit and fabulous, but how I actually felt was cooped-up, with back ache.”

Feeling stuck in a rut at work, she wanted to do something drastic to reduce her screen time and ensure she spent more time outside, ideally doing something physically demanding.

“A friend took me for a ride on his Triumph Bonneville and when I felt the freedom and the rush of air and the adrenaline, I knew I had to get a bike. I'd always wanted to ride, but never got round to learning,” Adela says.

“I was a slow learner, and had private lessons, and was very nervous to begin with, and I realised I needed to build my muscle mass up, as bikes are heavy and I wasn't used to it,” she recalls.

Adela even experienced criticism from people who told her that as an older woman, she might never pass her test. But she decided to ignore the negative voices and even had a photo of the bike she wanted to buy as a screensaver on her phone for motivation. “The main challenge was my own mindset, that I had to overcome and believe that I could do it. And then practise, practise, practise!”

She advises anyone who wants to take up motorbike riding at any age to find the right instructor who will teach you at your own speed. Be patient with yourself, invest in the right protective equipment, and build up your physical strength, especially the wrists, ankles, and core.

Since passing her test, Adela has ridden all over Somerset, parts of Dorset, and into Wales. Her favourite place to ride is Cheddar Gorge, where she took her bike on Christmas Day: “With no other cars or bikes on the road, it was just stunning, and I have big plans are to ride to Scotland on a tour.”

Adela says, “the freedom, the connection to nature and being out in all weathers brings a sense of aliveness that I hadn’t felt for years.”

“The mental discipline and focus needed when I’m riding means I can't be thinking about work or coaching clients – and I met new friends and now meet up with other bikers I would never have met through my work.”

Sam Cummings: “Until I started my business, I didn’t realise how well travelled I am”

After retiring early after a 31-year career in corporate sales, Sam Cummings, 54, wasn’t quite ready to put her feet up. It was 2022 when Sam decided to leave a career that had left her burnt out and tired.

“I realised how exhausted I was, having managed people for that long,” she recalls. “When you’re managing a staff team, you’re constantly putting energy into keeping them motivated and it takes its toll on you.”

But Dorset-based Sam still wanted an income to supplement her pension pot, ideally in a less stressful, more flexible role where she could work as much or as little as she liked. She was interested in Not Just Travel, a franchise business of remote-working travel agents, and initially contacted the company co-founders, Paul Harrison and Steve Witt, about a head office job. However, she was so impressed by the company that she decided to retrain as a travel consultant and bought a franchise herself.

“I was nervous, as I always had a fear of working for myself and never thought I would be any good at it but, in fact, my business is thriving and I’ve made hundreds of thousands pounds worth of sales since October 2022,” says Sam.

Finding a job that reflects her passion for travel has made the career change easier, and altered her work ethic because she doesn’t mind working irregular hours when she gets paid to help people book dream holidays.

“Until I started my business, I never realised how well-travelled I was. When I was 36, I took a year off to travel the world, including helping out in Thailand after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004,” she says. “I loved being a solo traveller and my global travel knowledge has come in really handy with my business.”

It is just as well she enjoys solo travel as her new career takes her all over the world, while her husband Lee prefers to stay home and play golf. She describes Lee as “less adventurous with his travel.”

“He says he would rather walk around a golf course than Machu Picchu, so he’s given me the green light to go on as many trips as I like. Discounted or free trips is a real perk of the job – as long as I have Wi-Fi, I can work from anywhere in the world.”

While Sam could afford to retire now, she still loves working, and it’s a great way to ensure she has a comfortable lifestyle. “I have no plans of stopping any time soon.”

Andy Gibbins: “I wasn’t expecting to be a dad again at 60”

Andy Gibbins first became a father when his daughter was born in 2000 and did not expect to be a new dad 23 years later. But after remarrying in 2019, his wife Shara gave birth to their son, Cade, in December 2023.

“I definitely didn’t think I would be doing it again,” he says. But he is enjoying fatherhood with a different perspective as a 60-year-old new father.

Compared to his first experiences with a new baby, Andy says that the main difference with adding Cade to the family is “being more patient and more willing to be flexible around work and life.”

In 2000, Andy said the work culture for new dads meant “one week of paternity leave and back to the grind.” In the time between Andy becoming a father in 2000 and 2023, there has been positive change in terms of paternity leave. The 2023 Bright Horizons’ Parental Leave and Family Support Benchmark study found that 64% of UK employers that provide paternity leave do so at a rate above the statutory level of pay.

These days, Andy works for himself as a freelance workplace consultant in the oil and gas industry, which has made a huge difference in terms of being able to bond with Cade, and support his wife.

“So far, so good – Cade is very calm and well-behaved,” is Andy’s assessment of fatherhood this time around. “Sleep is still something of a luxury, as feeding is around the clock, and we’re trying to get the routine working as well as possible.

“Sometimes we both need to grab a nap when the opportunity arises – last night, I slept from 9pm until midnight and then 4am until 6:30am, with a nap this morning for 30 minutes at 10am!”

Kate Ashley-Norman: “I moved from sunnier climes back to the UK”

While turning 50 can be the catalyst for many Brits to move to warmer parts of the world, Kate Ashley-Norman reversed this by moving back to the UK after 15 years in Turkey. When she was 32, she met her husband at a wedding in Istanbul and spent a few years travelling between Turkey and the UK. They got married in 2005, had their first child later that year and then decided to put down roots in Turkey, raising three daughters and one son abroad.

“A combination of reasons” prompted the move back to the UK: “The political situation was getting worse in Turkey [and] our children all went through their early school years in Turkey and were fully bilingual, but I wanted them to experience living in the UK as well.”

In 2010, her father passed away and she felt the need to be closer to her family: “In general, I simply felt homesick – I’d always loved the UK, living overseas was a choice through marriage.”

Kate and her family moved back to the UK in 2020, settling in Peterborough, which is close to her mother and many other family members. As well as changing countries, she returned to the workplace, something she hadn’t done since her early 20s as she had always been self-employed or running her own business.

“We moved back in the middle of Covid, so that was pretty challenging – at one point, I didn’t see my husband for six months due to travel restrictions, and financially, we were thrown quite a few googlies,” she says.

Their UK home had been rented out, so they had a buy-to-let mortgage, on paper, they didn’t have enough income to remortgage it as a residential property, and their broker couldn’t find a lender who would accept her husband’s contributions because they were coming from overseas. These factors meant Kate had to return to the workforce, but she remains positive about moving back to the UK.

“Despite the very many challenges, I don’t regret coming back for one moment,” she insists. “Most people aim to escape the UK for sunnier climes when they get to my age, and I do feel as though we’ve gone right back to the beginning in terms of building a life, but the difference is that we’re doing it with a better foundation.”

Instead, her sympathies lie with the next generation: “I do feel for the younger generation and worry about how so many of them are going to be able to buy a property.”

Her advice for anyone looking to make an international move, whether they are leaving the UK or coming home is to not “put all your eggs in one basket.”

“In Turkey we run a property development company, and during the early days, we had many people selling up in the UK and relocating permanently to Turkey,” she cautions. “We always advised people to hang on to what they have in the UK because we saw too many people back themselves into a corner.”

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