14 Things Women Over 50 Need to Stop Doing ASAP
You’ve made it! You’ve survived more than half a century, and you’re only getting better. Sure, every new decade brings changes, challenges, and learnings, but you’ve gained wisdom and experience to navigate through it all.
While there’s always been debate over what you can fashionably wear, fashionably do, or fashionably be after you reach “a certain age”—whether that’s 40, 50, 60, or beyond—you have earned the right to make your own choices. (Though we would, of course, always encourage everyone of any age to be kind.) You don’t need anyone’s permission to wear bright colors, choose certain silhouettes, or show some skin.
That said, there are things many of us could stop doing to improve our lives over the next half-century. Here are 14 things to stop doing ASAP to make this decade one of the best yet:
14 Things Women Over 50 Need to Stop Doing
1. Fear Change
As we get older, we may have long ago set our habits, routines, and belief patterns. Yet as Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.” Some changes can be unanticipated, scary, and unwanted. Others, however, can bring big improvements to our lives.
If you find that you prefer the predictable, it can lead to feeling paralyzed, panicked, or pissed when change does arrive. But change will come. It’s inevitable.
To help be better prepared for change, add new adventures, experiences, or habits to your routine regularly to prove to yourself that you can not only survive change but thrive in it. For example, you could visit a new city, change your drive home from work, try out a new gym, or visit a park you’ve never (or rarely) been to.
Reframe your experiences to remind yourself that you’ve had decades of successfully navigating change. You’ve already proven you’re really good at it.
2. Put It Off
Life is short, and time seems to go even faster as we get older. So, whether you have a bucket list or just something you’ve always dreamed of doing, now’s the time to set it in motion. Yes, you’re busy with work, family, community, and other obligations, but time is precious. Delete or delegate the things you no longer want to be doing, and sign up for the things you do want to try. Mountain climbing, surfing, a new dance class, camping (or glamping), or just getting up early to watch the sunrise—add them to your schedule and get going to make the most of this year, this month, this week, this day.
This goes for friendships as well. If you’ve been neglecting your friends because you’ve been so wrapped up in everything else you’ve got on your plate, take some time to reach out for a call, text, email, or some actual facetime. Connections are vital to a longer, healthier life, so if you’ve been putting off time with friends, there’s no better time to reach out than now.
3. Take Your Health(care) for Granted
Annual physicals, getting your eyes and ears checked, and visiting the dentist may not be that fun, but around 50 years old is when many people start noticing not so positive changes in blood pressure, blood sugar, blood fats… not to mention that it’s time to start going in more regularly for mammograms and eyesight changes and other preventative care. Gum disease, for example, has been connected to other health issues, including heart issues, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions. So regular check-ups are that much more important.
Yes, it’s vital to take care of your health by eating primarily whole foods, including quality proteins, a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, and complex carbs. You’ll also want to make sure you’re moving your body daily. But, it’s also time to develop a relationship with a healthcare practitioner or office you trust and set up at least yearly checks if you haven’t already done so.
Then follow the guidance of your healthcare professionals as risks of complications from common diseases, such as flu, pneumonia, or covid 19, increase with age. Discuss regular screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and skin checks, with your doctor as well as finding out if it’s time to consider a flu shot or other available inoculations.
This also goes for sexual health. Pregnancy is likely no longer a concern, but the same isn’t true of sexually transmitted diseases (aka STDs or STIs). For example, cases of chlamydia have nearly doubled, while gonorrhea cases nearly tripled for folks 55 and older from 2013 to 2017. Both of these diseases can be passed along even if you don’t have any symptoms.
Remember to have open conversations with any new partners, and if you are with a new partner (or someone who has more than one partner), make sure you continue using a condom to protect yourself. Be open as well with your healthcare practitioner, who can provide regular STD screenings.
Finally, start paying attention to your blood pressure. Between 30 and 50% of people over 50 may have chronic high blood pressure. This can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and dementia. To stay ahead of the game and make sure it doesn’t get out of hand, have it checked regularly, and then take steps to control it if it’s high.
4. Settle for Weight Gain
It may not be as easy to maintain or lose weight as you get older (mostly due to decreased activity levels as well as changing hormones), but it’s far from inevitable. Ensure you’re moving your body daily by walking regularly and getting in both strength and cardio training. Then follow smart advice to help you cook and eat healthy meals and maintain a healthy weight.
Yes, it may take a bit more effort as you get older, but weight gain and muscle loss are not inevitable, and no matter what your age, you can take steps to get in better shape.
5. Avoid Activity
As we age, we’re less likely to be active. We’re likely no longer running around with the kids, playing sports, or heading to the park for a pick-up game. Unfortunately, the reduced activity levels can result in decreased muscle and bone mass and an increased risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
Ensuring you stay active and exercise regularly, on the other hand, has been shown to increase muscle and bone mass and density, increase metabolism, improve sleep, lift mood, and so much more.
Find activities you enjoy, so you’ll do them more often. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Try walking, gardening, dancing, jogging, hiking, or joining a fun fitness class.
One type of exercise you don’t want to skip, however, is resistance training, such as weight lifting. Adding resistance to your workouts can help reverse the natural muscle and bone loss that can occur with age and thus help extend not just lifespan but health span. So, aim to work those muscles at least twice a week.
Remember, however, to give your body time to recover and bounce back from intense workouts so it can rebuild and repair. Give yourself at least a day between working specific muscles, and choose a couple of days a week for active recovery to do some mobility stretches, walk, or move gently. Stretching can also help improve posture and get in better alignment, which helps improve mobility, make you look taller and slimmer, improve breathing, and feel better in your body.
6. Sweat the Small Stuff
Back in the ‘90s, Richard Carlson wrote a book called, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff, helping us learn how to put our challenges into perspective to reduce stress and anxiety. We can’t always change the people or environment around us, which is why we need to learn to let go of the things we can’t change.
If you’ve experienced toxic people or events from the past, find a way to forgive and leave them in the past. And for times you may have made mistakes, it’s just as important to let those go and forgive yourself. Otherwise, you could find yourself feeling bitter as you relive past hurts.
If you feel anxious and stressed out, especially about stuff you can’t change, then it’s time to learn how to better deal with those stressors. Two popular methods are meditation and yoga, but daily walks can help a lot too.
7. Be Too Serious
Laughter is good for the body and soul. It enhances the uptake of air needed to oxygenate the lungs and stimulates the heart and muscles. It also increases feel-good hormones like endorphins.
Lighten the mood with laughter and enjoy other benefits like improved circulation, muscle relaxation, stress relief, pain relief, improved immune functioning, and increased mood.
8. Skip Self-Care
During this stage of life, many of us are caring for aging parents as well as growing children while carrying increased burdens from work. If you’re feeling like you’re being pulled in too many directions and don’t have time for self-care, that’s exactly why it’s important to make it a priority. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Prioritizing yourself is one of the least selfish things we can do as it gives us a deeper well to pull from to help others. Not sure how to start? Here are 13 easy ways to practice self-care. You could also choose to splurge on something you know you’ll love, from a massage to a new outfit to an extended vacation. (You’re worth it!)
At 50 years old, you have plenty of time to learn and do new things. You’ve only lived half of your adult years, according to actuary tables. So, rather than doing what you’ve always done, energize yourself with new learning. Try an instrument, new dance, language, scuba diving, or take a class at your local community center or college, for example.
Or revisit some of your favorite moments. Did you study abroad, travel to an exotic location for your honeymoon, or go on a road trip with friends after school? Revisit those places, people, and experiences to see how much they’ve changed or how much they’ve stayed the same.
10. Be Too Strict With Your Diet
Many people find that the intensity of the battle against weight gain increases with age. However, it’s also vitally important to ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to age well.
Think of eating healthfully as a choice rather than following strict rules. Yes, reach for whole, nutrient-dense foods, such as quality proteins, fresh (or frozen) produce, beans, nuts, and seeds first. But also include foods you eat just for the enjoyment. Counterintuitively, allowing ourselves permission to eat favorite foods in moderation can help us better resist cravings and the bingeing that can follow.
11. Neglect Your Hearing
Many people in their 50s begin to notice changes in hearing (likely from loud car stereos, concerts, and Walkman’s from our younger years). Now, however, those loud noises can have an even greater effect on hearing loss and tinnitus. If you’re heading out to a concert or another loud event, grab and use a pair of earplugs to help prevent further hearing loss.
12. Pop Pills Indiscriminately
Headache, cold, feeling sore from a workout… there’s a pill for that. And luckily, the over-the-counter medications are readily available from convenience stores to grocery stores if something ails you. While they can be extremely helpful, because they’re so easy to get, they’re also easy to overuse. And although they are available over-the-counter, overuse isn’t safe.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol), for example, is very effective for helping relieve the pain of headaches, arthritis, toothaches, fevers, and muscle and joint aches and pains. Yet too much can lead to severe liver damage, especially if it’s used while drinking alcohol or if multiple medications containing it are combined. (For example, if Tylenol is used with a cold remedy like NyQuil or a painkiller like Vicodin.) Remember to read the labels and ensure you take no more than 2 grams in 24 hours if you drink alcohol and 3 grams in 24 hours if you don’t.
As well, some over-the-counter medications can interfere with other prescription medications. Have a chat with your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking multiple types of medications, including any that are over the counter.
Speaking of the medicine cabinet, it’s also a good time to clear out any clutter there by tossing expired medications as they can lose their potency over time or may interfere with any current drugs you’re taking. While you’re at it, you can also get rid of any old makeup that you no longer wear. Makeup can not only get dry and difficult to use, it can also harbor bacteria that can make you ill.
13. Skip the Sunscreen
While sunlight is one of the best ways to ensure you get enough vitamin D, too much sun can lead to sun damage, including wrinkles and, worse, skin cancer. Getting in the habit of applying at least 15 SPF sunscreen to the face, neck, and any other areas that will be exposed for a while can help prevent both.
14. Make Excuses
If you’re ready to make some changes but haven’t started yet, you probably have a list of reasons why you can’t start now. But let’s face it, most of those are probably just excuses. If you want to live in a new neighborhood (state or country), have found yourself in relationships that take so much but don’t know how to give (that includes friends, family, and work), or want to travel more, write a book, take up scuba diving, or whatever makes your heart beat a little faster, stop making excuses, focus on your dream, and make it real. You can’t please everyone, but you can strive to please yourself.
Just don’t beat yourself up that you haven’t done it yet. Everyone makes mistakes, puts up with maybe more than they should, or stumbles from time to time—especially when trying something new.
While many of us have heard that “anything worth doing is worth doing well,” perhaps that saying should be changed to “anything worth doing is worth doing poorly,” at least at first. It’s not about getting it right or doing it perfectly—it’s about giving it a go and learning from the process.
For many of us, our 50s are the prime time of life. We’ve accumulated years of wisdom through life experience. We’ve made mistakes and learned from them. We’ve learned to be more grateful and optimistic (hopefully) about the future. We’ve learned how to make smarter financial decisions. Yet, we’re still young enough to embrace adventure.
It’s never too late to try something new, take better care of yourself, and increase self-confidence and vitality. Age is something to be proud of: Be proud of how far you’ve come and how much further you can go.