50 LIFE begins at
There’s a big birthday around the corner, so how best to mark it? Maybe by tackling all those things you have put off for 49 years…
According to research, Brits that have reached 50 should have seen the Northern Lights, gone skinny dipping and said no to their mother. As we near the milestone of reaching 50, many people are setting themselves a ‘bucket list’ of challenges.
“It struck me as being a great way of marking such a momentous occasion,” says Jenny Lowe, who with the help of her husband set herself 50 tasks to complete in her 50th year. “They were very personal to me. Some of the activities may have seemed usual for some people but to me they were ‘long lived need to do’s’; places I’d never visited, different activities I had put off doing and challenges I had always set myself.”
The first challenge was simply to make marmalade. “I bought loads of Seville oranges and set off with a recipe. Having put all the ingredients into a large pan, it didn’t seem to be setting. I was up until 2.30am still stirring the marmalade. The next day it was perfect and 20 jars were made and shared for breakfast on my birthday weekend.”
She found that the physical challenges were the hardest. “Although I was an experienced hill walker, sleeping on top of Hellvelyn mountain, England’s third highest mountain, felt like a dangerous activity”, she says. “It was wonderful watching the sun setting across the beautiful Cumbrian hills and then waking at 4am to watch the sunrise – a memory I will always have.”
She also always wanted to be a model: “I was working as a palliative care tutor at a hospice and they were putting on a good-as-new fashion show. I volunteered to walk the catwalk – it was fabulous watching the faces of the women enjoying the clothes I was wearing. I then went on to become a portrait model for an artist who ran portrait painting courses. I found I could sit very still, which I didn’t know before that!”
For dad-of-three Paul Goss, his year of challenges was a complete surprise. It began when his wife, Karen, presented him with an envelope on his 49th birthday. She had asked friends and family to come up with 50 ideas. Some were simple – his grandchildren wanted him to roll down a hill with them and have his face painted as a monkey – another was to send a message in a bottle, which they launched in Holland.
“We happened to be on a cruise in Rotterdam. I thought it would be the last I would see of it but literally seven days later I got an email from a lady in Belgium whose daughter had found it – she sent a note and a picture of her holding the bottle,” he says. “It was my dream as a kid to find a message in a bottle.”
Paul says the experiences brought home the importance of friends and family; especially his last challenge – performing the traditional Maori ceremonial dance, the haka. “I hate performing so left it to last,” he admits. “I stood up to do it. Then my daughter stood next to me. I then found out the whole family had learnt it.”
He says he most enjoyed photographing 100 things that make him happy. “I tried to find something each day that made me smile, a photo or something simple like a sunset,” he adds.
A study by insurer Sunlife of 2,000 over-50s found buying a house was top of the list of things to do by 50, followed by having children and getting married. Falling in love came fourth, with eating fish and chips on the pier at number five. One adventurous respondent also described how they got a ferry to France with just a sleeping bag and spent three years travelling around Europe, while another got engaged the day they met their partner. Researchers also revealed 47 per cent of over-50s feel they still have much more to achieve in their life.
So what was the overriding result of setting challenges? “What I have learned from the challenges the most is if I have an idea or desire to do something then do it now,” Jenny says. “Don’t wait. None of us know what the future will bring and we need to do the things we want to do now.”