Recently, there was a panel discussion on ‘Midsters’ and whether they were leading a colourful life. We sent well-being and fashion expert, Rebecca Weef-Smith along to find out what it was all about.

What’s with the Midster?

I took a bit of a dislike to the term Midster, it sounds like a slightly baggy low rise jean that Marks and Spencer would think was a good idea but – as was mentioned more than once by the audience at the launch – M & S do get it so wrong. I also have a feeling of it being too closely aligned to Mister and found myself humming some old show tune – mister can you spare a dime – but I will try not to let that interfere with my objectivity about the report which was commissioned by JD Williams, a company specialising in products for women over 45.

Overall the findings do reflect what we know here at AofA, life is bloody good when you are over 45; midster life for today’s 45-65-year-olds is a ‘distinct and exciting phase of life’.

Angela Spindler, the CEO of N Brown Group which owns JD Williams, was frank about her feelings of enjoying this part of her own life, “Age is just a number by which we are no longer defined.” There was much talk of possibilities, new opportunities and positive ageing attitudes in society at large. Women in the 45+ bracket are more confident in their appearance, have a better sex life, and are enjoying their leisure time more. However the report does also show that more than one in ten women are concerned about losing their sex drive, along with memory loss, independence and health problems.

A General Sense of Ageing

Thank goodness only 13% of those surveyed want to be 18 again but half – yes 50% – want to be thirty again. Are they mad? Has no one told them of the Advantages of Age?

As the panel discussed there is still loads of scare-mongering around; how dreadful this aging is going to be, oh the loneliness, the poverty, the poor health. AofA has a duty of care to put this right! We need to get out there and evangelise guys; 48% of 45+ women fear being a burden on loved ones and 68% fear losing their independence. This is not a reflection of my aging tribe, where is the flamboyance and sheer joy, where are the mavericks…has the word not spread that being a ‘baby-boomer’ is much better than being a ‘millennial’?

Women & Shopping

A whopping 70% of the women surveyed feel ignored by the high street, which brings me back to Marks and Spencer’s. And what can be learnt from this report that will inform the real world. At this point it may be useful to remember that JD Williams are retailers, and whilst the survey could be viewed from an alternative angle, my takeaway was that the launch was geared towards a fashion audience who are attempting to understand this demographic in order to sell them fashion, real clothes in stores and fashion-media, either traditional print or online.

The audience and panel discussed the disconnect between how we see ourselves and what we are being offered on the high street in terms of actual garments – how they fit, what styles are age appropriate -and the experience of shopping – creating environments that appeal to women 45+. What do we really want fashion retailers to provide that will switch us back on to enjoying connecting with fashion- shopping? 55% of women in this age group find it hard to discover clothing that they think suits them and the same figure -55%- stick to high street brands where they can try on before buying. 66% of the surveys stay with shops they feel comfortable in, even though 9 out of 10 put a lot of thought into outfit selection. My question would be where is the sense of adventure there? We need to encourage them to take a few more risks with where they shop and try something different, especially the 30% who desire to shop more fashionably but think they are too old! We need to do an AofA round the UK bus tour to get their flamboyance flowing! Come on ladies M & S isn’t the only option. Surprisingly shopping in charity shops didn’t figure large on the creating a positive fashion after 45. It seems that the idea wasn’t consider necessary to the survey. I wonder what the data would have revealed had they asked how many 45+ women in the UK bought fashion items from the plethora of charity retailers on every high street. My experience of working as a stylist with this age group is that there is a definite positive shift in the way that they create identity with clothes. I have a sense that age brings with it the freedom to explore fashion without the restrictions of going into an office every day, or dressing to attract the attention of men; I know that AofA members certainly aren’t all wearing ‘age-appropriate outfits’ but are certainly having fun with dressing to suit themselves.

Media Impact on body confidence

Even with all the apparent positive aging attitudes that the report reveals that the women surveyed still feel underrepresented by mainstream media; 8 in 10 don’t feel TV advertising reflects who they are, with the same figure believing that their age group has no presence on fashion catwalks.

72% are concerned with the misleading effect of photo-shopping images leading to unrealistic expectations. The idea of real 45+ women’s bodies, the way we actually perceive our own bodies, and the manner in which we compare with celebrity bodies always comes back to Helen Mirren – 60% of those surveyed put her at the top of their most admired list – poor woman, can she never be allowed off her perfect perch.

The negative impact of the media on body confidence overall was deemed relatively low with 62% of women stating that the media had no effect on their body perceptions at all.

I was cheered by the fact that nearly 1 in 20 British women aged 45+ would post a bikini –clad photo of themselves on social media and this was before Alex Shulman posted her infamous image. Of the five panel members only one said she would absolutely not post a bikini- selfie, the audience weren’t polled, which was a shame because I really wanted to know; I also wanted to know how many would have put up naked photos on social media in order to walk the talk of positive body image but alas I didn’t get the chance to ask that question!

Sex and Intimacy

42% of women surveyed want more sex, with 6 in 10 agreeing that there is less stigma attached to dating in this age group than 20 years ago. I wonder if it is the other 4 out of 10 who make up the 42% wanting more sex. Sadly only 10% found that sex was better after menopause and 23% said that their post-menopause sex-life was worse. I’m pretty sure that the fact that only 25% of those surveyed felt that it is more acceptable to be promiscuous at 45+ has some relevance to this figure but I’ve yet to work out what that my be, or what promiscuous actually related to. I would have like clarification here, it all felt a bit prudish and a British brush it under the carpet attitude of not wanting the nitty-gritty. Come on I want to know what promiscuity means to the 45+ woman in the street, clearly the 24% only having sex once a year or less may be skewing the data.

Home and Work Life

Before the debate convened I was chatting to a fashion editor who only last week had become a freelancer after 40+ years of employment. It would appear, according to this survey,that being an older entrepreneur is still unusual; only 11% of those surveyed had a career change in their 50s. (There is no figure for a career change in the 60s so I’m reading that as 50+ which could be wrong of me). There was nothing in the report, which I could find, to highlight the growing band of older female entrepreneurs or freelancers who are generating positive working experiences for themselves.

25% of this demographic struggle with a work–life balance, which means that 75% have found a way to successfully negotiate this juggling act. Overall there was little good news in this section, with 45% of women in London seeing themselves as the main breadwinner compared to 34% in the rest of the country there was a feeling that there wasn’t much opportunity for these women to enjoy the extra leisure time that they had stated was the thing they were most looking forward when becoming a ‘midster’ (44%). Another one in five was most looking forward to their free bus pass, so more AoA bus adventures then!

How colourful are we really being at 45+?

The findings in this report left me feeling less than confident that this colourful life was taking place in many parts of the UK for 45+ women. I had hoped for multi-coloured chandelier earrings with bells and whistles. Or at least an exotic splash of red. It all felt a bit beige to be honest.

The panel didn’t seem very excited about being older either; they all looked great, women in their prime who should be having a great time, but the overall impression I had was that these women felt the choices they had were limited. I was very aware of my own bra-less state in a room full of sensible support underwear. This isn’t a judgement, merely an observation; my desire to be a bit of a rebel in the room, to see aging as an aspirational goal with a freedom-pass, may well have coloured my expectations of my fellow attendees. I just want them to have a bit of a blast in an Advantages of Age style. Come on ladies let your hair down and get on the Bus!