Fifty women at 50 part five: "The next few years are likely to be my most productive”
Part five of Holyrood's special series of interviews with 50 women aged 50, offering different perspectives on the experiences of women at middle age.
Diane Kane, West Lothian
Diane Kane is an occupational therapist working with adults with eating disorders. She lives in West Lothian with her family and both she and her husband turned 50 in March.
“I’m happy to be 50. I think one thing that I’ve thought about a bit more is my health, taking care of my health more than I had in the past. I’ve been thinking about diet and exercise more than I have in the past, as being more important with my life ahead of me, because, obviously, I’ve had most of my life by now, at 50, and I want to have as long a life as I can.
“I think my philosophy about life has changed a wee bit. I try very much to live in the moment. I think it’s important to look back, but I try just to glance. I try not to be so preoccupied with things that didn’t go right or beat myself up for things. I think I’m more gentle on myself. And the same for the future – I try not to think too far advanced of myself. Just glance forward, glance back, but try and enjoy my life and try and make the most of now and enjoy the happy times.
"My thought was to celebrate it for a full year. So, have something every single month that we could do that was part of the celebrations, doing a different thing, going to a different place, trying a different food…”.
Prof Kirstein Rummery, Stirling
Kirstein Rummery is a professor of social policy at Stirling University specialising in disabilities and gender issues. She herself has disabilities and also has three children, aged 21, 17 and 14, who all have a disability or special needs. She lives in Stirling and turned 50 in June.
"When I learned that I’m the same age as Nicola Sturgeon, I felt like a huge underachiever. Obviously, I should be the first minister of some country by now. I don’t feel 50. I only feel 50 when I look at the ages of my children. Actually, in terms of what I think I want to do with my work and my life, I feel about a decade younger because I feel like I’ve still got quite a lot to do … I don’t feel 50 and I look around at the people who are my age and they don’t look 50 to me either. Maybe we have this inbuilt ageism and or something, but to me, they all look younger. They don’t look halfway through, or even three quarters of the way through; they look like they’ve still got lots more to do, and that’s what I feel like as well.”
Lorraine Harvey, Glasgow
Lorraine Harvey is a coronary care nurse and has a grown-up son.
“It’s been a strange start to the year. I’ve been nursing COVID patients. It’s amazing how teams come together to support each other. On the other hand, it’s sad times. You’re having to do all your communications with relatives over the phone.
“My son’s 26 and he’s at home. My parents are 75 and mum still works. She’s a union welfare officer.
“This time of life is quite comfortable. Me and my partner like to go away to nice hotels, go out for nice meals.
“But I’ve been starting to experience the menopause. That’s difficult to deal with, mood swings and sweats and things. It’s like being pre-menstrual for three weeks a month instead of one.
“My birthday’s in October. We had a few city breaks planned. I was going to spend a night in a bothy with a few friends and hike up a Munro. My main thing was I’m going to be fit at 50. I do keep fit, but the plan was to keep fitter.
“Now it will just be a nice meal at home and an online disco party.”
Fiona Eadie, Fife
Fiona has worked in law and politics throughout her career. She is currently a civil servant in the COPFS and president of FDA union. She lives in Fife with her husband and their three young boys.
“I’m quite relaxed about turning 50 – in fact, I feel fitter and healthier now than I did at either 30 or 40. My preferred exercise is Zumba, but I’ve recently completed the Couch to 5k programme and am now training for a 10k, both things I couldn’t have even contemplated until relatively recently.
“I’ve never needed an excuse for a party - I had one for my 30th birthday and my 40th (which was only a fortnight after I had our twins). I had also planned one for my 50th, but with the COVID restrictions, I’m now considering just postponing any big celebrations until next year.
“Being president of my union over the last two years has been a huge honour and given me the opportunity to meet lots of really interesting and inspirational people. It’s also been a time to reflect on what I’d like to do next. It occurred to me that I still have many working years ahead of me before I can think of retirement - so I may even try something new, which is an exciting thought!”
Elaine Lynch, Glasgow
Elaine Lynch is a careers adviser at Glasgow Caledonian University and has just begun training to be a psychotherapist. She is single and has caring responsibilities for her mother in the Borders who is going through cancer treatment. She lives in Glasgow and turned 50 in April.
“I think 50 for me it feels a bit like, well, that’s it now, you don’t necessarily need to be pandering to what others expect anymore. It doesn’t really matter. You don’t have to pretend what you’re reading or what you’re watching or going to things that you absolutely don’t want to go to. I’m confident enough to go, ‘No, I’m okay, thanks.’ And do you know what, I love the Real Housewives sometimes. And I’m not embarrassed.
“I’m hoping then to start my own business. Maybe in about three or four years I’m looking to do that, which is quite scary, I think. But again, I think something else I’ve kind of worked out is, do you know, if it goes wrong, does it really matter? I’m kind of confident I can make money in some way, shape or form. I mean I think I’m too old to ever go back to bar work, but, dear God, never say never.”
Susanna To, Fife
Susanna To lives in Fife, where she works for the local council. She lives with her husband and son and turns 50 in September.
“I’ve got older siblings and they didn’t really make a big deal out of it, they were like ‘it’s just another birthday’.
“But friends have been like ‘it’s the big 5-0’.
“But what they’ve said has generally been quite positive, nothing like feeling they’re going downhill or anything.
“To me, when I was younger, [women in their 50s] seemed older. I’m not sure if at that time they maybe dressed older, but I think a lot of them were like grannies at that age.
“My own mum, she was a gran a couple of years before she was 50. So it just seemed to be quite an old age – but I don’t think that now, obviously.
“I think seeing a lot of people that age or older that actually don’t look ‘their age’ and they’re a lot more active and still on the go, I’m more aware of that as I’m coming to that age, whereas when I was younger I thought ‘50, that’s an old granny’. I think it is actually my own view of that age that’s changed.
“My first thought when I thought of being 50 was ‘Gosh, how did that happen?’ because it doesn’t feel that long ago since I was 40. From that point of view, I think that time is flying by and I really need to do a lot more of what’s on my bucket list, travel a lot more to see the world…Because life is quite short and you just try to make the most of it and take any opportunities that come along.”
Kirsty Darwent, Ayr
Kirsty Darwent worked as a psychologist and psychotherapist in the NHS before taking some time off to have children. She returned to work in the third sector in non-executive roles before being elected to her local council and is now chair of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service board.
“I’m feeling some conflict between the number  and how I feel inside. With my children now largely independent, until coronavirus came in and they’ve moved back home, the next few years are likely to be my most productive. I love doing what I do now. I’ve got the freedom to do that without having to rush home to make dinner or look after anybody, and I feel like I’ve got some more experience and confidence. Actually, for me this almost feels like the beginning of a phase that’s going to be really creative rather than the middle of some predetermined script. It feels very comfortable, as long as I ignore the number.”
Fiona Erskine, Perth
Fiona Erskine is a GP living near Perth who works in prison and out-of-hours care. She is divorced with three children aged 19, nine and seven. She turns 50 in November.
“I feel like it’s sort of snuck up on me a bit. I don’t really feel 50. Part of being single, I suppose, is that you still feel quite young.
“I’d have hoped to be more settled with the family. I never really thought I was going to be a single parent, but then again that’s maybe not so much to do with age.
“Some of my friends who are single are still going out. Even some of my friends who are married and quite settled, they still like to go out and enjoy themselves, which was not so much the case with my parents’ generation.
“There was, I think, a stereotype [of women in their 50s] – dressing a certain way, being quite ‘frumpy’ or whatever.
“I don’t think that older women’s voices are always heard, although that’s probably changing, isn’t it? The jury’s still out, I suppose. Nicola Sturgeon is heard, isn’t she?
“It is sort of an ambition I have to move back to Glasgow. Living in a small village, it’s a lot more quiet. Bigger cities seem more open and cosmopolitan. I think it’d be nice to have more to do for myself.”
Khadija Mohammed, Glasgow
Khadija Mohammed is a senior lecturer in education in the School of Education and Social Sciencesat the University of the West of Scotland and co-founder and chair of the Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators (SAMEE), which aims to support BME teachers, parents and young people. She is divorced with three daughters.
"Turning 30 was the most difficult for me. Perhaps it was something more about my identity as a BAME Muslim woman in Scotland.
"Turning 40 was a breeze. I think I finally came into my own…by this I mean I had reached a stage in my life where I was comfortable with my own racialised identity – I made a decision that I will no longer try to ‘fit in’ but rather begin to disrupt the status quo and start engaging friends, colleagues and wider education stakeholders in critical conversations about race.
“Turning 50 has been great in terms of getting my teeth into issues that affect me both personally and professionally, and receiving the Scottish Trade Union Congress Equality Award 2019 was a good start to this new decade.”