As I enter my 40’s I am amazed at how much fun it is to be middle-aged. I, apparently, am fairly alone in this feeling, however and I have to admit that maybe turning 50 won’t be so much fun after all. Certainly the media is doing its best to convince me that all I can look forward to is retiring from my job, and then retiring from life! An antidote to that negativity comes Sheila Key and Peggy Spencer’s 50 Ways to Leave Your 40s, a joyous book celebrating the second half of our life.

Written to provide the road map making a potentially scary passage into a festival, this is a great book, one that nurtures our Selves. You may not agree with all of the advice (some of it can be a bit trite, like ‘get rid of your bra’) but there is wide range of topics and they are all delivered with such good-natured humor that it’s worth paying attention to. Even if you don’t follow the advice. The authors are like good friends telling you just what you need to hear and not necessarily what you want to hear.

Many of us have spent so much time just surviving – raising families, earning money enough to get by, finding our life’s path to fulfillment – that turning 50 is can be a difficult transition. Our families don’t need so much care (or any, being on their own and making their own lives), our careers are likely at their peak, it really can feel like its all downhill from here.

The book is divided into four parts: Body, Mind, Soul and Heart, each beginning with a story or cultural reference presented to appropriately frame the section. Some examples of the "50 Ways" include: "Play Ball!," "Book ‘Em Danno," "Get Lost," and "Paint It Black." (The last one is actually not a reference to the Rolling Stones song, but an exercise in grieving for our losses.) Each section seeks to inspire the reader to rethink aging and take action. Sprinkled throughout are “Cool Moves” for fitness, taking into account the natural slowing and stiffening we experience as we grow older, “Doc in the Box” advice from physician Peggy Spencer, “Scribbles and Doodles” ideas for journaling and “Things to Try At Least Once” to help us push our boundaries a little farther than they were before.

Although the writing is good and familiar in tone (as appropriate to a good friend), it is also quick and a bit choppy and at times, making it hard to follow. I don’t think this is a good book to sit down and read from beginning to end in one sitting (or even just a few); it’s better taken in small bites, perhaps randomly picking it up when your age intrudes and you need a distraction.

50 Ways to Leave Your 40s is all about nurturing wonder, increasing our mental and physical health, stimulating creativity, and creating a truly juicy existence. Highly recommended.

Five belly laughs out of five.


~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Authors: Sheila Key and Peggy Spencer
New World Library, 2008
pp. 290, $14.95