Redefiners

Mimi, 59: “You Want to Do Cartwheels, Wear Shorts or Start a Business? Age Has No Relevance”  

We chat to 59-year-old midlife pro-ageing blogger Mimi Ison of Hey Middle Age to discuss fitness, the danger of comfort zones, and why it’s never too late to live your healthiest – and most fabulous – lifestyle.

Naomi Chadderton
Naomi Chadderton
An experienced editor and journalist specialising in news and lifestyle.

When we hear stories of how Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook at 19, or that Bill Gates was just 23 when Microsoft got off the ground, it often feels like we’re being fed the narrative that success comes early, or not at all. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. Just look at fashion designer Vera Wang who didn’t design her first dress until she turned 40, or Eric Yuan who founded Zoom at the age of 41. It’s safe to say that you’re never too old to turn your life around.

Midlife pro-ageing blogger, Mimi Ison, knows this all too well. Crushing age stereotypes at the age of 59 through her popular blog and fitness-angled Instagram account @heymiddleage, she gave birth to her first daughter at 36, completed an internship at a film casting office at 42, and didn’t have a full time career job until the age of 46. “I started as a design assistant at a cool LA jewellery brand and quickly moved up to become the creative director, overseeing all the design teams,” Mimi tells Life/Redefined. So far, so inspiring.

“Soon after I turned 53 I began to have several physical issues including bone spurs, frozen shoulder, osteopenia and, most painful of all, a herniated disk,” she says. “Until then I had considered myself to be ‘healthy’ because my annual checkups were fine, and I worked out two to three times per week. I lacked energy though, was burnt out at work and surviving on caffeine and sugar.”

Mimi’s turning point came when her mother died not long after and, in a bid to deal with her middle-aged nadir, she turned to the internet. “I didn’t love the resources I found because they were either overly positive and unrealistic, or pushed the anti-ageing narrative which makes women feel like they’re broken and need fixing.” Taking matters into her own hands, she went on to launch a blog to share what she had learnt about ageing and ageism and the rest, as they say, his history. She now boasts more than 114k followers on her Instagram page @heymiddleage, where she inspires middle agers to move their bodies in a number of exciting and new ways. “There isn’t an invisible line you cross when you suddenly can’t do what you want because of age,” she adds. “You want to do cartwheels, wear shorts or start a business? Age has no relevance.”

Mimi's Advice on Redefining Life in Middle Age

Here Mimi shares her top tips in redefining life in middle age, the importance of relationships, and why you should never let age get in the way of your fitness goals.

1. Don’t Use Your Age As An Excuse if it’s Not One

People put restrictions on themselves based solely on age, but that’s self-directed ageism. Ageism is so normalised that it’s common to direct it towards ourselves. Age might be to blame – in some cases it is – but be sure that it’s actually true and not just an excuse. Beliefs that older people should slow down probably stem from a theory in 1800s’ western medicine that believed everyone was born with a finite amount of vital energy and when it dried up, you died. That seems preposterous today, but stereotypes have a way of enduring. To me, it’s logical to stay active and strong at every age.”

2. It's Never Too Late to Start Working Out

Just start really small and build from there. Walking is a great way to get moving – just walk for five minutes a day and gradually increase the time as you go along. Some form of strength training is important to build muscle mass too and stave off sarcopenia. Weights, body weight…there are lots of tutorials online but for weight training I suggest you start with a trainer to learn correct form.”

3. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Try lots of different classes to find out what you enjoy the most. It might be dancing, Pilates, yoga, cycling, rowing...there are so many types of exercise out there. I don’t attend classes based on age, but if you prefer, there are low intensity programmes specifically for older adults too like water exercises, chair yoga and Zumba Gold. Trying classes with a friend is even better. Make it an adventure.

“For me, boxing changed my life. It’s the most physically difficult thing I have done, but I learnt from my coach to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and that lesson has helped me get through hard things in midlife.”

4. You Don’t Need to Join a Gym to Get Fit

“Online fitness is super convenient, and I’m a fan of Apple Fitness because of the variety of classes and the ability to modify.

“If you don’t like traditional exercise, try getting outside to garden, hike or go to a park. Perhaps you have some fun equipment lurking in your garage or attic like a hula hoop, skipping rope or bike. Simple movements throughout the day add up too – try parking at the furthest spot, taking the stairs, standing while you’re on calls, squatting when you do laundry or getting off the bus one stop early. It all counts for something.”

5. You’re Never Too Old to Dance

“If you want to dance, just dance. And if you can’t bring yourself to do it in front of others then shut the door, turn up the music and dance by yourself. I promise it will feel amazing.”

6. The Secret to Staying Healthy, Happy and Fulfilled in midlife is That There is No Secret

“There’s no aha moment when it comes to ageing, but I think the following help.

“Firstly take care of your body. She works hard for you everyday so respect her and give her what she needs to take care of you.

“Secondly learn and grow by taking action. Don’t wait for the perfect time or the right decision because the perfect anything doesn’t exist. When you do new things, doors open to discoveries you could have never expected.

“Put effort into relationships and cultivate friendships. The most important determinant for ageing well is strong relationships. I truly believe loving, quality relationships are the key to thriving longevity.”

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