A DECISION to challenge ageism and champion positive ageing was the step that propelled one depressed woman out of Tunbridge Wells and into a motorhome for a new, happier life.
Former BBC journalist Siobhan Daniels recalled ‘feeling broken at work, looking in the mirror and seeing my emotions coming back at me’.
Some of the emotions were very old, there since childhood when she was beaten and locked in a cellar, while others were griefs and strains which had accumulated through life.
“It was survival in my mid-fifties. I was a single mother for years. I was feeling lost in my fifties. I got to a point when I got so disillusioned with life,” Siobhan told the Times.
She retired in July 2019 at the age of 60, got rid of her flat and possessions, and set out in a motorhome in September 2019, ‘with no plan’.
Despite the hardships of life on the road – including a ‘very cathartic experience’ of crying and screaming next to Loch Morlich, and spending ‘five months in a field on my own’ during the second lockdown – Siobhan kept writing.
And when she started reaching out from that field, doing Instagram ‘lives’ to camera and being interviewed for podcasts, the responses she got – as a woman ageing freely – secured her a Guardian column and later, a book deal.
She now also gives talks at Womens’ Institute events and women’s luncheons as she travels, and far from being depressed by re-reading and re-telling all of the dark times, Siobhan said: “I like reading it. I see how far I’ve come.”
And she insists no-one has to sell up and take to the road as she did.
“I talk to a lot of women and they say, ‘I couldn’t do that because of my job, my health, my elderly parents’ – elderly parents are a common theme – but you don’t have to do what I did,” she said.
“You can go and join a choir. Find an adventure.”
Family ties don’t have to be a burden, either, she stressed, revealing that her tie to her daughter had kept her going until she could see a way to change things.
“Having my daughter kept me going. Then, when she left home when I was retiring, everything aligned. I decided I was going to be mistress of my own destiny.”
Siobhan’s message about ageing well can help both old and young,” she explained.
“I feel strongly about inter-generational mixing for women because I know how I felt as both a younger and older woman and I think they both have valuable contributions to the workplace.
“Older women shoulder so much in their lives, both at home and at work. Often they do not want to go home and tell their family how badly they are treated and feeling in work – the way they feel voiceless and marginalised and disrespected.
“Their children have seen them seemingly succeeding in life and yet quietly inside they feel totally lost and do not know where to turn.
“I want women to open up about what is really going on with an ageist workplace and wider society. If they talk about it, then younger employees may work to get things changed, so it does not continue happening. Especially as they have to work until nearly 70 before they can draw a pension!”
She added: “I also feel the same should happen for men and boys. I hope there is someone like me shouting from the rooftops for them not to be treated badly as they age.”
‘Retirement Rebel’ by Siobhan Daniels is published on October 20. You can meet her at her book launch at The Bull, Frant Road, on October 20 at 6:30pm or follow her on Instagram: @shuvovshuvoff