How to avoid becoming ‘beige’ as you age

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Wellington-based writer Frances Manwaring is urging seniors to avoid allowing society’s judgement to push them into the “railway siding of invisibility”.

Her new book Never Succumb to Beige & Other Tips for a Colourful Life, released earlier this month, is described as part memoir, part essay, part self-help book.

“I am saddened by how many people I’ve encountered who feel invisible or useless as they age,” she says.

“They tell me it’s inevitable. ‘It is what it is,’ they say, using that much over-used cliché of our times. I fundamentally don’t believe that it has to be.”

Manwaring says she chose ‘never to succumb to beige’ as her way of navigating life’s challenges.

“It’s a statement of my commitment to staying visible and an invitation to others to hop on the train of many colours. While this theme is not the exclusive focus of my writing, it underpins a lot of it.

“It’s become something of a crusade. I believe we need to stand and deliver on our potential and not let life, our doubts and fears, or society’s bias remove our agency as dynamic contributors to the overall richness and joy of the human experience.”

Manwaring is co-owner and managing director of creative agency Moxie and has previously founded several businesses, as well as working in senior management and governance roles.

In a video interview with Enrich Retirement’s Liz Koh, Manwaring says avoiding invisibility is about being true to who you are and what you bring to the world.

“Let’s all agree that we are valuable and have something to offer,” she says.

“I think it’s important that we recognise in ourselves all the experience that we have gained and all the insights we can bring. I really do think that’s important.

“We have to stop doing the ‘act your age’. We have to stop doing the senior moment. I think we should probably stop celebrating chronology and start celebrating things that happen that are good – to reinforce that we are still doing things that matter.”

For example, Manwaring “didn’t really do very much” for her recent 65th birthday, but then had a party for the launch of her book.

She believes people struggle with invisibility if they don’t have a positive understanding of who they are as a person. She says seniors need to take themselves back to their “glory days” – perhaps in their 20s and 30s.

“If that person was quite strongly developed, that’s a person that you can still see, that keeps you who you were, even though you know that you’re getting older. We are still those people and I think if you have that person as a companion, it helps you with the journey of aging.”

She says it can be difficult for those who don’t have something that identifies them.

“But the people I know that have made that transition well have usually found other things to fill their time, whether it is helping to be a role model for their grandchildren, or you know, I chair the choir that I sing in.

“There are a lot of options there which still give you some degree of feeling that your value, the thing that makes you unique, is contributing positively towards something successful happening. “

Manwaring likes to quote George Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” she says.

Never Succumb to Beige & other tips for a colourful life by Frances Manwaring]Shrew Enterprises, RRP $37.99

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