You might feel fabulous at 50 plus, but not everyone’s on the same page. The ogre of ageism prompted 66-year-old Julie Ankers to pen and self-publish her book, Feisty, Fabulous & 50+, capturing the life stories of 21 Australian women.
“When you’re 50 plus, suddenly you feel everyone around you in the office is half your age,” she says.
“After age 50, you’re often thrown back onto your own resources. I’ve always had a career – running my own business and next thing, I felt I was a feather duster. And men go through that, too. What do you do with all of that passion? I don’t want to just sit there. I want to be contributing and doing meaningful work whether it’s paid or not,” she says.
Ankers, a businesswoman and entrepreneur, has run start-ups including a trainers and speakers’ agency and Third Age Initiative, a company helping workplaces retain mature-age workers. She’s also been on many boards promoting women in business including as national president for several years for Women Chiefs of Enterprises International.
Four years ago, she did the treechange from Sydney to the Upper Blue Mountains to semi-retire while running her businesses part-time. She also writes and hosts local radio programs. To those on the cusp of a sea or tree change, she encourages you do your research and not assume the place is “crawling with jobs”.
For her book, Ankers, a former copywriter, tapped into her own wide network for interview subjects.
“When I set out to compile the book, I didn’t want celebrities. I wanted this to be a book about celebrating women who just get on with it. None of the women featured are pushovers,” she says.
She decided to ask the women to write their own stories, which ended up being “very rewarding” for them, too. Ankers wrote her own life story – the first chapter – and worked with an editor, Kerry Chater, to finesse the stories before publication.
Now semi-retired, Ankers runs her business from the Blue Mountains
Ankers says: “The book is about women playing to their strengths. They’re loving what they were doing, have resilience and they’re smart. My admiration for their resilience was just overwhelming because in many of the stories, these women had overcome incredible things such as lack of confidence, education, even cancer, but they had dreams and kept working on them.”
One of her favourite stories is about Christine Swanson, an award-winning financial planner who started in the field with no confidence (or knowledge), overcame cancer soon after and has built one of Adelaide’s most successful financial-planning businesses.
Another woman featured, Rhonda Daly, used to stand in the fields with her sister on their farm when the crop duster flew over, indicating where the chemicals were to be dropped.
“This went on for years and, of course, they got spray drift. She nearly died a couple of times and was in Sydney for two years to have arsenic leached out of her system. But she had an epiphany that she wasn’t meant to die. She went on to develop a biosoil company, YLAD Living Soils in Young, NSW. She’s a pocket rocket,” says Ankers.
Ankers is mid-way through a speaking tour to promote her book and has found those events have a spinoff benefit.
“They get people in the audience telling their own stories and connecting. I’m using the talks as a way of facilitating. There’s people out there who want to connect with others and they have stories they have to get off their chests.”
At one of those events, a reader said Ankers’ book prompted her to “get off my backside and decide to do something”.
“That’s the purpose of the book. What came through was just how savvy the women were with their entrepreneurial spirit, but if you said that to them, they’d probably just say, I did what I had to do,” says Ankers, who’s now working on a similar title featuring men aged 50-plus.
“Writing has given me a new lease of life. At the age I am, I’ve realised what I love doing and I love promoting people, bringing out their stories and publishing them.”
For more info on her book tour, visit her website.
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