50 Is the New Fifty: Ten Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood


Read Suzanne Braun Levine's posts on the Penguin Blog.

An inspiring guide to maximizing creativity and happiness in the second half of life

Suzanne Braun Levine follows her groundbreaking Inventing the Rest of Our Lives with fresh insights, research, and practical advice on the challenges and unexpected rewards for women in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. Rich with anecdotes, this book captures the voices of women who are confronting ...

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Fifty Is the New Fifty: Ten Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood

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Read Suzanne Braun Levine's posts on the Penguin Blog.

An inspiring guide to maximizing creativity and happiness in the second half of life

Suzanne Braun Levine follows her groundbreaking Inventing the Rest of Our Lives with fresh insights, research, and practical advice on the challenges and unexpected rewards for women in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. Rich with anecdotes, this book captures the voices of women who are confronting change, renegotiating their relationships, and discovering who they are now that they are finally grown up. Levine's own warm, wise, and humorous voice make this guide encouraging, enriching, and empowering.

50 Is the New Fifty is about survival, joy, and camaraderie, and it proves that fifty is its own wonderful stage of possibilities and promise.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Inventing the Rest of Our Lives author Suzanne Braun Levine isn't finished encouraging women in "Second Adulthood." Her Fifty Is the New Fifty continues her good works with ten life lessons for women who want the second half of their lives to be even more creative and happy than the first. Levine's good counsel lives up to Jane Fonda's words of praise: "Fifty Is the New Fifty is just what I expected from Suzanne Braun Levine -- useful, comforting, and smart."
From the Publisher
"No more pretended youth! Suzanne Braun Levine shows us the wisdom and joys of living in our own personal present. For women who have been pressured into living the past over and over again, Fifty is the New Fifty is the first true age liberation."
-Gloria Steinem

"Suzanne Braun Levine's honest and empowering book is the antidote to all those anti-aging creams and glum pronouncements about life after fifty. It explains why for me and for so many other women, this has turned out to be the most free, creative, and rewarding time of life."
-Isabella Rossellini

"Fifty is the New Fifty is just what I expected from Suzanne Braun Levine-useful, comforting and smart."
-Jane Fonda

"Finally, fifty comes of age! Levine's concept of Second Adulthood confirms what women have been telling one another in private-this is a wonderful stage and we can each claim it in our own way."
-Marlo Thomas

Publishers Weekly

In a time when How Not to Look Old is a bestseller, and the women who came of age during the 1960s are now in their 60s, outspoken women's movement veteran Levine (Inventing the Rest of Our Lives) advises women 50-plus to reject the desire to recapture youth and acknowledge their great good fortune in arriving at a point where they can creatively enhance the rest of their lives. Citing Madeleine L'Engle's observation, "the great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been," Levine uses this book to air and explore her own feelings, and those of other women, about moving from the "Fuck-You Fifties" to a pleasanter, stress-defusing outlook characterized by a growing ability "to not take lesser things too seriously." She offers a 10-step strategy for avoiding a descent into "The Fertile Void," where late-midlife women find themselves in a state of confusion and lost self-confidence. The self-help lessons are nothing new: "be your age, not your stage"; take responsibility for your physical and emotional life; "accept that you are not who you were, only older"; use what you already know. Advertising-style jargon and nonsensical slogans get in the way of an otherwise promising positive message. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

It may surprise many people to learn that most women age 50 and over are rediscovering themselves more than settling down. So writes Levine (Inventing the Rest of Our Lives), the first editor of Ms. magazine, who uses personal observations and case studies to encourage women to change what has not worked in their lives, develop connections with like-minded women, and take responsibility for their practical and emotional lives. Award-winning journalist Sammons (We Carry Each Other) covers some of the same territory but employs stories of both men and women to illustrate that it's never too late to reinvent one's life. The outcome is a manual of sorts to help readers dream, stay focused, and make the changes they want to see in the world. Both books are recommended for libraries seeking to augment an existing boomer collection.

—Deborah Bigelow
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452296053
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/30/2010
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 613,562
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Suzanne Braun Levine is a writer, editor, and nationally recognized authority on women, media matters, and family issues. Editor of Ms. magazine from its founding in 1972 until 1989 and editor in chief of the Columbia Journalism Review, she is currently a contributing editor of More magazine . The author of a book about fatherhood and numerous articles and essays, she has also produced a Peabody Award-winning documentary about American women. She has appeared on Oprah and the Today show and has lectured widely.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v

Lesson 1 Fifty Is the New Fifty 1

Lesson 2 Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes 22

Lesson 3 No Is Not a Four-Letter Word 42

Lesson 4 A "Circle of Trust" Is a Must 63

Lesson 5 Every Crisis Creates a "New Normal" 85

Lesson 6 Do Unto Yourself as You Have Been Doing Unto Others 104

Lesson 7 Age Is Not a Disease 125

Lesson 8 Your Marriage Can Make It 145

Lesson 9 You Do Know What You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Life 160

Lesson 10 Both Is the New Either/Or 180

Bibliography 191

Web Sites and Organizations 195

Index 207

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Reading Group Guide


“A Circle of Trust is a Must for Women”

Like the “Circle of Trust” Suzanne describes in Fifty is the New Fifty, book clubs give women the opportunity to be together - to read and share stories, to find community and support and laughter (plus scrumptious food and lots of wine!). That is how we help each other invent the rest of our lives.

In her first book, Inventing the Rest of Our Lives, Suzanne identified Second Adulthood as “a new stage of life that women are defining as they live it.” With Fifty is the New Fifty, she expands on earlier themes and captures the exuberance, personal breakthroughs, life changing moments, and stories of friends, family members, and countless women she has met on this journey.

Rich with expert voices, up-to-date scientific research, and Suzanne’s personal insights, this book inspires an important conversation about a life experience women describe as reinvention - and mainstream media often dismisses as “aging” (read “invisible”).

Fifty is the New Fifty: Ten Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood is a distillation of insights, anecdotes and wisdom from women like those in your reading group. Sharing personal anecdotes is the way we empower each other, so review the ten lessons and decide which ones resonate with you. Like each of our lives, every conversation about our lives is different.


Suzanne Braun Levine is a writer, editor, and nationally recognized authority on women, media matters, and family issues. She received her B.A. with honors from Harvard University. She was formerly editor of Ms.magazine, editor in chief of the Columbia Journalism Review, and is currently a contributing editor of Moremagazine. She lectures widely and lives in New York.


Q. How do you gather the life stories that you use throughout the book?

Writing books about my life and yours, gives me an excuse to butt in to people’s lives. I eavesdrop on conversations; I ask impertinent questions of women I meet; I ask very personal questions of my friends. And I use my network and the internet to find women with experiences to share. I am amazed and touched by how forthright, funny, and smart we all are.

Q. What changes have you found the way age and gender are treated in our culture? What hasn’t changed enough?

Having grown up with the Women’s Movement I am stunned as how dramatically things have changed between my first adulthood and my daughter’s. Two things haven’t changed anywhere near enough, though. One is the burden of care-giving that falls upon women of all ages without any support from the society we live in. The other is ageism. It is very hard to convince yourself that you are as happy and fulfilled as you feel when the world around you is blowing you off. We have to make sure that we don’t make things worse by buying into the youth obsession.

Q. How has your life changed since you began writing about women in Second Adulthood?

Can you imagine how exciting it is to be gaining insight into my own life from hundreds of other women, dozens of experts, and some of the smartest writers and researchers around? In figuring out what is going on for our generation of women, I have figured out a lot about the confusion, fear, and expectations that hit me as I entered this new stage of life. By writing about it I have found my own voice for the first time in my life.

Q. Are you writing another book on Second Adulthood? What will you be exploring next?

My next book is about - are your ready for this? - LOVE. The more I learn about how we are getting to know ourselves and how we are redefining women’s experience, the more I am aware of changes we are making in the way we love, whom we love, and how we define intimacy, devotion, passion, and commitment. I am encountering wonderful stories that I am sure will surprise and enlighten you.


  • 1. Happy (?) birthday
    On the opening page of Fifty is the New Fifty, Suzanne says, “Some people think the reinvention process means, ‘Fifty is the new thirty!’ as if the reward for what is a major shift in outlook is a new lease on youth.” Not so; in fact, she continues, women fifty, sixty and seventy are happy where they are and wouldn’t want to turn the clock back.
    Have the members of your book club talked about your ages with each other? Have you celebrated milestone birthdays together? What has moving on from fifty been like for each of you?
  • Have you heard yourself say “I don’t care what other people think any more”?
    Most women find themselves liberated by the feistiness that comes with the new territory. Can you remember the first time you spoke up in a situation in which you would have kept quiet before? How did it make you feel? Discuss the way other peoples’ opinions influence our behavior.
  • Do you want to say “NO!” when they try to seat you and your friends at the back of the restaurant?
    Suzanne says that most women have grown up being encouraged to say “yes” (except, of course, to sex). But, by fifty many of us are finding the courage to say, “NO!” It is scary but very exhilarating moment to hear yourself say: “No! I don’t want to do that!” “No! I don’t like you.” Can you think of a situation(s) that made you feel empowered when you said: “No?”
  • Are you a risk-taker?
    Most women in Second Adulthood grew up when girls were expected to play by very restrictive rules. Can you remember occasions when you felt held back? Not taken seriously? Discouraged from trying to do something dangerous or different? How do you feel about taking on a big challenge today?
  • What effect did the Women’s Movement have on your life?
    Sports, professions, language, fashion, life styles have all changed for women in the last forty years. Many of the changes have been controversial. Which have most impacted you? How are the prospects for your daughters (and sons) different from yours at their age?
  • How do you feel about changes taking place in your body?
    For women, our bodies are the front line in the confrontation with the “age is a disease” notion. How we care for our bodies is one of our major responsibilities. But, sometimes when a showdown with our body happens, Suzanne reminds us, the best response is laughter. What are some of the body issues you have resolved? And haven’t resolved? What is the most hilarious revelation about your aging body?
  • Does your to-do list include you?
    How many times have you postponed something as simple as washing your hair or reading a book because family needs come up that push you off your own agenda? Have you made any adjustments to reclaim time for you? Have you begun to think about doing unto yourself as you have for others?
  • What about your work future?
    Work is very important to many women’s lives, and as Suzanne points out, the notion of “retirement” is put on the table just as many women are hitting their stride professionally and many others are reentering the workforce. Plus, the general economy is a major factor. What is your experience in the workplace? What are your expectations for work in the future? Would things look different if you went from being a partner to being alone—or vice versa?
  • If you are changing, how is your marriage doing?
    As women are recalibrating all of their relationships, a long-term marriage can, for the first time in years perhaps, move to the front burner. The emotional pot is simmering. How has your marriage changed over time? Have you grown closer or further apart? Is there ongoing struggle in your marriage? If so, is it about power and decision-making? Money? Sex? Would you say that your definition of love has changed?
  • Which Life Lesson in Fifty is the New Fifty is most meaningful to you? Which one do you want to work on?
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