What is it about turning 50 that triggers so many issues for people? Celebrating a 50th birthday used to be a sign of turning old or reaching senior status, but now most people consider 50 the start of something new or beginning of another stage of life. The website Life After 50 (www.lifeafter50.com) capitalizes on people’s interest in turning 50 as a demarcation line in their lives.
Life After 50 started out 25 years ago as a regional publication, Senior Life, aimed at residents of California and produced by Southland Publishing. When the publisher added the Life After 50 website to the magazine in 2006 it started attracting 8,000 new visitors a day.
The site is organized into articles on Finance, Health & Wellness, Housing, and Travel. Unlike AARP, which also has a very active website, Life After 50 isn’t a lobbying group, doesn’t sell insurance, and tries to convey straightforward information to help 50 somethings deal more effectively with this transforming age.
Its original name, “Senior Life,” needed updating. “As you can imagine, no one under age 90 wanted to hold a magazine called “’Senior Life,’” quips editor David Laurell, who is based in Los Angeles. Hence the name was changed to “Life After 50.”
Laurell noted that he has a friend in her 90s who won’t participate in senior programs in Burbank. “That’s where the old people go,” she says. Life After 50 suggests starting fresh, and is therefore a much more palatable title than “Senior Life.”
Articles concentrate on the dominant issues faced by people starting their fifth decade. Recent financial features included “Money Trumps Age for Retirement” and “How Baby Boomers Are Planning for Their Business Succession,” and health articles appeared about new cancer survival drugs, tips on preventing falls in one’s house, and why Medicare prescription prices were holding steady and not rising. Lifestyle articles included travel stories on visiting La Quinta in California, and a profile of stand-up comic Bonnie Barchichat, whose act revolves around turning 50.
The website and the magazine maintain an “odd balance,” Laurell explains. While both are aimed at baby boomers, the advertising is geared toward a mature audience in their 70s and older. But the editorial targets young baby boomers just turning 50. Often people in their 50s are buying items for their parents in their 70s, who aren’t used to acquiring things online. Someone in their 50s will read the cover story on Johnny Mathis or Howie Mandel, tell their parents to read the article, and then buy something online for them.
The celebrity interview that elicited the most feedback was a profile of former talk show host Dick Cavett. Everyone wanted to know what he was up to and what he has been doing since he left TV.
Laurell describes the tone of most articles as “there is life after 50.” In fact, one of its most popular columns is “Living and Loving Life After 50.” The column profiles a notable person, whose life is picking up steam, trying a new challenge and exploring a new venture.
Health articles tackle difficult subjects and don’t pull punches. The health article that elicited the most feedback was “The Top 10 Causes of Death for Men.” Laurell says that article “sounds like a downer, but if you are in your 60s and someone you love or know is experiencing health problems, you’ll want to read this article.” Since that article was written by a physician, it was grounded in fact and scientific research.
One of the most popular sections for readers is travel. But because of a limited budget, many of the travel articles are taken directly out of travel books and promotional websites. Most articles don’t carry bylines. One recent article on traveling to Tahiti was just a listing of places to stay and was lifted from the Tahiti’s tourism travel website. The one benefit of the travel pages involve deals, particularly aimed at those over 50.
Most people who turn 50 have a better grasp or understanding about life, Laurell says: “People in their 50s have a greater perspective on things. Their emotions aren’t raw or on edge.” They are better able to weather bad times, something that was probably more difficult and precarious when they were in their 20s.
People in their 50s can ride the bad times and appreciate the good times. Life is good after 50.
Gary M. Stern is a freelance writer based in New York City.