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Does menopause need a makeover?

Age-old question: Robin Trimingham asks why we are still teaching our children and grandchildren that “youth is to be revered” and that people over 50 should be dismissed (Photograph submitted)

There is nothing more poignant than a physical reminder that you cannot “undo” — that your biological clock is ticking and your existence (as you know it) is finite.

For men it might be thinning hair or a change in libido; for women it is menopause. The typical reactions to these biological markers are many, but few are helpful or productive in the long run.

Rapidly advancing from a state of fear, to denial, to delusion, to defiance, we summon our inner “towanda” (watch the 1991 film Fried Green Tomatoes if you don’t get this reference) or purchase a bright red convertible that we have nowhere to drive, and declare we have arrived on the other side.

After all, how can any of us ever fully arrive at the other side of a transition that many of us try to avoid at all costs, and even fewer of us are willing to discuss openly because it is erroneously associated with the “loss of youth”? The premise being that to discuss this life change is to admit that you are now “old” and have little to look forward to besides the inevitable downhill slide into oblivion.

Back in the dark ages perhaps it did make sense to hide this transition as thoroughly as possible. After all, who would want a woman too old to bear children, or a man too old to hunt when the very survival of your species depended on these basic abilities?

However, thanks to advances in science, medicine and technology, under-population is no longer a problem — in fact, some would argue that there are now far more people here than the planet can support. So why on earth are older people still body-shaming themselves?

Better yet, why are we still teaching our children and grandchildren that “youth is to be revered” and that older people deserve to be scoffed at and dismissed simply for possessing bodies that have lived more than fifty years?

On the one hand, we would like to complain about ageism in the workplace or our personal lives, but how can we complain when we emphatically do our part to shun any mention of this later life transition?

Why do we act like menopause is a disease that cannot be mentioned in the presence of men? How can we expect men to appreciate how this change affects women if we won’t discuss it openly? Equally, how can women be expected to support men affected by declining testosterone levels as long as this also remains a taboo subject at the dinner table?

To put this in perspective, try asking a 90-year-old if they are still worried about menopause or low “T” and I guarantee they will laugh at you like you are a crazy person and tell you that they are just happy that they still have most of their body parts thank you very much.

If you persist any further, you are likely to hear about the day they parted company with their gall bladder, or be asked to help them figure out where they left their teeth.

I don’t know about you, but I think this whole concept of midlife transition is sorely in need of a makeover. From cradle to grave, every phase of life comes with its biological challenges.

So, surely it is time we stopped obsessing about these completely normal physical changes and started embracing what these phases of life have to offer a little more?

Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at www.olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or robin@olderhood.com