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Looking great at 50..so what's the secret?

Hitting the half-century mark no longer means reaching for slippers and a cardi. Kerry McKittrick and Laura McGarrity talk to those for whom the landmark is just a number

Fabulous at 50 used to need a question mark but not any more. When you survey the celeb and media landscape, there are a host of women out there who look anything but past it — with the lustre and oomph of females born much later.

These are the feisty fiftysomethings, and nobody fits the label better than Madonna.

This 53-year-old put in a stunning performance at last week’s Super Bowl, is embarking on another world tour and is dating 24-year-old Brahim Zaibat.

This is partly because of Madonna’s own gym routine. But it may also be because of better health — after all, these women benefited from post-War prosperity and better nutrition.

In Dublin, Kathy Kenny, effortlessly chic wife of Pat Kenny, ex-host of RTE’s The Late Late Show, shows that heading for the big 5-0 needn’t mean swapping stilletos for slippers.

Age really hasn’t withered this 49-year-old, who for a couple of decades in the public eye has defined effortless elegance.

Perhaps most importantly, these women have a positive mental attitude.

Carol Vorderman (51) is one of the most can-do of her generation and extends this philosophy to what she wears.

Defending her decision to wear jeans into her sixth decade, she said: “If I told a 50-year-old man he had to wear baggy trousers and a golf sweater befitting his age, they’d think it was unfair and ridiculous.”

Fighting talk indeed.

Just think of her companions on Loose Women — Carol McGiffin (52), Denise Welch (53) and Lynda Bellingham (64) among them — and you get the point. You really can be fabulous after 50.

The business woman

Maureen Lynn (56) owns Lynn Recruitment. She is separated and lives in Belfast with her daughter Stephanie (24). She says:

Being in your fifties is great, I have a wealth of experience from raising a family and 20 years’ experience in business. When I was young, 50 seemed so old to me, but it’s completely different for my generation. There are so many successful, fabulous mature women in business at the minute.

I honestly feel no different from when I was in my thirties, but I think my job and lifestyle keep me young. I work a lot with young adults and have a twentysomething daughter who keeps me clued up.

Women gain confidence as they grow older. I’m much more self-assured now and don't take things to heart as I did in my twenties.

One thing that hasn’t fallen by the wayside is my love of fashion and I usually shop in Cruise or Ted Baker.

I also have a skincare routine that I stick to and have my hair and nails done regularly. I've seen a personal trainer for ten years and usually go to the gym three or four times a week, although recently I hurt my back so I’ve just been doing light exercise.

People used to say life begins at 40, but I really do think it’s begun in my fifties. It is all about your mental attitude and the way you think. If you think of 50 or 60 as old, you will feel old. But I feel great at this age.”

The fashionista who is on the go non-stop

Maureen Martin is a model agent and fashion show producer — she’s currently producing The Wedding Journal Show. She lives in Belfast with her husband Robin and has three daughters, Karen (38), Tanya (32) and Susan (30). She says:

I was a model in the ’60s and think my sense of style stemmed from there. Some people might say that the way I dress now is a little young for my age, but I'm fussy about the way I dress. I think I have a Vivienne Westwood sort of style — not the way she dresses but the clothes she designs. I shop at both the high street and designer boutiques and was very pleased when Una Rodden arrived in Belfast as I like designers who are a little bit different.

It's important to start looking after your skin as early as possible and not when things start to grow old. I've always used Clarins products but you should use the products that work for you. The one thing I have always done is take my make-up off before I go to bed. That's really important.

I’m not as fast on my feet as I had a hip replacement last year but I do pilates to keep me supple. At the moment I'm producing the Wedding Journal Show in the Kings Hall which is on at the end of February.

People think wedding shows are easy to organise but the dresses are delicate and the models only have about 40 seconds to get in and out of their dresses along with 60 other strangers in a confined space.

It doesn't matter how old I am, I want to keep working. Friends the same age ask me why I don't retire, but I’d get bored! If fashion gets difficult, I’ll turn to interior design, which is the other side of my business.

Generally, I work an eight-hour day but there's always something to be done in the evenings. At the weekends, I love to garden and I spend as much time as I can with my grandchildren. Sometimes my husband even gets a look in!

The working mum-of-three

Gillian Chambers (51-and-a-half) is a classroom assistant and lives in Coleraine with her husband Eric. They have three children, Robert (26), Rebecca (25) and Peter (21). She says:

I've been involved in a church group that’s similar to the Girls’ Brigade and Boys’ Brigade for years. I work with children from the ages of four to 18 for years and they keep me young. One evening a week we'll do arts and crafts and play games.

Life is busy although my children have left home. My husband and I are still quite sporty and we’ve done the Tour du Mont Blanc trek. I do proper hillwalking rather than just a stroll around the park.

We're both still very involved in the church — I’d say that our faith is at the core of our family, and we take part in lots of activities with the church.

I honestly don't think I will ever retire. Retiring is something that old people do and I don't see myself as that at all. If I stopped working then I would do other things instead. I take care of my skin and have recently switched to Origins — the products feel beautiful. Mind you, I still keep a jar of Nivea on hand to throw in my overnight bag when I go away.

My style is quite casual but I do like to dress up — I really enjoyed accepting an award on behalf of my son at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

The secret of keeping young is working with young people, both in my day job and volunteering. With them there is always a lot of fun and laughter and I really enjoy the work.

I don't see the point in just sitting around and waiting to get old — we only have one life so we may as well make the most of it. I feel I have so much to be thankful for that I like to know I'm giving a little back too.”

The singleton professional

Julia Kennedy, fiftysomething, is a freelance PR consultant specialising in food and drink. She is single and lives in Holywood. She says:

It's amazing to think I'm in my fifties, as I really don’t feel my age at all.

One negative I find is how ageist the workplace can be these days. It's extremely difficult across all types of businesses, not just in PR.

Young things in their twenties sometimes think people over 40 are old farts, as I once did. I remember looking at my mum and dad and thinking, what do you know?

I can't say I was too happy turning 50. No one looks forward to getting older and slowly losing your looks. Everyone now is obsessed with youth.

Then again, people over 40 these days are healthier than previous generations so 50 isn't seen as old any more.

My mental attitude keeps me feeling great and full of life. I do have a demanding job, but I’m also interested in travel, culture, meeting new people and what's going on in the world. I also try to keep fit. I do yoga once a week and ride four times a week.

Getting your hair right is vital as you get older. The wrong style can really age people. I’ve been going to Georges in Church Lane for eight years. Once I flew home from Paris to get my hair done by Julie at Georges because I wanted to look great for an important meeting.

I don't spend a lot of time on lotions and never have, but I do put on sun screen every day, following advice from a dermatologist. I wear La Roche-Posay 50+ cream but aside from that I only wear a light base, mascara and lip gloss. When you get to my age, I really do think less make-up is better.

I wouldn't say I’m overly glamorous, but I now know what suits me and usually wear more classic clothes, nothing too frilly.

My first job out of university was as a bilingual secretary for Yves Saint Laurent and ever since then I have learned to cultivate my own particular sense of style.”

The lady who’s full of energy

Dolores Vischer (50) is a business network manager for Queen’s University. She lives in Belfast with her husband Jonathon and their children, Elspeth (19) and Allen (16). She says:

I'm blessed with boundless energy and never get tired. I used to get involved with the festival in my spare time, but now I just keep it to some freelance PR work and a book group.

I'm always out at a play or a gig and my favourite gig venue is the Black Box. I probably go out two or three times a week. Sometimes it's with my husband and other times it’s with friends. I'm also a big fan of holidays and mini-breaks — there's always something in the diary.

I've also been blessed with good skin. In recent years, though, I've been trying to take good care of it. I use L'Oreal or Elemis products and I always try to take off my make-up before I go to sleep. I treat myself to a facial about every six weeks. I think it helps my skin but it also helps to relax me. I go to the gym three times a week although I spend more time in the jacuzzi than I do anywhere else!

You should do what you feel suits you. You shouldn't be put off by the age you are — there's no reason you shouldn't go out to a gig. I wouldn't say I feel fabulous all the time but I’m lucky that I do feel full of energy and don't plan on stopping yet.”

The stars who defy the years

  • Madonna singer, director, actress and entrepreneur, believe it or not is 52.
  • Former model and actress Sharon Stone is 53.
  • When Harry Met Sally actress Meg Ryan turned 50 last year.
  • Dangerous Liaisons actress Michelle Pfeiffer is 53.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis known for her roles in Halloween, Prom Night and Freaky Friday is 52.
  • Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall is 54.
  • Kathy Kenny, glamorous other half of RTE's Pat, is 49 but looks a fab pre-50.

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