“Generation X has never wanted to take things lying down,” Rosi Viljoen tells me. “We’ve always wanted to challenge things. I think there’s a different mind-set.” The co-founder of The Midlife Hub, a new Brighton-based social enterprise, she’s determined to help people enjoy an exciting new chapter in their lives. “We want to make midlife a really powerful place to be.”
British society comes with a few negative connotations around midlife. The moment people start opening doors for you out of respect, the gags start about buying sports cars or spending more time in the garden. But this should be a period of huge opportunity. You might have an abundance of spare time, be at the peak of your career or enjoying financial comfort.
There’s a world beyond surrendering to beige and curtain twitching. “It can be an amazing place to be, you shouldn’t be fearing it or being negative. The whole connotation around middle aged is: ‘urgh, I don’t want to be there.’ We really want to challenge that and turn it around.” The Midlife Hub aims to help people take an action-based approach, covering everything from money matters to the menopause, careers to relationships.
On a purely statistical level, middle age starts in your mid-40s, but a survey of over 50-year olds, by online learning website Love to Learn, showed 70% of their respondents thought this stage of life started in the mid-50s. The Office for National Statistics research suggests people aged 45-49 years old are 15% less satisfied with their lives overall than those age 65-69yrs. This coincides with a sharp rise in anxiety levels.
Midlife is often a time of sweeping change, and this can have a massive impact on overall wellbeing. “We do reach a stage where we naturally want to pause and reflect. It doesn’t have to be negative.” Recent years has witnessed a surge of businesses offering ‘midlife’ support. But, until now, there’s not been a joined-up approach as to how these services are offered.
The project started gathering pace just last Christmas, but the idea started being formed when Rosi attended a wellness exhibition show. “It was full of 20-30-year olds going around in their yoga gear. I thought: ‘There’s nothing here for my age.’ Now that I’m thinking about health and fitness, I want stuff that talks to me.” So they’ve brought together a diverse and trusted group of local businesses, who all provide age-appropriate services. Like fitness instructors, nutritionists who specialise in the menopause, financial advisors and career coaches. “It was amazing when we went out and spoke to people; they were all quite new companies looking for how to connect with that audience.”
The need for a hub of this nature reflects our changing societal model. People live further away from their families, so no longer amongst the traditional support networks. The Midlife Hub’s own research showed 70% of respondents either did a Google search or asked their peer group when they needed advice. Even with the best will in the world, these are not always reliable.
“While there is a lot of information out there, it’s quite disparate.” To create something dependable, which will resonate with their audience, The Midlife Hub are taking a four-pronged approach. The first relies on holding events and bringing local businesses together, so ideas can be exchanged and a consensus built. From here, they can create a directory of trusted local services. The second is the creation of an information hub, where people can find topical midlife-related content, useful links and local events and experiences – all produced by experts. A third strand is the provision of ‘Midlife Maps’. These free bespoke consultations explore a client’s values and ambitions, with the aim of setting out the life changes they might want to implement. Finally, they’ve set up a community forum, where participants can ask questions, share experiences and join the conversation. Rosi and her service providers are eager to use the new platform to test and learn, as well as helping people realise the breadth of options available to them.
She says what they offer spans the whole scope of midlife. Everyone will have a different experience, as society offers such a broad spectrum. The idea was to bring everything together, so you’re not heading to one site for ideas about careers or consulting a friend on finances. “One of things we’re trying to champion, is getting out there and do something different. Life doesn’t stop. And you never stop learning. It’s about constantly keeping your mind engaged and curious, rather than falling into a pattern.”
Find out more at: www.themidlifehub.com