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Real Retirement: ‘The world is getting older. We have to embrace and celebrate that.’ Pro-aging influencer wants to crush stereotypes.

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Mimi Ison, 59, had been a creative director for a jewelry company before starting a blog and an Instagram account almost two years ago. Since then, her life has changed into being a full-time middle-aged pro-aging social media influencer with the account @heymiddleage

She said she’s on a mission to redefine what 59 really is.

“People say I don’t look 59. But this is what I look like, so this is what 59 looks like,” Ison said. “We’re inundated with assumptions and stereotypes. It’s a hefty, hefty problem. The world is getting older. We have to embrace that and celebrate that.” 

“Ageism is so normalized that we’re often ageist against ourselves.”

MarketWatch talked to Ison about aging and her role as an influencer.

How did you get into this world of being an influencer?

In January 2021, I started a blog and my Instagram account Hey Middle Age. Both were very slow starts mostly because of my own fear, impostor syndrome, and self-consciousness. I didn’t share a second Instagram post until almost a year later, and by then I decided to lean in to see what could happen. A few months later the account took off when a couple of reels went viral. The growth was a complete surprise, and totally unexpected.

Why do you do this?

I have an itty-bitty space in the digital world where I crush age stereotypes so people of all ages can see middle age redefined. I’m spreading the message that it’s critical to include movement in your life to be mobile and strong now, and in your later years.

No one wants to be told what to do, so I motivate and inspire in ways that are fun, practical, and a little bit surprising. Something is clicking because I get messages every day from women who say that watching my reels inspired them to start walking, dancing, using weights, or joining gyms. I get messages from younger women who say they’re not afraid to get old anymore.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I loved fashion and wanted to be a magazine editor.

What age did you used to think was “old?” What do you think now?

It’s a simple question with an unclear answer. Retirement age around 65 is probably a common answer, but it depends on when you’re asking. The older we are, the higher the number gets. I’m realistic and not trying to deny getting old, but I like to focus on our individuality, because there are so many ridiculous assumptions based on age even though the truth is as we get older, we become more different from each other.

Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it?

Nope.

Who was your role model(s) growing up?

Didn’t really have one.

What’s the best thing about middle age?

What has changed, and what I love about getting older is that I’m honoring my true self by shoving expectations out of the way; the expectation to be a people-pleaser by yielding to others, the expectation to meet unattainable beauty standards, the expectation that I should be at a particular place in this stage of life. It comes from the ability to say no, and to not care what others think. The feeling is liberating, and opens the door to massive possibilities.

I learned from Dr. Louann Brizendine in her book “The Upgrade” that some of these changes can be attributed to changes in the post-fertile brain. When we’re beyond our reproductive phase, that’s when we gain freedom.

Read: Why are celebrities talking about menopause? Once taboo, the topic moves into mainstream conversation.

What’s the worst?

Losing people you love. Of course that can happen at any age, but seeing parents decline with age and die is like being in the center of a tornado. It’s heartbreaking.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about midlife?

That you crossed an invisible barrier where suddenly you can’t do stuff because of your age. Who says you can’t start a business, or go back to school, or wear a bikini, or do cartwheels?

Your age is whatever you want it to be. What do you desire? And if you’re letting age stop you, why? I understand why some deny aging, or fight it with antiaging this, and ageless that, because we’re exposed to ageism at a young age, and women are told they’re defective and need to be fixed their entire lives. Ageism is so normalized that we’re often ageist against ourselves.

It’s why we should be cautious about blaming every decline on age as a default, because it may not be true.

Read: This retiree traveled solo to Bali, Iceland and Patagonia — ‘Women can live vibrant, full lives after 50’

How do you want to die? In your sleep or cliff-diving or ….?

I want to have a long health span with a quick death surrounded by the people I love.

What’s your biggest vice or bad habit?

I stay up late using devices. I’m learning about how critical good sleep is, and late night phone scrolling is a bad idea.

Where’s your happy place in the world?

The boxing gym.

Best advice you’ve ever received – and who gave it to you?

I’ve taken almost 600 boxing sessions and they still scare me because I know that each hour in the gym will be an uncomfortable push-to-the-limit sweat fest. I learned from my coach Leyon at Gloveworx to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You endure, evolve, and get stronger when you’re in discomfort. It’s a great lesson for middle age because by now we’ve been through some tough things, but we’re tenacious. We dig deep, push through, and stick the landing.

Don’t miss: This accidental influencer became a role model with middle-aged dad advice

What’s the best and worst thing you’ve ever done with money?

The worst thing I’ve done is not save and invest at a younger age. When I was in my 20s, I lacked knowledge about compounding, and the value of having a long time horizon to grow investments. That’s why the best thing I’ve done is not about my money. Because of my experience, I’ve educated my daughter about investing at an early age. She started her retirement accounts at age 19 and has a rock solid foundation for her financial future.

(This interview was edited for space and style.)

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