Siobhan is challenging ageism, championing pro-ageing and carving out her own destiny

I’d been through a lot in my 40s. Pre-cancerous cells were found in my womb and I had a hysterectomy. Coping with a difficult menopause while holding down a job as TV news producer, I felt completely unsupported at work. A victim of workplace ageism, for me it was a nightmare time. Feeling like I’d lost myself, as my daughter headed off to start university I bought a round-the-world ticket and packed a rucksack. At the age of 49 I took a gap year from my job. This was me getting my life back.

I cried on the plane and felt scared and alone arriving in Bangkok, but once I started mixing with travellers in the hostels I didn’t feel scared or lonely at all. I mixed with everyone and felt ageless, like I could take on the world. I made so many friends and had life-changing experiences, like sky-diving, trekking up to Machu Picchu and living in a hut on a Fijian island. Moments I’ll never forget.

Workplace ageism
I came back to the UK feeling so much stronger about life. But within 12 months this had been knocked out of me by the culture of ageism in the newsroom. Older women were treated like our opinions didn’t matter. I felt marginalised, like I had no voice and I wasn’t given the kind of projects I’d been given before. It got so bad that I felt suicidal but when I told my boss he just stirred his coffee and walked away. I lost my confidence and went into that dark place again.

“Older women were treated like our opinions didn’t matter. I felt marginalised, like I had no voice and I wasn’t given the kind of projects I’d been given before”

Around this time one of my sisters died of lung cancer. Completely winded, for months it was all I could do to get up and go to work. It was my daughter who forced me out… She signed me up for the Brighton marathon so I had to start training. It was such an uplifting experience and amazing how you feel when you cross that finishing line, like you can do anything. Soon I was doing the London Marathon too. I started getting my strength back and standing up to my employers.

While travelling I’d had the seed of an idea to get a motorhome to explore Great Britain. It dawned on me that while I’d travelled the world I hadn’t explored what was right on my doorstep. I realised how materialistic we all are, how we spend hours working to buy things we don’t really need yet don’t have time to see family and friends because we’re too exhausted. It’s just crazy. I wanted to see if I could live with very little and be happy. So at 60 I retired from work and bought a motorhome. Now I live on the road.

My new life of freedom
From the moment I witnessed my first sunrise in the Yorkshire Dales I knew that I was doing the right thing. I felt so empowered to live a life that I was choosing. I met up with two of my lifelong girlfriends to kickstart my adventures and we did a girls’ road trip to the Lake District. Recounting all the times we had laughed and cried together throughout the years, it was wonderful and I felt ageless. The joy only intensified when I reached Scotland and witnessed the beauty of the Glencoe mountain range and some beautiful Lochs, including Loch Ness. Even being grounded in lockdown for four months in a field in Lancaster didn’t end my adventures.

“I felt so empowered to live a life that I was choosing”

I explored parts of Lancashire on my bike, including the beautiful Morecambe Bay. After the first lockdown some of my family joined me with their motorhomes and tents and we had a great weekend camping together and reconnecting. I am lucky to have many family and friends who I can call upon during my tour of Great Britain. I have seen so many places already including large parts of the Peak District, The Yorkshire Dales, The Lake District, Scotland, The Cotswolds, Kent and Sussex, North Norfolk Coast, The Malvern Hills, Lancashire and Oxfordshire. After this lockdown ends I want to explore Wales, Cornwall, Devon and Ireland. My plan though is to have no plan and just go where the mood takes me.

I love doing what I want without anyone talking down to me and telling me I’m wrong. I love being in charge of my life. It’s an incredible feeling. And yet I don’t have much. I’m literally living off my pension.

From feeling suicidal to top of the world
Sometimes I feel a bit scared, not having structure, a salary and security. There are incredible moments of joy but sometimes I can flounder a bit. During the pandemic I’ve had to regroup. Being stuck in field in a motorhome on my own while everything is shut and socialising isn’t an option has been hard, as I’ve felt quite alone at times. But technology connects me with other people.

One night I pulled up at Loch Morlich in Scotland. My mum, brother, sister and niece had all died over the space of a few years and I had a lot of unresolved grief. I was also eaten up with anger at my boss, over the way I’d been treated. All those pent-up emotions, all that loss, there was so much I hadn’t dealt with. So one night, under a full moon, I stood on the edge of the loch and screamed and screamed. I talked to my mum in my head and cried. It was very cathartic. I guess very few women would do that, but I recommend it.

In your late 50s things begin to change and you start to feel better, more sure of yourself. Hang on in there because you really do get a new lease of life

Actively championing pro-ageing
My goal is to write an inspirational book about battling ageism and championing pro-ageing. Out of adversity comes opportunity and I want to inspire older women. I specifically want to help the over 60s, because it’s quite different from how you feel in your 50s. It’s a privilege to age. I hate the term ‘anti-ageing’ in beauty products, why can’t it be ‘pro-ageing’? It’s important to talk about ageing and the menopause, so these things are normalised rather than hidden away. I feel like I’ve got a voice and I’m using it to campaign against workplace ageism, doing Instagram Lives about it every Thursday with interesting people.

I feel so empowered and content and want other women to feel that too. To go from feeling suicidal to top of the world – it’s important for other women to know that’s possible. Now I’m 61 I know that in your late 50s things begin to change and you start to feel better, more sure of yourself. Hang on in there because you really do get a new lease of life. I want to inspire older women who may want to be adventurous but are too scared to say yes to that challenge. I also want younger women to know that ageing is not something to fear but to embrace. I love ageing disgracefully. Instagram: shuvonshuvoff. Twitter: siobhandaniels. LinkedIn: Siobhan Daniels.

Words: Marina Gask

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