Bestselling American author Jill Shaw Ruddock started writing The Second Half of Your Life -her manual for post-menopausal women – after going through a personal crisis in her late forties.
No one explained to Ruddock how menopause might affect her. Her mother told her to expect periods, but not about how her body would change later in life. Ruddock was 48 and almost through menopause before she realised what had been happening to her for four years.
“I was having 75 hot flushes a day, suffering from insomnia and heart palpitations, and I had to carry around baby powder and three t-shirts to get through the day. By the time I went to the doctor I was only a few months from becoming a post-menopausal woman,” she said.
Ruddock, now 55, was not used to feeling out of control. Until she retired at the age of 44, she was one of the City of London’s most powerful businesswomen, and she lived a privileged life. Her husband is the multi-millionaire Paul Ruddock, co-founder of hedge fund Lansdowne partners. They live in fashionable Notting Hill and have two teenage daughters.
But social position counts for nothing when the menopause strikes. “I always say the menopause is a great equaliser, rather like having kids,” Ruddock said.
Her enquiring mind set off in search of answers. But when she couldn’t find a practical hands-on guide to post-menopausal life, she decided to write one. She quickly learned that post-menopausal women needed a new script.
“The old script says: Go to school, go to university, find a job, earn a living, meet a guy, fall in love, plan a wedding, have babies, get your figure back, cook dinner, do the shopping, clean the house……and so on,” she said.
But after menopause, women’s nesting and nurturing instincts are not as strong. “Before menopause, oestrogen makes you focus on the home, procreate and keep the peace. But after menopause, women look at the world differently and are pushed more outside the home,” she said.
Ruddock is adamant that post-menopausal women need a manual to help them negotiate these changes. “Ageing well is not a matter of luck, or money. The choices you make will determine whether you are surviving, or thriving,” she said.
Longevity also makes it essential that women, and men, plan carefully for the second part of their life. A healthy woman of 50 today can expect to live to be 96, and a healthy man of 50 should reach 91.
“For many women, the menopause is depression city. When kids leave, they are hit hard by the reality of the empty nest. The most important part of my book is my five-a-day plan, which lays the foundations for your best years. It involves rediscovering a passion, having a purpose greater than yourself, exercising every day but Sunday, eating nutritionally and staying connected to family and friends,” she said.
The book also helps formulate strategies to deal with finance, diet, appearance, sex, divorce and grieving for a younger self.
Ruddock is donating 100% of her royalties to her Second Half of Your Life Foundation, in North Kensington, which is a social and health care centre for people over 50 of either sex. She plans to open similar centres all over the UK.
“I want over fifties of all socio-economic backgrounds to come together and live my five-a-day,” she said. “The first centre will be in the St Charles ward of Kensington, one of London’s most deprived parts, even though Kensington has the highest number of £60k-plus earners. It’s also a lonely part of the city, where six out of 10 pensioners live alone,” she said. “Some 300,000 British pensioners go a whole month without speaking to anyone. That’s why I’m building my centres to help these people live the best years of their lives,” she said.