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Faith Agugu, 59: Growing With Time

Having grown up in a family where aging was something to aspire to, Faith Agugu created online community Silver Sirens to share this gift and empower other women to define aging on their own terms. A self-described elder in training, she dives into the pandemic of loneliness, harnessing the opportunities of aging, and elder women as “wisdom holders.”

Faith Agugu has always looked forward to her birthday. Another year to build a community. To swim in the ocean. And to inspire everyone she meets to think of aging as a gift and a privilege.

A psychotherapist and self-proclaimed “elder in training,” Agugu is the founder of Silver Sirens, an online community founded in 2018 to support women and challenge their negative narrative on aging with curated content and resources so they experience midlife as a time to flourish.

Her positive energy bounced through our screen, and her beautiful silver braids and spirit inspired us.

Faith Agugu

How old are you?
I’m 59 and will be 60 next year, and I cannot wait.

Are you married?
I’m not, but I’m in a beautiful, committed relationship.

Do you have children?
I’m a child-free woman. And that’s a journey.

Where do you live?
Sydney, Australia.

Tell me about a challenge you faced and how you overcame it.
I always believed I was going to be a mother. I was traveling the world and being adventurous so I knew it wouldn’t be early, but I took it for granted. So, when I got to my early 30s and it hadn’t happened, I was a bit shocked. I was in a relationship that I thought would lead to marriage, and I thought that man would be my children’s father. We broke up just after my 30th birthday. Then, I got into a rebound relationship and got pregnant.

And it was so hard, but I made the decision not to keep the baby. The person was extremely abusive. And what came to mind was, “It’s not about you, Faith. Your child will have to spend every weekend with this person without your support, and that’s not fair.” And there was just, like, this blinding thought, and I just realized, I’m not going to have my child subjected to this person as their father. I didn’t know at that time that that was going to be my only pregnancy, but I thought, “Okay, this just isn’t right.”

I went through my late 30s trying to have a child, and I got to 45 and I just went, “You know what? It’s too late.” I know older mothers, but I know myself. I’m not very patient. I like my sleep. I was doing IVF at the time, and I just knew I missed the boat, and I gave up.

It was so painful. But it was the right thing.

Faith Agugu

“I’m a therapist, so we’re secret holders. We should do our part to share our secrets with people, too”

I’m sure.
I spiraled through about six months of depression. And then, I realized there are many different ways of being a mother. Mothering is not just limited to physically giving birth. Through my work with psychotherapy, I am very much a mother. Oprah says she’s much better as a mother to lots of people; not that I’m comparing myself to Oprah, but I like that.

I’m the person that feeds everybody. Come to my house. I’ve got a big pot of soup on my stove because if anyone comes, I want them to eat. [laughs]

I appreciate you sharing that story.
I’m a therapist, so we’re secret holders. We should do our part to share our secrets with people, too.

What’s a hot topic for therapists now?
Like I said, there’s a real thing around loneliness. I sent a message to our communities asking what they would like to focus on this year. And 70% of the answers were about loneliness. And people have a lot of shame admitting it.

We’re working on a program called Silver Connections and Silver Buddies. We’re doing monthly lunches for about 12 to 20 women. One woman will host; we bring food, we come together, and we share and eat across the country.

What do you think is causing this pandemic of loneliness?
At this age, people have recently divorced or separated, lost people, moved away, or friends have moved away. And then, when we go deeper, social media can appear to keep us outwardly connected, but people are hungry for deep, authentic connections.

faith agugu

“A vested interest was in keeping women insecure around themselves and their looks”

What inspired you to start Silver Sirens?
As an African woman, my view of aging, or what was modeled for me through my mother and sisters, was that aging was something to aspire to. In my culture, the oldest person in the room is the person that everyone wants to be, the person that has respect, the one that everyone focuses on. So, living in Australia and working in the fashion industry, I knew ageism existed. So, when I started work as a psychotherapist and women were coming to me, they were very depressed about aging. And they said things to me like, “I feel like I’ve lost my value. I feel invisible. No one seems to value my contribution in the workplace,” and all these things.

They were also depressed about changes in their bodies and losing their youth. It caught my attention. And when I did my research, I realized the narrative was very different between men and women around aging. For men, it was all about silver foxes dashing about, whereas for women, it was decay, decline, and a loss of value.

A vested interest was in keeping women insecure around themselves and their looks. Why? Because it’s a commodity. There’s a whole industry around anti-aging.

But in my experience, aging wasn’t about decline. So, I wanted to find a platform to share that, especially with struggling women. So, it all started in my therapy room.

Faith Agugu

Not everybody feels wonderful as they age. What are some things you can do to feel better?
The most important thing about aging is not to sugarcoat it. So, there will be physical changes in your body; like, now, I’ve got a dodgy knee and need a knee replacement. There are challenges, but we must harness the opportunities because there are many of them, too.

“Challenge your internal dialogue around aging and invisibility”

Prioritizing wellbeing, including physical and mental health, is so important. Look at what’s going on in your body and stay curious. And challenge your internal dialogue around aging and invisibility because the women I work with, for most of them, their internal dialogue is negative around aging.

And I think there’s something about accepting where we are. And it’s not accepting as in “putting up with it,” but aging is natural if we’re lucky, if we’re privileged to age, because my sister died at 41. So, if we’re lucky to age, it’s a privilege. It’s the society that says, “Young is better than old.”

Talk about how your upbringing reinforced what you’re saying.
I saw the women around me, my mother and sisters, who are quite a bit older than me, blossom as they aged. My mother studied and started traveling when her relationship with my father ended. I saw this woman come into her own in her 50s, and my sisters did the same.

I didn’t see the withering, the shutting down, the decay. So, that helped. I realize I’m advantaged because I cannot undo negative feelings. I think women with gray hair and wrinkles look super sexy.

Silver Sirens

Tell me about Silver Sirens.
Silver Sirens is a community for women. Initially, women over 50 redefine aging to rewrite the narrative surrounding women and find a community where everyone ages on their own terms. I wrote a series of guiding principles because I don’t care if women want to have plastic surgery; like, it’s nobody’s business. I don’t care if a woman chooses never to do anything.  However you choose to age, it’s fine with us.

As we age, isolation and loneliness affect us, so we have several in-person events and a virtual sanctuary. We hold weekly webinars and master classes. Our platform is curated by aging women for aging women. We’re very inclusive.

We also have younger women who come to us because they want role models. I want those women to know it doesn’t end when you reach 50. There’s a whole life ahead.

“As we age, isolation and loneliness affect us, so we have several in-person events and a virtual sanctuary”

Take us through your morning.
I got up this morning at 4:45 and did a 40-minute meditation. Then I went to the gym and returned with a green smoothie. I didn’t do it this morning because I went to the gym, but most mornings I go to the ocean. I’m usually in the ocean around 5:30 am.

What are your three non-negotiables in life?
Connecting with the ocean, moving my body, and meditation.

Are you a water sign?
I’m a Taurean. So, I’m not a water sign, but I’m a water baby. There’s always this joke that Africans can’t swim. You haven’t met my tribe. My tribe in Nigeria, as soon as we’re born, we’re thrown into the lake, so we’re all strong swimmers. Even my mother, who lives in the UK, always ensures she lives somewhere with a swimming pool. Up until recently, she swam every day.

Tell me what it’s like to live in Sydney.
Housing is expensive, but Sydney’s such an easy place. I’ve been here 32 years. It’s a very easy place to start a business, to do whatever you want to do. People are super open and friendly. The weather is to die for. Most people live across the coast, so you’re never too far from a coastline. I think about how it shaped me because I was born in Nigeria, lived there till the age of nine, lived in the UK till 25, and then spent 32 years here. I’m more Australian than anything else.

When I travel, I get a sense of my Australianness because I just go up and talk to everybody. I love that part of me.

What do you do for fun?
I love good food. My partner and I go and have a fine dining experience once a month. Yummy, beautifully made food makes me happy. The kind you know the chef has put everything into, and you can taste it.

What kind of music do you listen to?
My partner is a painter and musician, so he brings music into my life. But I listen to chants. I’ve gone to India and been on ashrams, so I usually have a chant in my ear.

What’s an “elder in training”?
I always say to people that I’m an elder in training, and I’m very proud of that. To me, an elder can be any age, but I see our elders as women over 70. They are the wisdom holders. So, they’re the ones that we go to for guidance. So, I’ve got quite a few elders in the Silver Sirens community. I’ve got a special thing called the “elders are treasures.” And we do special discounts for our elders. When we have our conferences, we have elders in our treasures segment, and we have two elders on the panel, and they talk about their wisdom. So, they’re people I look up to.

“I hold space of unconditional positive regard and care for everyone I meet”

I’m also working on this idea of being a mother to the world. We talked about motherhood before, but it’s just that idea of how I hold space of unconditional positive regard and care for everyone I meet.

Am I showing up as the spearhead of Silver Sirens? Am I showing up in my relationship? Am I showing up with my clients? I just keep coming back to that.

What are your aspirations for the broader movement?
I would love Silver Sirens to get to where we’ve got the right funding so I can get the right people to make this a global movement.

Any parting words?
Since I was in my 20s, I couldn’t wait to be 30. When I was 30, I couldn’t wait to be 40. And I can’t wait to be 60. That’s just who I am. [laughs]

Connect with Faith:
LinkedIn
Silver Sirens

See medical disclaimer below. ↓

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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

AUTHOR

Sheri Radel Rosenberghttps://unapologeticstyle.substack.com/
Sheri Radel Rosenberg is a Philly-born, Brooklyn-based writer who explores style, beauty, culture, and midlife with wit, warmth, and wisdom. Her story includes successful forays in the worlds of trend forecasting, ad agency photo production, ghostwriting, and strategic messaging development for fashion and beauty brands - all while amassing a slip dress collection that would make any Gen Xer proud. At the dawn of social media, Sheri launched her personal blog–which combines her passion for writing with her style obsession–and she hasn’t looked back. As Style Editor for the AGEIST, she’s inspired by the styles of the 70s and the 90s, along with all the beautiful people she sees daily in NYC.

 

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