A blogger and podcaster at heart, Jen Hardy had been creating content about mothers with health issues for more than eight years. However, after spending all that time talking about how sick she was, Jen decided it was time to find something new to talk about.
“We do need to take care of our bodies and be self-aware about what we are feeling and experiencing,” she explained. “But, when that’s all you’re thinking about, it does become a self-fulfilling thing.”
Podcasting is an absolute passion for Jen. So she attended a podcasting conference in hopes of identifying something new to talk about. But, everything seemed to be taken.
“Then I discovered few people were talking about being older, especially women who are older,” she explained.
Because there weren’t many content creators focusing on that market segment, Jen started a podcast called Fabulous Over 50. It was a significant departure from her old show.
Jen’s business is based out of her home in Florida in an area that’s only a few blocks from the beach. She discovered spending time walking on the sand and listening to waves has rejuvenating power.
A varied career
Jen held a variety of jobs over the course of her career. As an 18-year-old, she worked as an AT&T telephone operator – one of the last people to do so before automation eliminated the job.
Then, she sold insurance and worked in finance for a while before becoming an emergency medical technician who worked in a hospital emergency room.
When her first child arrived, Jen started homeschooling and has continued that job for 24 years, with eight more to go, until she has ushered all seven of her children into lives of their own. Through all her experiences, Jen has also owned a few companies and founded Hardy House Media several years ago while trying to juggle family responsibilities.
“As a kid, my parents decided what I did, where I would go and what I could do. Then, when I became a young parent myself, my focus changed to serving my kids and shuttling them to all their activities,” she explained.
“Somewhere around age 50, I realized my entire life has been focused on someone else. As beautiful as that has been, I wanted to do something just for me,” she added. “Time is marching on, and there are a lot of things I still want to do and explore on my own.”Jen Hardy
Jen noted people over 50 are often referred to as the “sandwich generation.” That’s because their responsibilities are sandwiched between taking care of children and, as soon as the kids are on their own, then meeting the needs of their aging parents.
“I think I did a disservice to my older children by being there for them whenever they needed something,” she said. “They never learned that mom has needs which are important, too. I taught them whatever I was going through didn’t matter because they were the first priority in my life.
“I’ve shifted my approach a bit with my younger children to help them realize that we all have needs and wants – even moms and dads,” she added. “I’m hoping that sinks in when they’re older.”
A love for podcasting
Jen first started creating content as a blogger. She was often sick much of the time and actually spent a week in the hospital six times one year.
“Still, I ran my house, raised seven kids and homeschooled. I struggled with trying to oversee all that activity from my bed, especially when my husband worked 12 hours a day,” Jen explained.
“I had been looking for help online and discovered a lot of people complaining about similar problems, but not providing any solutions,” she added. “My husband told me if I couldn’t find what I needed, then it was my job to create it.”
Although it added extra work to Jen’s schedule, blogging gave her something positive to do when she was confined to bed. She also discovered content produced by serial entrepreneur Pat Flynn. As she read things Pat wrote about business, passive income and similar topics, Jen was intrigued with the concept of podcasting.
“It sounded like so much fun because I love talking to people and in front of others. I saw podcasting as a way for me to be able to say whatever I wanted and to share it with the world,” she explained.
Jen’s son had purchased a Rode microphone to start his own podcast. So, she borrowed it and used the Garage Band software on her Mac computer to produce her first episodes. Ironically, her son never pursued podcasting, so Jen wound up buying the equipment from him.
“My biggest challenge was balancing the needs of my family with finding time to pursue podcasting,” she explained. “I didn’t outsource anything, but learned to do it all myself. I watched hundreds of YouTube videos and learned by experimenting with equipment and podcasting methods.”
Fabulous Over 50
Jen’s primary podcast is Fabulous Over 50, which is about helping women over 50 to “find their fabulous,” she explained.
“It doesn’t matter if a woman has a lot of money; she should dress in a way that makes her feel fabulous,” said Jen. “If she likes to dress up in heels and be fancy, then she should do it. On the other hand, if she just wants to sit around in jeans and old T-shirts, then she should be free to do that, too.
“Personally, I like to use an excessive amount of glitter. I even have a sequined jacket I just love to wear,” she explained. “Embracing things which make me feel fabulous has made my life a whole lot more fun. So, I want to share that with other women.”
Jen’s shows aren’t all about fashion or even stories about being fabulous. Sometimes, they focus on mindset, too.
“We are going to do a whole series about menopause because it is so misunderstood,” Jen explained.
“When girls grow up, a lot of people tell them what’s going to happen with their bodies, moods and feelings. Even men know what those changes involve and the impact it can have on a teenager or young woman,” she added. “But, it’s different with menopause because most women don’t even know what’s happening or about to happen so they can prepare.
“I have women begging me to bring experts on the show who can help them understand what’s happening to their bodies and the impact menopause will have on people around them,” said Jen.
The need for that training is important because she said too many menopausal women are being diagnosed as “crazy,” when, in fact, they are simply suffering from a hormonal imbalance. There are also a lot of stereotypes suggesting women over a certain age must appear as though they aren’t aging at all.
“This year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition featured Martha Stewart on the cover. She is in her 80s, but her photo was airbrushed to look like she’s in her 20s,” Jen explained. “That’s not fair to women. Too many men will look at that and wonder why their wife, who is 20 years younger than Martha, doesn’t look like she does on that cover.
“We need to normalize the aging process for all people, and especially women, because they account for 50% of the population,” she added. “People have said for years, that women get old and men mature. For men, salt-and-pepper hair is seen as sexy, but not for women, who must continue to be blonde or brunette their entire lives.”Jen Hardy
“If women would just stop giving into that, things would change,” said Jen. “But, I’m guilty of that, too. I used to dye my hair because people were asking me if I was my children’s grandmother, and that was bothersome.”
However, if women want to dye their hair in order to feel fabulous, they should be free to do that, Jen explained. Yet, women should not be made to feel they must look a certain way.
Jen produces a second podcast called Medical Gaslighting which focuses on doctors who tell patients the symptoms they are experiencing are all in their imaginations.
The term comes from a 1944 movie titled “Gaslight,” in which a man tries to drive his wife insane in order to distract her from his criminal activities, according to Wikipedia. He turns down lights in the house to the point she thinks everything is going dim, but then he tells her it’s in her imagination.
“In the medical profession, gaslighting happens more often than you think, especially to women and people of color,” said Jen. “Doctors discount their symptoms or refuse to treat people for anxiety and depression. So, patients go home thinking they must be crazy because a doctor says they’re fine.”
Jen said the way to combat that, if it’s happening to you, is to bring someone with you to medical appointments. For some reason, doctors will listen more to another person than they will to the actual patient, she explained.
“I remember having been prescribed a medication that was giving me horrible side effects. When I asked to be taken off that drug and given something else, the doctor refused,” she added. “So I brought my husband to the next appointment and he wore his military uniform.
“It was like a Jedi mind trick. My husband told the doctor, ‘You will take her off this medicine,” and the doctor said, ‘I will take her off this medicine.’ It was that easy.”
On this podcast, Jen gives patients a voice to describe their experiences at being medically gaslighted. However, she also encourages them to share what they learned about themselves through the process.
“My guests give advice to help people become better patients in order to get better care,” said Jen. “That way it ends up being a positive thing where we can all learn something instead of just listening to a gripe session.”
Teaching guys, too
Fabulous Over 50 also pays attention to the needs of men, especially in the ways they need to strengthen relationships.
“I heard a sad statistic that the average adult man has 0.9 friends. In fact, a lot of men don’t have any friends at all,” said Jen. “Men have different needs than women, but they still have needs. I want women to understand just because men in their lives reach a certain age, they do not need to give up. They still need to pursue whatever they are passionate about.
“Too many people over 50 think this is as good as life gets and that they’ve done all they can do,” she added. “Actually, they have decades left to live. That’s a lot of years to resign to scrolling through TV shows or TikTok videos.”Jen Hardy
Jen wants men to realize that, regardless of their age at the moment, they can always start over to do something different.
“Look back at what you wanted to do when you were younger, but were talked out of doing by other people,” she added. “Maybe you wanted to study art or be a writer, but people told you that was a stupid, pointless thing to pursue.
“Well, if you have a passion for that, then it’s not stupid,” Jen explained. “When you’re retired, you can take classes and do those things, whether you do it for money or just for fun. Whatever you do that gives you a zest for life, that’s how you become fabulous over 50.”
Giving needed, but unsolicited advice
Jen discovered a beautiful thing happens when people get between 50 and 55 years old. They stop caring about what other people think, in general. Consequently, older men and women are more prone to speaking their minds.
However, she also realized younger generations don’t necessarily want advice from older, wiser and more experienced adults.
“In fact, they sometimes get agitated if you try to offer them advice. But, I still want to give it to them because I see they are on the wrong track and need this information,” Jen explained. “I found they are more open to hearing advice when we first get their permission to give it to them.
I just hate watching people make the same mistakes I did when I was younger. So, I want them to avoid the pain it caused me,” said Jen. “But, I need to be willing to let them make their own mistakes, too. Eventually, they’ll learn the same lessons I did by going through the same pain.”
One of the greatest dangers people over 50 face is isolation, she explained. But there is a really easy cure for that problem. Get up and leave your house.
“We really need to get back in the habit of getting out and spending time with other people,” she said. “It’s beautiful and educational to have discussions with people who think differently about things.
“I was raised to respect other people’s opinions,” Jen added. “It just blows my mind when people raise their voices, get upset or, heaven forbid, stop talking to each other over a disagreement about something.”
Jen is also concerned about how women tend to push their partners in specific directions which may not be good roles for them.
“We have an idealized image of retirement where we can walk hand-in-hand with our husbands everywhere we go. But, that may not be what our husbands had in mind when they retired,” said Jen. “When he stops working his 9-to-5 job, he probably doesn’t want to tag along to your lunch club or shopping excursions. He needs to be doing something else.
“As women, we should encourage our husbands to find a purpose and jump into doing that,” she added. “At the same time, we need to do it in a way that doesn’t seem like we are adding one more thing to their to-do list.”
If Jen could start over in life, she would tell her 17-year-old self to stop judging herself so harshly. It’s much more important to practice positive self-talk.
“I grew up in the 1980s living in California where a teenage girl could never be too rich or too thin,” said Jen. “The standards I imposed on myself were ridiculous. But it is hard to be yourself when everyone around you acts in a different way.”
She also encourages younger women to realize they do not need a man in their lives so badly that they hook up with the wrong one.
“We are never the only people who make mistakes. There are tens of thousands of people who made the same mistake,” she explained. “We are human, but we all need to give ourselves a bit of grace.”
When Jen’s mother was in her 20s, she was caught up in the women’s liberation, bra-burning movement. So, she was mortified when Jen decided to be a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother.
“It was my form of rebellion. But, women should have the right to do anything they want, and that includes getting a job or staying home with their kids,” she explained. “It concerns me things are still so unbalanced. But, I think the scale is beginning to tip in the other direction because we are having more conversations about what a balanced life looks like.”
One thing that angers Jen, whether it is cartoons, TV shows or advertising, it is the portrayal of adults, especially men, as buffoons. The media also trains children to be anti-authority, she noted.
Men and women over 50 have a real opportunity to influence younger people who are literally starving for adult attention, even though the youngsters don’t realize it.
“With the rise of tablets, cellphones and other types of equipment that do amazing things, a lot of kids have parents who are also addicted to technology. As a result, the kids don’t get much attention at all,” Jen explained.
“Many kids don’t have grandparents who are active in their lives. So finding children to whom you can pass your knowledge is very important,” she said. “There are a lot of kids who need attention and knowledge, and they are missing out on that.
“Even if it means learning to play Minecraft so you can build a relationship with a younger person and then pull him or her into conversations, everyone will benefit,” she added. “There is a joy that comes with relationships we, as adults, and they, as children, can’t find anywhere else.”
Jen set a one-hour cap on the amount of time her kids were allowed to use technology. As a result, they played a lot of other games or learned to use their imaginations, which is another skill children lack today.
For help in being fabulous over 50, people can connect with Jen by visiting www.jenhardy.net. From there, people can find links to Jen’s podcasts and coaching services. She’s even willing to help seasoned citizens start their own podcasts.
Note: Shortly after Jen was interviewed for Forward From 50, she launched a new project called Jen’s Friends. It is a daily two- to three-minute emailed video to encourage older women who live alone, or might not have someone to tell them how amazing and beautiful they are every day.
What makes Jen’s Friends so unique, aside from the video aspect, is that women can respond to the emails, and truly become friends with Jen.
“Loneliness is at epidemic proportions in the older population, and I love preparing these messages, even if it just helps one person,” she said.
People can find the details at jenhardy.net/friends.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.