There can be no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year. Many of us were so overwhelmed with daily living that we lost focus on the world around us. However, there are a bunch of inspiring ageless wonders who keep showing us that times often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary outcome, no matter what their age.
From a ‘chief blessor’ to a global summit creator, from a master of ‘laughter on-call’ to a metastatic breast cancer survivor, including a creative duo who are changing the age narrative in advertising, here are the women that the world needs to discover. What do they have in common? They are forces of nature who see experience as a superpower and have a common goal of creating stronger personal connections throughout the globe.
What they want – borrowing the words of a 45-year-old American writer and philosopher Susan Sontag– is to be fully present in their life, to be really where they are, contemporary with themselves in their life, giving full attention to the world.
Tara Eusebi: the chief blessor
Tara is an incredible example of a midlife woman who is successfully realigning her professional journey with her personal passion. In 2017, she was working a stressful job in corporate America when a co-worker asked her two simple but life-changing questions: “What is your passion? What do you ultimately want to do?”
The answer would change the trajectory of Tara’s life and career. Her immediate response was that she would like to bless people and help those in need. Then, she thought “Why not?”. The idea for the Bless App was born.
Bless is a mobile app that works by allowing a person to post a need (either locally or internationally), whether it be financial, material, physical assistance, or time-based and then someone can find the request and meet the need. While it sounds simple, it was a steep learning curve for Tara in technology and business in order to create the app, but she was up for the challenge.
Through the app, Tara hopes to “re-train” humanity’s perspective on need. She believes that “together we are better, and together we can do more!” She would also like to change that “get rid of things” mentality so that people can start seeing the power in the gently used items they no longer require. As well as their time, gifts and talents, they have the ability to change lives and impact generations.
As the ‘Chief Blessor’ at Bless, Tara is confident that midlife has shown her the best passion to have is “to help others and that through connection, gentle eye contact and encouraging words we can truly change this world.”
Leslie Ferris Yerger: breast cancer survivor
Leslie never planned to be an advocate or public speaker but life had plans for her. In 2017, just two months after a routine ‘all clear’ mammogram and ultrasound, Leslie was diagnosed with Stage IV Lobular Breast Cancer.
She was stunned. She wanted to know how this could happen to her and was amazed to find out that the cancer was hidden behind her dense breast tissue. In her quest, she came across The American Cancer Society study which stated that “women who have dense breast tissue have a higher risk of breast cancer compared to women with less dense breast tissue.” She sought answers on why this was not common knowledge for women and how breast density can affect the results of mammograms and ultrasounds.
So, she decided to become an advocate and part of the solution.
Knowing that “women with extremely dense breasts are four to six times more likely to get breast cancer and 71 percent of all breast cancers are in women with dense breasts“, she decided to put pen to paper and write her book Probably Benign. Leslie also embarked on a 500-mile pilgrimage called Camino de Santiago, across Spain and Portugal, to raise funds to improve the accuracy of breast screening. She then launched MyDensityMatters.org to educate women about the risks of breast density and to share leading research on how to improve the detection of tumours.
Leslie currently has No Evidence of Disease (NED) and is living her life more fully and with purpose. She is a public speaker whose message is to ‘know your breast density‘ and fight for the proper testing which may lead to earlier diagnosis. Her inspiration comes from “people who can envision something different, something better, and then figure out how to make that happen for the good of the whole. Those who keep going toward a goal no matter what it takes. Grit and tenacity.”
Dani Klein Modisett: master of ‘Laughter on Call‘
Dani has always been funny. She has been an author, a comedian for over 25 years, and has taught stand up comedy at UCLA. But when her mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, her world suddenly stopped being funny.
As the disease progressed, Dani placed her mother in a residential facility and she noticed her mom’s mood began to slowly darken. She felt hopeless until – while explaining her despair to her dentist (who is also a life coach)- she had a light bulb moment: why not hire a comedian for her mum? So, she did!
Dani did not know it at the time but according to scientists “laughter, in response to funny events, actually takes a lot of work, because it activates many areas of the brain: areas that control motor, emotional, cognitive and social processing.”
The change in her mum was immediate and profound and Dani was then approached by other families who noticed her mother’s improved mood. She decided that this connection between laughter and cognitive improvement should be explored further and more importantly, shared.
Dani created ‘Laughter on Call‘ to connect comedians with seniors, health care workers or families so they can learn the importance of laughter during these difficult circumstances. She strongly believes that “these people are still in there, and my comics will use whatever trial and error of words, voices and physicality to reach them”.
Relying on word of mouth, promotion and a talented professional staff, word spread quickly about ‘Laughter on Call’. However, just as the business started to grow, the pandemic arrived and Dani shifted the business to an online model and broadened her reach to corporations as well. ‘Laughter on Call’ now includes virtual sessions, lunchtime laughter groups and has expanded to include running virtual parties internationally for companies who want their teams to laugh and feel connected.
At 57, Dani knows power is enhanced for women in midlife and beyond from having lived a life. “We have experience – she explains- we hopefully have more wisdom than we had at 20, more patience and a visceral understanding of resilience”.
Getrude Matshe: global summit creator
Getrude is the definition of a go-getter! Described as a “bundle of African energy”, she has dedicated her life to helping others and giving women the opportunity to be seen and heard. Her most recent goal was to empower and connect over 1 million women around the world. A lofty ambition that she was well on her way to achieving before the pandemic hit.
Getrude was born in a small village in South Africa and learned very quickly the value of hard work and an education. Her parents were ambitious and instilled in her the importance of creating your own success. She has followed many career paths: systems analyst, founder of a medical recruitment agency, property mogul, actress, inspirational speaker and author. With each professional shift, she has used her knowledge and creativity to succeed and then, in return, shares that knowledge with other women.
Her newest project is HerStory Circle and HerStory Women’s Global Empowerment Conference. Getrude describes it as “a global and collaborative initiative, bringing together women, from all cultures and creeds, to join together in sharing inspirational, enlightening, uplifting personal stories and experiences of issues that are affecting women – socially, economically and environmentally”.
Her plan was to have 100 speakers at over 1,000 locations connecting women around the world. With just a few of the conferences completed in 2019, the pandemic halted future in-person meetings so Getrude skillfully shifted again to curating on the online global summit (next one scheduled for the 31st of January). It is Getrude’s dream that through sharing stories of business, health, social justice, artistry and more, she will help women achieve their full potential and discover their life’s purpose. We believe there is no stopping her.
Susan Lee Colby and Kathy Sjogren: the ‘Grace Creative‘ duo
What do Susan Lee Colby and Kathy Sjogren have in common besides being two amazing women over 50? To start, they have decades of experience in advertising, developing and representing popular brand campaigns and winning awards for their hard work. But there is something else they share! They know that “women over 50 are the most empowered consumer audience in history and yet are still the most undervalued target by major brands”. They decided to use their experience to correct this glaring absence in the media.
Susan and Kathy, along with Managing Director, Jennifer Nottoli created ‘Grace Creative Agency‘. This agency has a distinct mission in mind: “to activate the power of women over 50. We hope to achieve this by changing the age narrative in advertising and marketing, and in popular culture”.
This mission includes the Grace Creative Age Anthem which is a campaign redefining the perceptions of women over 50 for themselves and for the younger generation that will eventually join them. Women are asked to share a picture, their age and experience on social media along with the hashtag #ageisNOTjustnumber.
Susan is excited by “the growing number of women leaders of every age who haven’t taken “No” for an answer, have a vision that breaks taboos and limitations and those who keep pushing to be seen, heard and moving forward even when they are ignored.” Grace Creative’s employees are intergenerational and this diversity in age helps mentor the next round of women who will soon represent midlife and beyond.
Will these women be able to inspire you? We hope so. They prove that age is not a hindrance to living your best life, achieving new goals or inspiring other ladies. Women who are unapologetically over 40 and enjoying the freedoms that come with wisdom and age.