Felice Shapiro needed an escape from the shadow of a daunting transition. At 47, Shapiro had just lost her husband and was about to send her youngest of two sons off to college. Shapiro found herself seeking solace in her friends. “Women tend to find comfort by sharing stories, connecting, supporting each other,” said Shapiro, who teaches entrepreneurship at Tufts University. Inspired by that notion, she set out to establish an online forum for 50-somethings to convene in times of adversity and success. Last November, Shapiro launched Betterafter50.com, a weekly interactive magazine encouraging women to find a second wind mid-life — and share their experiences along the way. As Better After 50 approaches its first anniversary, Shapiro talks inspiration, the mind-set of a “BA50,” and what’s next.
How did you turn such a tough time into a positive project?
I was empowered in that I wanted to take charge in what this next place was going to be. Philosophically, I believe that we are better after 50 because we choose to be — that’s a rallying cry for me. There’s lots to complain about in life, however I do think that there’s a conscious decision we can make to improve and celebrate our lives and the way we approach mid-life. If we bring our positive energy to this next place, we can really create great things for ourselves and inspire others as well.
What kind of material is featured on Betterafter50.com?
We share stories on dealing with relationships with our spouses and bodies, sleeplessness, menopause, political and cultural stories, opinions at this stage of life where we are looking at things with a different lens then we did in our 20s, issues that are affecting the world, our children and aging parents. . . . [These are] all topics that we tend to talk about anyway, and we love hearing each other’s stories. This online magazine is the perfect canvas to share these stories.
You refer to your readers as “BA50s” — what makes someone a BA50?
BA50s are energetic, positive, they have landed on a big number. BA50 is an attitude. It is about embracing this next place that you’re in, having an open mind to what’s next, looking at this next phase with curiosity and a willingness to take action. That creates what we feel is a celebratory way to move into this next stage.
Do you have a favorite section of the site?
I love “She Did It,” [where women] talk about work that they’re doing right now. It’s a goal accomplished, a reinvention; if you quit your job and become writer, that’s a “She Did It.” Running a marathon for a first time, going to work in Africa and staying for a month, launching a cosmetic line after 50. . . . I love reading about women who are starting businesses or taking that next step, setting goals and accomplishing them. “She Did It” is my most favorite section, but I also love our humor, and I also like our articles because we handpick what’s [relevant] in the news so it’s a timesaver. I think being interesting is great, but I think being useful is even greater. The combination really keeps readers coming back.
What’s up next?
On Nov. 13 we have our first anniversary, and we’re having an event at Babson [College] called “She Did It: Boston,” and it’s sold out. I’m really excited because in such a short time, we have so many people that are finding what we do not only interesting, but useful. And going to an event that we create is certainly interesting and definitely useful. We have half a day, from noon to 5 p.m., of incredible speakers, an amazing panel, and an action exercise these women can work on to move forward with whatever they want to move forward with.
What has your proudest moment been so far?
Nov. 13, 2011, when I invited eight women in Boston into my living room to take a look at this site that I had worked on for six months, to have them test it out to see what they liked and didn’t like. They all stood up and clapped and said, “Launch it now.” I cried. Making your vision a reality is an incredible experience.