Recently I heard Ashton Applewhite* say, “The older we get, the less alike we get”. Off the top of your head, do you agree or disagree? I was really struck by this statement. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I agree with her. It’s Time to Be More of Who You Are!
When I speak to groups of women and ask what they like about getting older, I always hear the same things: I no longer give a fig about what others think of me and am doing more of what I want to do. I finally having some time for myself and everything just seems to be easier! I don’t having to worry about what I look like when I run a quick errand, and so forth.
How Women Over 55 May Feel
What this suggests to me is that until we get to a certain age, many of us live the lives others have carved out for us. Or we model what we’ve seen because we think that is the “right way” to be a woman. As a result, if we’re in a similar culture, we end up being somewhat similar! Then at some point we give that up and get on with our own lives. And as we do that, we become more like our true selves and less like one another.
This also may help explain why there are so many interesting older women. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a woman “of a certain age,” as the French would say. If so, think of the number of really interesting older women you know. When I do that, I get overwhelmed with the plethora of dynamite older women I know or know of. That is very exciting!
What This Means
What does this mean as we get older? We don’t get less “useful,” we get more “useful”. I put that in quotation marks because I have heard women express the fear that as they get older, they will become useless when actually they become more useful. They finally are exploring their most significant gifts at a time when they have their greatest range of skills and experiences and their deepest wisdom.
Looked at in this way, think of what our society is losing by putting us “out to pasture” after we’re ~55! A crushing example of this is the recent statistic on the number of older women who have lost jobs during the pandemic. Yes, lots of people lost jobs. For women 55+, however, the unemployment rate went from 3.3% in March, 2020, to 15.5% in April, 2020.** Even if these women are able to find other work, few will get back to the level they previously held. And this will exacerbate the already alarming statistic about the growing poverty level of older women. There is an incalculable loss of knowledge and experience to the organizations that released them.
What We Can Do
What can we do about this distressing loss of talent that our world desperately needs? If you’re in an organization, become an ally to older women. If you see them being discounted or ignored, say something. Talk to your HR group. Find out what’s being done to retain the older women in the organization. Point out the importance of organizational knowledge these women hold!
If you’re not already, become aware of the many subtle and not so subtle messages that surround us about the unimportance of older women. Watch for commercials that highlight young, sexy women and those that suggest older women need some kind of help. Pay attention to TV shows and movies that often cast younger women into roles for older women, and to the relative lack of older women cast in any appealing kind of role.
If you are a senior woman, take in the fact that you are in the prime of your life! You are at a point when you have the most to offer, when you can make the most impact if you just step up and step out and let yourself blossom. You can use all your skills and wisdom to contribute to your community or the world in whatever way is important to you.
As I coach older women, I’ve found that many are busting to make some kind of change in their lives. They know there’s something more for them to do. If this is true for you, do whatever you have to do to become the woman you were meant to be, making the contribution you were meant to make. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said,” Don’t die with the music still in you.” The world needs you now. It’s Time to Be More of Who You Are.
**For men 55+ the rate was 3.4% to 12.1% over the same time period.
Sara Hart, PhD, is an author, speaker, and coach. She is leading the change for how older women are seen and treated in our society. She is the creator of Prime Spark, a movement to transform how women over 55 take charge of their future. Sara is the author of three books, and has over 40 years’ experience in leadership development, coaching, and building thinking environments. She was director of training and development for a Fortune 100 company and executive director of the Institute for Women and Technology. To learn more about claiming your power as a senior woman, visit www.primesparkwomen.com.