You are a Boomer woman if you were born between 1946 and 1964. And now, right now, Ladies, is the time for you to wake up to the realities of AGEism if you haven't already. Ageism—that nasty prejudice aimed at seniors: older adults, much-older adults and the elderly—is what awaits YOU if you do not start working now to thwart it in your life and the attitudes of those in your sphere of influence. That's right, ageism directed at you by younger people who want your job or dislike you for a personal reason, or peers who deem you "less-than"; less-than their idea of positive aging, less-than what their need requires of you, and/or more demanding of you-name-it: your weight, your bank account, your spouse (or lack thereof), your politics, or faith. Then there is the self-ageism we practice when we don't like what we see in the mirror or in our wallets and proceed to punish ourselves in some way.
LOVE, in a word, is the answer. Here are a few love-in-practice anti-ageism techniques we can all get into.
Have mercy on seniors you see who struggle with things you don't...and even more, if you do. Watch how often others treat seniors who are overweight, under-funded, or are hoarders: those who are trapped in handicaps of chance or of their own making and those whose children are oblivious; or worse, are negligent. Your mercy will be returned to you, as mercy and kindness are twins. Then, be kind enough to yourself to start the changes you’ll need to avoid the merciless rebukes of old age.
Pay attention to wonderful women who are widows too young (that comes at any age!), persevering with heavy hearts, and to the older men who were unprepared emotionally and practically to lose their wives in a death that was supposed to happen to husbands first. They struggle to live alone, so pay them some kind attention and you will teach your own children that you will need some attention, too.
Make a plan and stick to it. The concept of "choice" after the age of 60 is really about two things: your health and your wealth, and how much of each you have to face your "golden years". The next two decades can either be a joyful challenge or a dreary one. Chances are you will live until 78-84 (national statistics). For your health, make a plan and stick to it about exercise, consuming fewer calories, and caring for your skin, teeth and eyes every single day! For your wealth, do a personal SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Take some classes to open you to a field that will challenge your mind, open some opportunities for funding and allow you to socialize in positive ways.
Renew old friendships and cultivate new relationships. The emergence of social mediafor Boomers to aid in both these goals has been quite a phenomenon in the last few years! In lifespan development terms, the decade of a woman’s 50’s is her best decade: she has finished, for the most part, in the physical raising of her children, she has learned to manage her home like a business, she has earned respect in her career and workplace, and she has maintained and developed a lifetime of networking relationships. A woman in her 50’s attains a life-satisfaction ratio that is very high compared to earlier decades of her life. The phrase “all pistons are firing” is apropos! Many women in their fifties “reboot, re-tool, and re-career” to find satisfaction and success in whatever they choose to do next. Vibrant Nation: What Boomer Women 55+ Know, Think, Do & Buy says it well: “Women in their 50s, 60s and beyond are breaking through the stereotypes of what it means to be an older woman. Where women could expect to become increasingly marginalized from mainstream society as they aged, they are now gathering strength and influence. This female age wave is already stirring up far-reaching impact on the workplace, the marketplace, the family, and the world at large. We’re getting to see firsthand what it looked like when the first generation of women who earned and managed their own money gets to rethink what work, retirement, and success can look like after 50. (2010, xii)”. To add incentive, studies show that a woman’s 8th decade holds her 2nd highest life-satisfaction rates (Yes, in our 80’s!) Although “life is short” applies earlier in life, I say, that when we face ageism and other of age’s injustices, life is longer than we think.
Teach your children by example to nurture family relationships. Nurturing respect in family relationships in every phase of life is one of the best insurance policies we can have for a better aging. You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) at how many families become separated in their affections and philosophies once a parent or both parents pass away. My husband, Paul Patterson, was a Probate, Conservatorship and Trust attorney who saw this all the time. The family structure suffers a severe blow in the loss of a parent. Even the strongest families can flounder; how can people really prepare for a loss they have never experienced? If we can find the grace to rise to our best selves, to keep reaching out to other family members, and to strengthen the good that is in our families, there is hope for better times ahead. These worthy goals are challenged by personal grief and sibling rivalries, which often creep in unaware. Don't let this happen to your family! Our adult kids are watching and learning how to do life. We will always have influence in family relationships, be it positive or negative; so choose to do good!
Now is the time to take action. Ageism, in a word, sucks. Ageism, like every other prejudice, demeans its victims, separates us from the good in each other and spawns negativity in the hearts of humans. Having to face ageism is a cruel way to grow old. Ageism, because of human nature and the rapid upswing of aging Boomers, will only increase. No matter your age, starting today puts you ahead of the curve. You really do want to avoid ageism’s grip: whether you are younger and tempted to practice it now, or when you yourself are old and suffer under its cruelty, ageism is an evil to avoid.
©Di Patterson, CPG: “No one WANTS to age, but EVERYONE wants to AGE WELL!”