- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
- Published: 22 February 2019
Celebrating women and aging
March 8th is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This day has been celebrated for over a century and also marks a call to action for promoting gender equality.
It is a time of reflection, and there is much to celebrate, in particular for older women. There are more women over 50 in this country today than at any other point in history, according to data from the United States Census Bureau. Furthermore, women are healthier, are working longer and have more income than previous generations.
This growth in the over-50 population is creating modest but real progress in the visibility and stature of older women. Historically, older women have struggled to remain relevant and feel heard and have had to combat feelings of invisibility. Women over 50 bring a unique set a skills, wisdom and informational context. Older women are embracing opportunities, desire to stay in the workplace, and aim to find their way into more leadership roles.
Nearly a third of women aged 65 to 69 are now working, up from 15 percent in the late 1980s, according to recent analyses by the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. Some 18 percent of women aged 70 to 74 work, up from eight percent. Interestingly, working longer is more common among women with higher education and savings, according to Jessica Bennett, author of “I am an Older Woman. Hear Me Roar.”
Older women are finding fulfillment in work and in all aspects of their lives. “Contrary to the cultural scripts that say women are old and useless and in the way — diminished versions of their former selves — in reality older women are the happiest demographic in the country,” writer Mary Pipher says. In her article, “Want To Be Happy? Live Like A Woman Over 50,” she cites research from the University of California, San Diego, along with census data from the United Kingdom, suggesting not only that people become happier as they age but that “the happiest people are women aged 65-79.”
There are many theories about why women fare better than men. One is simply that women tend to be healthier and more active. Women are more likely to have close relationships with family and friends and know how to engage in intimate conversations about deeper emotions with others.
Mary Pipher goes on to say, “Part of what allows us to deeply appreciate our lives and savor our time is our own past despair. In fact, it has great value as a springboard for growth. There is an ancient and almost universal cycle that involves trauma, despair, struggle, adaptation, and resolution. This is a deepening cycle that prepares us for whatever is to come next. It opens our hearts to others and helps us feel grateful for every small pleasure.”
This is an exciting time in our history with the emerging strength and presence of older women in roles of prominence. Women are influencing our courts, our legislation, our media, our workplaces and our homes like never before. If you are a women over 50, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on and acknowledge your own accomplishments and the goals you still want to achieve. And, everyone, please join me in taking a moment to think about an older woman who has had influence in your life, and celebrate her for how she enriched your life and the lives of others.