Thoughts on Aging Gracefully

Women are so much alike, aren’t we?

We’re bonded because of what our bodies and hearts have been through. And as we age we’re asking the same questions and worrying about the exact same issues.

Understandably, arriving at 40 is concerning because that’s when our world begins to look different. Many of us see that we aren’t the women we thought we’d be and we don’t have the life we expected to have.

And many women are in a slump. Things they saw on the road ahead, everything they’ve pursued and hoped for – love, adventure, success, appreciation – has either alluded them or doesn’t look nearly as good as it used to. Their disappointments and frustrations are reflected in spontaneous or pre-medicated acts that society labels a “midlife crisis.”

Many women feel that along life’s way, while they were getting their promotion or having children or managing their homes, they set aside something important that they now want to retrieve – their dancing shoes, their novel, their law degree.

From going back to school or buying a motorcycle to starting a new business, moving to another country or learning how to ice-skate or play the guitar, women age 40 and older are making significant changes in their lives. Perhaps the most significant change of all is the creation of an entire movement…. a new time in the history of women.

You see, our midlife is far different than our grandmothers’. And it’s not even our mother’s midlife! Theirs was often born of sadness; a time when 40 year olds were truly “over the hill” seeing less of everything ahead – less opportunity, less fulfillment, less fun, less time, less hope.

Things have changed dramatically. Thanks to better nutrition, medical advancements, higher incomes, better education, and long experience at juggling multiple roles, women today have far different expectations for their lives and they’re making their middle and older years the best time of their lives. Consistent with their history, baby boomer women are creating a new model as they get older.

Why? Because today’s women are profoundly different in their attitudes about aging. Instead of asking, “What if?” they’re asking, “Why not?”

Such questions come naturally to us baby boomers who have been setting trends, extending barriers, and raising the glass ceiling our whole lives. Some women moved out of the secretary’s chair into the CEO’s; out of the station wagon and into a sports car.
And we explained to our husbands that even though their fathers didn’t change diapers, we expected their help. We broke rules and we keep on breaking them.

Researchers from Cornell University report that today women 40 and older are “more likely to talk about age, making the best of it.”

Baby boomer women are typically optimistic, which is one of the reasons we’ve done so well in corporate America. We’re staying healthy longer, joining gyms at twice the rate of our male peers, and we have a renewed desire for education. Baby boomer women’s full-time college enrollment increasing by 31% in the past decade. TIME Magazine, May 16, 2005, pg 56

Additionally, The National Center on Women & Aging at Brandeis University found that women over 50 feel happier about getting older than they thought they would. There is a kind of virtuous cycle created when women feel more confident about their coping skills. “They are better at coming to grips with problems because they believe that they can. And solving problems then feeds back and gives you a sense of mastery of life,” explains sociologist Elaine Wethington.

Baby boomer women are looking around and observing their peers taking risks, developing talents, having more fun, and believing in themselves in ways their mothers never did.

Today’s women are exploring new passions, rekindling old ones, and discovering latent gifts. From attending skill-development classes to taking their lives in whole new directions, women 40 and older are awakening. Many are smack dab in the middle of an exciting, soul-fulfilling metamorphosis, and they’re happier than they’ve ever been in their lives.

Look around ~ women engaged in such a transition are taking the crisis right out of aging. They’re definitely not declining ~ they’re celebrating!

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