I'm an older woman. I did not want to disclose my age for years, fearing it would make someone change their opinion of me. After all, there is a stigma attached to being post-menopausal. People talk about it as if it were a form of disease rather than a normal part of life. I recently read a very informative article which Dr. Jill Raben wrote for Northwell Health's website on this topic (you can read the article here.)
Women may feel depressed and that the good years are behind them, but that could not be further from the truth. It doesn't help when people think we are feeble, over-the-hill, and incapable of achieving accomplishments. I recently lost a client who had asked my age during one of our sessions. After that, she made excuses for not meeting with me, and that was that. We had been making good progress, but part of me feels that knowing how old I was made her rethink our rapport. I might be feeling over-sensitive, but this was a client who asked me never to give away her appointment slot before my big reveal. You do the math. I've moved on, but it still stings a bit.
I would not doubt that all of you reading this have similar stories involving family, friends, and colleagues. I would not doubt that all of you reading this have similar stories involving family, friends, and colleagues. A friend suggested we put a ramp up to our door since we are getting "older." The funny thing is I am in far better shape than she is, and she is a few years younger than I am! I admit I did not react well, advising her to get her own ramp. Not the most mature response, but it was better than what I wanted to say. It can be frustrating when people do not see "you" but mentally superimpose an image of you (helpless, frail, elderly, etc.) based on their opinions about your chronological age.
Aging is challenging in the workplace, with superiors viewing women over forty as not worth the time and effort to train and promote. Patricia Barnes goes into greater detail in her Forbes article on age discrimination. I find all of this distressing, so decided to write this article to offer some help. There are some things you can do to combat misrepresentations. In no uncertain terms, let people know you are strong, capable, and ambitious, especially in the workplace. Nancy Collamer offers some handy advice in her article on ageism in the workplace. It would help if you let your supervisors know that you are an integral part of the team, want to be the best you can be, and are willing to get additional training to grow as a worker. Do not be afraid of offering opinions during meetings. Let them know that you are thinking of ways to help improve productivity. I recommend this article written by Bonnie Marcus for Forbes for further tips.
A few more words about family and friends. Do not buy into their advice that you are "getting older" and "maybe you should consider slowing down." If you are in good mental and physical health, there is no reason for you to sit in a rocker. These individuals may indeed be voicing their concerns because they care about you, but you need to clear up any confusion about who you are. Society has fed us the portrayal of the "old women" so many times that people have it stuck in their heads that when you reach a certain age, that is how you should be and act. It is hard for them to break with the traditional image. Please do not let yourself get sucked in either. You can be an attractive, vital woman at any age. I hate to say this, but people judge us by our appearance. Do not start wearing "house dresses" and sweatsuits because you think no one cares how you look. If you do not want to be perceived as an "old woman" then do something about it. What do you think about your appearance? Do you like seeing yourself that way? Are you happy with your appearance? If the answer is yes, then what I say does not apply to you. If the answer is no, then why not make a change? How did you use to dress when you were younger?
You can modify your wardrobe to reflect who you are. I regularly clean out my closest and give away items I am no longer comfortable wearing. My legs are still shapely, but I feel foolish wearing very short skirts. However, if they are knee-length or a tad shorter, that is fine. I had a lot of very short skirts and dresses, but it was okay to say goodbye to them. No one told me I could not wear them, I decided for myself. The point is to dress for you and what makes you feel good when you look in the mirror. You can show your rebellious side as long as you don't try to recreate how you looked in high school. For more tips on being fabulous over fifty, check out this post from success and style expert Sharon Haver.
I hope after reading this, you will stop using your chronological age as a meter for who you should be and how you should act. You likely have some incredibly productive years ahead of you. Get em' ladies! Now is the time to show the world what you've got.
Until next time, be resolved!