How not to be just another old lady
Posted October 8, 2010
Knowing the work that I do as a Retirement Coach, a friend recently asked me if I had any suggestions for “how not to be just another old lady.” It was an interesting question, and I’ve given it a lot of thought in light of the fact that many mornings I wonder who is that aging woman staring back at me in the mirror?
It’s true, I’m looking more and more like my mother (and luckily NOT like my grandmother who was the kindest, most wonderful woman in the world, but in every photo looks like an ax murderer). But as the neck on my skin starts to let loose, the crow’s feet around my eyes deepen and slide down onto my cheeks, and my salt and pepper hair is looking more salt than pepper, and frankly a little dull, I feel a terrific disconnect with the inside me.
I don’t feel like I’m getting older. I feel like I’m getting better—smarter, wiser, and calmer. I’m more enthusiastic, energized, engaged, joyful, at peace, content—hopeful about the future, and excited about all the options and opportunities now available to me. Granted, I probably couldn’t be a prima ballerina, even if I ever wanted to (which I didn’t) but there’s so much more I want to see and do and be before I die.
It saddens me so to see once gorgeous women (i.e. at the Academy Awards) become caricatures of themselves with the desire to hang on to youth at any cost. Positive aging is not about tightening and smoothing the external package by erasing our history, it is about deepening and enlivening the internal package by celebrating that history, and using all that we’ve learned, and sharing our wisdom.
If you’re serious about not becoming just another old lady, forget the nipping, tucking, and Botoxing yourself into oblivion, and follow these four rules:
Refuse to accept society’s view that you’re over the hill. So what, if conventional wisdom says that aging is about decrepitude and death. Certainly we’re all headed to the same inevitable place (yes the dreaded “D” word!), but who in the heck says we have to stop living before we get there? My dream is that as a generation, we change forever how future generations think about, plan for, and live in this next stage of life. Never again will aging be equated with being over the hill. Old ladies think they’re over the hill, and they are. You don’t have to go there.
Refuse to live a traditional retirement of only rest and leisure. Yes, getting enough rest is important, and leisure is a necessary break from our work, but if we’re not working, and we just have a steady diet of leisure, leisure and more leisure, how healthy can that be? How you live in this next stage of life—formerly known as retirement—should be as unique as your thumbprint. Old ladies buy into the traditional retirement model, and never experience the enlivening affects of purpose and passion. You don’t have to live like that.
Refuse to be warehoused with “old” people. Now, I don’t have anything against retirement communities per se, but it seems to me they’re just another—more glamorous—way of warehousing us as we age. Connection is essential at all stages of development, but never more so than as we age. I laugh when I think about my father-in-law’s reaction to moving into independent living at 83: “There are only old people here!” His interest in life diminished greatly when he left the community where he was actively and continuously interacting with younger people. Old ladies contract into and cut themselves off from interconnecting with the “outside” world. You don’t have to.
Refuse to act your age—whatever that means. A look in the mirror aside, don’t fall prey to what’s expected of you as you age. You know, like “take it easy” or “you should” or “you shouldn’t” or you fill in the blank. One of the perks of aging is to let it all hang out. That means being authentically yourself in all our curiosity, enthusiasm, interests, and adventures. Give up looking good, for living life fully. Old ladies act like old ladies. You don’t have to act—just be yourself.
One more thing: absolutely, positively stop thinking of yourself as an old lady. You can be, each year, a new and improved version of you with more wisdom, clarity, peace, joy, love and delight.
Lin Schreiber, PCC, is a Retirement Revolutionary who loves helping self-reliant women reinvent themselves in the next stage of life, formerly known as “retirement.” Lin is featured on the PBS series Boomers: Redefining Life After Fifty, and is the author of The ABC’s of Retiring Retirement. A Professional Certified Coach, Certified Retirement Coach, and founder of Revolutionize Retirement, Lin combines her contagious enthusiasm, nonstop energy, and passion for her subject to create a fun, dynamic learning environment that energizes and inspires her audiences.