In earlier stages of life – adolescence, young adult, midlife – our life focus usually is prescribed by society and family values. Thus, we generally know what is expected of us. For example, upon graduation from high school, we go on for more education/training/apprenticeship.
Admittedly, some of us may have been rebels, but in the end, most of us followed the norms, albeit stretching those norms just a bit as our generation has been known to do.
Then, we arrive at our 60s and 70s and face some of the most momentous transitions of life, such as children leaving home, divorce or loss of a spouse, and retirement. What do we have to turn to for guidance? As one woman said, “(it) feels like nothing else is left in life. So, now what?”
There is little if any historical context for what a normal life is for a vibrant woman today in her 60s, 70s and beyond. We are the most well-educated, self-sufficient, vital elder women ever in history.
We are the generation of women who opened education and the professions to women… in droves. So, who are we now? We are at the head end of reinventing what is meant as retirement. That is the bottom-line answer to “Now what?”
The gift of our years of wisdom is knowing we make a difference by being true to ourselves. Ultimately, as a generation of women, that will blend into our generational legacy. Thus, our individual answer to “What now” is found by going within.
See the Wise Woman article series for tips on developing your inner voice of wisdom. If we look to society for the “answer,” what do we see?
Take some time to notice how women of our generation are portrayed in the media. Relative to men, elder women are seemingly expected to fade away. I hope that inspires you to find your fire to change that, at least in your life.
We certainly are not represented equally with the men of our generation as participants in media, movies, magazine covers, organizational leadership, recognition for accomplishments, etc. etc. Susan J. Douglas does a great job of discussing this in her book, In Our Prime.
In advertising you do see us… in pharmaceutical ads, in cosmetic surgery ads, in some cosmetics ads. Is the idea to invest in not showing our age – so we don’t fade into the background so quickly? What does that imply? Is THAT what is next?
I think not.
I am not saying that looking our best is not important; of course it is. However, that is not a life purpose.
We also are seen walking on the beach, nestled reading a book, and playing with grandchildren. These are all wonderful activities to be treasured. Do they answer the “Now What?” question… really? For some, that may be the case.
For many others, it does not. Remember, we may be in our retirement years for as long as we worked. Grandchildren will grow up. How many beaches are there to be walked and golf games played?
What do you see when you go to the mall? For the most part, stores target the youth or family purchaser. Yet, according to an AARP study, the over 50 population in the US would be the third largest economy in the world by GDP. Our generation of women make up a significant part of that economy. So why is that economic power ignored? What message does that send to us (and others)?
So, if you are looking for the answer to “Now What?” from society, don’t. It is not the truth. It is biased. It is driven by the search for profit. It is not who we are. It is up to us to change that by finding our own “Now What.”
We are back to the importance of purpose in your life. A previous article discussed the importance of purpose to your health, well-being and longevity. Legacy is another very good reason to live on purpose.
When you listen to yourself to discover and create what energizes you, you become more powerful and alive. You blossom. Others see this. You have more impact. It does not have to be a world-changing endeavor. I’ll offer an example.
At one point, I knew that to be my most present and powerful self, I needed to remove alcohol from my life. I made that decision. Modeling that decision has influenced a variety of women in my social circle and my family as they notice the change in me.
Improving your health and fitness or becoming involved in community activities can inspire others as well as make a positive difference in the world. The possibilities are boundless. Do what is calling you. You know what it is.
You are an inspiration; you are an influencer. Do you realize that?
So, I invite you to flourish in whatever way inspires you. You will impact those around you and will join our generation of women as we transform the influence and role of elder women in the world.
I hope this sparks some discussion.
Have you ever asked yourself “What now?” What power have you discovered in yourself in our phase of life? What legacy do you want to leave to the generations of women who follow us as elder women in our society?