As the leave begin to change I find myself looking forward to fall. It means holidays and holidays mean family time. This time of year is the perfect opportunity for us to renew and deepen our relationships with the many generations in our lives, among our family and our friends.
I have discussed the importance of strengthening and creating intergenerational relationships, but usually, I’m talking about the relationships between boomers and the younger generations, the X’s and the millennials. One important connection, however, for boomer women in particular, is with the generation of matures, those women who are in their 70s and 80s right now, many of the first feminists who are also among the first to transition from work to “retirement” and to benefit from our increasing longevity.
How are they making this transition? What can we learn from those who are happy and healthy in their 70s and beyond?
I recently heard about the website 70candles.com, run by Ellen Cole (75) and Jane Giddan (76), as a place for women around 70 (approaching it or past it) to share their experiences, their hopes and fears and insights—their stories. What have they found to be the common factors in the lives of those most happy with who they are at 70 and beyond?
- Acceptance: Women who accept who they are, age and all, are far more likely to feel happy and fulfilled. This is a challenge for boomer women, who are from a generation obsessed with youth. But to accept who you are instead of longing for the past is an essential step—at every age, really—toward finding happiness in the moment. This doesn’t mean resigned to who you are. It means celebrating the wisdom, experience, and freedom of being an older woman—even reveling in being an old lady, or being one of my favorite terms, a Crone. Taking back the original meaning of the term, which was not a witch or a hag but a wise and powerful woman living above age, and helping others at the various crossroads of life.
- Connection: Without exception, the happiest women are those with a strong social network. As we age, we lose people—friends, spouses, colleagues. This makes it even more crucial for us to create and strengthen our connections with other people, of all generations, as much as possible. Also key is to connect with other women in your generation so that you can share experiences, hopes and fears, with people you know will get you completely, and so you can see all that is possible by mentoring and supporting each other into the Third and Fourth Ages of life.
- Action: As I’ve discussed on this blog and in my talks many times, the idea of “retiring” is an antiquated concept. And this is not just the view of boomers heading into the traditional retirement age in an economy that won’t allow many to retire. The generation ahead has already discovered this secret, that regardless of the economy, true fulfillment in your 60s, 70s, and beyond comes from continuing to live, to be active. This doesn’t necessarily mean working a full-time job. It can mean part-time work, consulting, community activism and volunteering, or starting a business on your own terms. It can and should be adapted to who you are specifically, not who you are supposed to be. But whatever “it” is for you, keep doing it!
What are your secrets to happiness and fulfillment as you age? How about the women you admire who are blazing this trail ahead of you? If you imagine yourself at age 70 and 80 and 90, what does that look like? Who are you and what are you doing?