I received an unusual mail from a woman asking my views on senior women especially from a woman’s point of view. This piece is inspired from her letter. The concern of women in this category of seniors is growing as families shrink as the generations go by and loneliness expands. Aging is a natural process but comes as an unnatural surprise to many women as they go through the grind of life without caring much for themselves and without realising what is in store in future. Suddenly a host of challenges stare them in the face such as relationships, job and work issues, physical health, psychological well-being, developmental issues, identity, menopause and sexuality. As there are challenges and stresses on these accounts there are also strengths and resources that we must be aware of and take into account. Life transition brings with it many areas to explore, understand, gain insight into and then control one’s life to live fruitfully and happily.
Women as such is never a homogenous group and at midlife too the issues are as varied as the different socio cultural groups- of caste, class/economic status, working, non working, single, married, deserted or widowed and with children or childless. Each group would display differing challenges as well as differing strengths. Psychologically age is experienced differently by different women with a number of factors playing a role such as their personalities, their experiences of life, their backgrounds and their physical health. Women who have enjoyed good health and continue to enjoy strong bodies will not experience age in a negative manner unless a disability sets in– whereas women suffering from some sort of chronic illness may find themselves aging faster and becoming ‘older’ than their peers. Women who have brittle bones due to poor calcium levels may also age faster due to multiple injuries and frequent fractures. Some women who may have borne more children may have fallen out of shape ‘forever’ and could ‘never’ revert back to their original body shape or find it impossible to do so. Aging for them brings different challenges of obesity and body image problems. They may begin to consider themselves less attractive and begin to worry about their aging looks.
Housewives in service of the children, family may find themselves suddenly very lonely and lost when children go away for work or after their marriage- with their usual routine running dry and nothing much to do. The ‘empty nest’ syndrome has been a subject of much attention and lots have been written about it. Many modern mothers realise this predicament and prepare themselves well in advance to ‘let go’ of their grown up children and start their lives afresh. This is a healthy mindset which looks within their own personal lives to reinvent themselves and redefine their roles for themselves. Newer roles have to be identified and a newer identity established- a tall order indeed but not impossible. Working women may be slightly better off for they may enjoy more active life styles and have better social connections with colleagues and friends. Those who retire from jobs and lose that identity may be equally lost. Retirement blues would affect both men and women in similar ways.
Single women as an entity in society are becoming more visible than ever whether they are widows, living alone, as children work in other cities or are married and gone with their own families. There are women who are deserted, divorced and who are single by choice which are very few in number indeed. The challenges before them for advanced age are many more than women living with male members.
Whatever may be the socio-economic reality, the psychological truth is that women in midlife must change their locus of control to their own selves and their self esteem. They should review their past life and count their achievements and their successes whether it is raising children or families effectively or running offices and businesses. They should look at their good memories and even their struggles with a sense of satisfaction and pride. They should feel happy with their contributions and their glories. Besides this positive outlook they should also dig into their latent talents and potentials which they could not nurture to the fullest, due to other commitments and make a fresh commitment to their own selves. There were hobbies you wanted to pursue but could not- go back to that and rediscover your selves.
I liked what I had heard long ago that ‘after menopause women go back to their pre-teen days when they enjoyed life with other girls, were full of fun and pure laughter as they were free from the raging hormones’! Once again free from the long fertility cycle women can go back to their second childhood and enjoy their lives to the fullest!!
Published in The Hitavada – Womens World Persona For 30 March 2011