By Veronica Vaiti, LCSW-R & Emily Shapiro, MS, LMFT
While preparing to write this blog on women and the aging process, we encountered a bit of struggle in deciding how best to approach this topic in a way that is both compassionate and honest, respectful and real but not alienating, dry or too instructive. What we realized is that this struggle we were having, in a way reflects a bit of what women experience during the aging process – how to be seen for who they are, how to feel valued for their innate gifts and strengths and how to find where they fit in in this world and in their individual worlds, in an esteemed, fulfilling and contemporary way.
What we realized is that how women are regarded or sometimes disregarded as they age, is a function of the larger and more deeply held values that permeate our society and what we deem worthy or deserving of our attention and awareness and what, well, doesn’t.
For one, we tend to be a visual society. We place high value on beauty and youth and we are generally pretty scared of aging. In fact we wish to fight aging at every step along the way. And with this over focus on beauty and youth and the fear of aging, it’s no wonder that the top 5 fears of aging women as described in an article on the website caring.com include:
1 – Fear of losing attractiveness and becoming invisible
2 – Fear of being left along
3 – Fear of being destitute
4 – Fear of cancer/having a terminal illness
5 – Fear of depending upon others or asking for help
For many aging women, unfortunately these fears do turn into their reality. In order for these realities to shift, we need to begin to reassess the values we hold as a society that give rise to this phenomenon of disregarding women who, when given proper credence, can be a very potent and effective segment of our community and society at large.
If we stop and think carefully about what merits attention, is it so farfetched to think that a person who radiates goodwill, warmth, and caring is deserving of attention? Or that a person who has interesting ideas to share, a person who is willing to listen to others, who is skilled at solving problems and who is able to give us perspective and share the benefit of their life experience in weathering difficult times as well as in enjoying good times should be deeply valued?
What if we really could see the physical beauty that is to be found in grey hair as well as blond, in wrinkled faces as well as smooth? What if we upheld and lived the premise that true beauty is the expression of what is beneath the surface in all aspects of life? What if we understood that usefulness and effectiveness can be sourced from experience and hard-gained wisdom as well as from a good job? If we can remember this, we may be able to love ourselves better and age more gracefully. And we may save ourselves from overlooking many wonderful people who can offer us a wealth of life’s experience and valuable presence as well as a steady hand and guidance on our own paths through life.
We feel there is much more discussion to be shared on this topic and so many aspects of this phenomenon that is beyond the scope of this blog. We would be ever so grateful to hear and learn your thoughts and to build the discussion together which can only help to create more change in our world and in the lives of those who need it most.