Myths are stories that create stereotypes. They are only true if we allow them to affect the way we live. This is true of the many myths about aging. If you believe what you see on TV, older people are forgetful, afraid of change, isolated, technophobic and weak. The problem is that these are not harmless perceptions. They may actually cause older women to live up to the expectations that society sets for them.
Women over 60 need to redefine what aging means. But, since the first step to winning any battle is to “understand your enemy,” let’s take a look at some of the most common myths about aging that hold back women and stop them from reaching their full potential.
“If you want to be loved and noticed, stay young!” This is a mantra that older women hear every day. For as long as women buy into this myth, their self-worth and confidence will be undermined. Why? Because, the anti-aging myth affects mature women on a deep psychological level.
We cannot deny that our bodies are changing and preparing for a natural transition to a new and exciting phase of life. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel our best at any age. I still use makeup and I try to choose clothes that are flattering and that make me feel great. But, wanting to look and feel our best is not the same as wanting to look younger. We can age honestly without trying to be something that we are not.
The anti-aging myth holds us back because it stops us from realizing our true worth as an older woman.
Regardless of how we look, we are still important and relevant. We must let that myth go to age beautifully, intelligently and honestly.
We have written before about how a woman’s currency in the workplace diminishes after the age of 50 and the myth of inactivity kicks in. This stereotype says older women want to slow down and withdraw from the world. They want to retire to a quiet place where they can pursue their hobbies and “age gracefully.”
Buying into this myth limits our opportunities. The truth is that older women today have resources that empower them to do more than any previous generation. We have already lived lives filled with careers, friends and families. Our lives have been filled with responsibility and activity. Why would we suddenly want to become silent and invisible just because we reach a certain age?
Ok, so, some women really do want to take it easy after a life of hard work. But, this should be a choice, not an expectation. For the rest of us, we should feel free to start new businesses, mentor younger women or go back to school.
Another myth that holds older women back is that we are not that interested in building new relationships. Many women over 60 have experienced a divorce, separation or loss of a partner. The myth of solitude says that, after such a loss, we should curl up with our pets and live a life of quiet seclusion.
Today, there are so many ways for women to meet new people that the myth of solitude should have no grip on us. Maintaining social relationships is important to older women on many levels – emotional, physical and psychological.
By accepting the myth that they are weak and happier on their own, women are holding themselves back. They are missing amazing opportunities to create loving friendships and enjoy new experiences.
The best days of life may still be waiting to happen… if we let them.
Another myth that limits women is the one that says that we don’t want to get involved in politics, business or make a contribution to society. According to the prevailing wisdom, older people are out of touch with modern issues and don’t have the ability to innovate. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
We have spent decades developing our personal skills and business experience and we are ready to show the world what we can do. The only thing that is preventing us from achieving our personal and professional goals after 60 is our mindset.
If starting a company isn’t your thing, opportunities for mature women to mentor high school students or help younger women exist everywhere. Women can let this myth hold them back or they can roll up their sleeves and get engaged in their community.
Another myth that society pushes at us as we age is that getting older is synonymous with mental decline. This is another stereotype that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If women believe that they will get weaker and more forgetful over time, they may stop doing exactly the things that will keep them healthy.
We have a choice. Get active and busy with games, puzzles, reading, knitting, gardening and creative tasks. Combine an active mind with great nutrition and exercise and the myth of inevitable decline is reduced.
We should not let the fear of a few aches and pains hold us back. Staying healthy is within our control.
Many women believe the myth that in their 60s there is no longer a need or desire for intimacy. This myth holds women back because it denies them the ability to celebrate their physical bodies. It prevents them from making loving connections with others.
Loving and feeling love contributes to overall well-being. Some women, hurt in a relationship, believe the myth that they are no longer desirable. Worse, they start to believe that they are no longer worthy of love or respect.
Of course, most of us experience a change in the way that we look at sexuality and sensuality as we age. But, this doesn’t mean that this important aspect of being a person switches off like a light bulb when we reach a certain age. The truth is that an appreciation of sensuality is not just for the young and the beautiful. We do not have to let this myth hold us back.
We have choices as older women. We can accept the stereotypes, live the myths or we can fight back. I know which one I am going to do. How about you?
Do you find that any myths of aging are holding you back? Please leave your comments below.
Tags Getting Older