In my recent interview with Dr. John Medina, we discussed the power of nostalgia to improve brain function. Since women over 60 care deeply about keeping their brains healthy as they age, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and explore the six decades that have shaped women who are just now reaching retirement. As you read, I encourage you to take a pause after each section and try to visualize what your life was like. What are your strongest memories of each time period?
Through the decades women have experienced enormous changes socially, politically, economically, and personally. Some of those experiences have tested us beyond measure and others have been enormously gratifying. Either way, they have shaped who we are today. We’re stronger and better for having experienced them.
The sixties was a decade of awakening for women. War, violence, and political assassinations gave rise to the hippie counterculture of peace, love, and harmony – or sex, drugs, and rock and roll, depending on whom you ask. Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, challenging our role as exclusively housewives and mothers.
We burned our bras or threw them in freedom trashcans, along with girdles and high heels, in protest of the objectification of women and other social issues. By 1969, we were wide-awake and braless.
We ramped up our activism in 1970s politics, and the Women’s Liberation Movement was in full swing. Gloria Steinem began publishing Ms. Magazine in an effort to educate women on the benefits of women’s rights.
We worked endlessly against gender discrimination and passed Title IX ending gender discrimination in education and college sports. We got the Equal Rights Amendment passed, though it still hasn’t been ratified. We helped to legalize birth control, and made it easier for women to divorce.
By the end of the decade our focus was scattered and we were exhausted, but a lot had been accomplished.
Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981; it was going to be a good decade. The world was at peace and there were more women in the work force than there had previously been through the decades. Sexual harassment in the workplace was deemed illegal.
After a shaky start with a recession, the economy recovered and the trends of the 1980s focused on glamour, luxury, and materialism. Many of us enjoyed the perks of a high standard of living.
What marked the decade of the 90s was an explosion of technology. We got home computers; we could now work from home. We were more connected via email and instant messaging. The Internet became a tool for global communication.
We made great strides educationally, and our daughters were attending colleges on athletic scholarships and graduating with degrees in business and finance in the 1990s. Yet many of them were also succumbing to eating disorders as they struggled to be Kate Moss thin.
This was a decade of trial by fire for many women. With the financial breakdown in the economy of the 2000s, many of us were first out when it came to cutting jobs. This put a strain on family finances and altered dreams. A lot of us lost our homes. More of us were dealing with the emotions of becoming empty nesters as our children began leaving home. We faced divorce and the frightening prospect of starting over alone. The stage was set for reinvention.
We’ve experienced a lot through the decades, and now is the time to devote our attention to ourselves. We can begin to explore who we really are and what we want for the rest of our lives. Many of us are completely reinventing ourselves; starting new careers, following our passions, and choosing unconventional lifestyles. We’ve come a long way, Baby.
What decade had the greatest impact on your life? What memories came to you as you relived the decades that shaped you? Please join the conversation.
Watch my interview with Dr. Medina on the power of nostalgia to keep our brains healthy as we age.