In the not too distant past, many women, after the first blush of their youthful beauty and the beyond their child-rearing days, felt that they’d lost their meaning and purpose.
Women have discovered that they are able to empower themselves in their later years and direct their energies and talents in significant ways. They’re living their lives as they want them to unfold — from the inside-out, instead of as old social norms had directed them from the outside-in.
Women looking toward their later decades have opened their eyes to new opportunities and new ways to make an impact with purpose and meaning. Yes, they can still enjoy creating and checking off a bucket list of fun experiences, but they’re seeing how much more they can do.
Let’s look at some inspiring examples of how women are choosing to show up in their later lives:
Arlene was a top administrator at a state university responsible for services for disabled students and staff. She enjoyed the people side of her job enough to put up with the administrative side. When anticipating her retirement, she knew she wanted to somehow stay involved with helping the disabled community. She had grown up with a deaf mother and had always been drawn to working with the deaf. Her training in sign language led her to pursue opportunities to interpret for the deaf in her post retirement years. It allowed her to participate and be productive in a way that was meaningful to her.
Amy’s 30-year career as a lawyer involved stressful 60- to 80-hour workweeks along with the demands of family life. It was exhausting yet satisfying work, but without a minute of spare time in her schedule, she’d had to give up being athletic. Once she decided to take early retirement at age 60, she eagerly returned to the physical activities she loved. She structured her newfound freedom with regular strength training, taking up pickle ball and joining a women’s cycling group. She also volunteers at the sports program at a local Boys and Girls club. In her retirement, she feels more alive and valued than ever.
Shirley had a 35-year career in nursing, dedicating her life to helping others, including caring for her elderly parents who lived with her for many years. After they died, she felt completely worn out. At age 62, she decided to retire. She spent a full year relaxing, visiting friends, reading books and taking it easy. But eventually, she realized she was feeling lonely and isolated. A friend told her about Red Cross programs needing retired nurses all around the globe. She decided to put her nursing skills back to use and she loves the travel component of going to new places and meeting new people. Shirley is living a life of service and impact back in the mainstream, but on her own terms.
As women, we have more choices than ever before. And today, more of us have the gifts of good health and vital years ahead. We don’t need to be invisible — we need reconnect with what’s inside and decide where we can joyfully use our talents.
Start by reassessing your essential self in these areas:
- Reconnect with the passion that sparked your career.You can often find the seeds of your natural interests by recalling what prompted you to follow your career trajectory in the first place. Teachers often recall a memorable teacher that they wanted to emulate and make a difference in children’s lives in the same way. Remembering your reasons for choosing your profession can reconnect you with your earlier passion and dreams for making an impact.
- Return to your active self.Many women focus so much of their time providing and supporting others that they overlook their own well-being — particularly their physical well-being. Look back to your childhood. You probably enjoyed playing games outside and riding bikes. Perhaps you were on a sports team or delighted in swimming. Activating our physical selves in a way that recaptures some of the fun from our childhoods can be a source of enjoyment in our later years and add to our overall health and well-being.
- Expand on your professional talents.Even after some women retire, they still hope to use the skills they’ve applied in their jobs. Many have a passion for what they do, and want to continue their work in a new way — perhaps within a new community or with a disadvantaged population. The needs in the world are endless; applying your talents toward people or places that touch you personally is a way to further develop the essential you.
If we make a concerted effort to identify our passions, interests and skills, we can create ways to apply them out in the world and remain connected to the mainstream of life. Approaching our lives from the inside-out can do a world of good for ourselves and for others.
Read her book Building Blocks for the New Retirement