We heard from women in their 70s on our blog at 70candles.com and in 70candles discussion groups across the country, from New York to Texas. With decades of life ahead for many of us, it's a great time to reassess our lives and examine our options.
Here are the topics that matter most to women in their 70s:
1. Work and Retirement: When to retire -- when is too soon, too late, just right? What to do with the ocean of unstructured time that lies beyond long and in so many cases satisfying careers? How to stay engaged, feel fulfilled, and participate in life meaningfully?
2. Living Arrangements: Where to live once the family home or current living arrangements are no longer tenable? Stay in place? Move nearer family? Remain in familiar terrain, but smaller quarters? Become involved in a new community? And when might it, if ever, be time for senior living, for assisted living?
3. Ageism: How to react to the attitudes of others -- even old people themselves, ourselves -- who view old people with pessimism, fear, even disdain? Who patronize? What about the invisibility of old women?
4. Caretaking: Many are taking care of parents, partners or spouses, sometimes even grandchildren, and feel the stress of that responsibility.
5. Social Connections: Above all, women on their 70s do not want to be isolated. We thrive on social connectivity. Some of us continue to have colleagues at work. Others take courses, volunteer their time, participate in local activities, become members of a religious community perhaps for the first time since childhood, and travel with others. Women friends are critical for 70 year olds, but for some it can be challenging to maintain social connections. How to best do this?
6. Functional Changes: Although women in their 70s acknowledge bodily changes and perhaps some memory losses, our tendency seems to be clearly to go forth, regardless. We stay active and avail ourselves of the newest assistive technology -- hearing aids, eyeglasses of course, new joints, mobility scooters, and much more. The issue seems mostly to be about timing. Akin to retirement for those of us who work or worked, when is the right time to have that hip replacement, begin to wear hearing aids in both ears, and so on?
7. Grandparenting: There are so many ways to be a grandma, especially when families are spread across the country. Some feel estranged and disconnected, others derive joy from frequent Skyping and periodic visits. Some move across the country to be near their grandchildren or provide baby-sitting services several times a week or more. What is the optimal kind of contact? And what about those of us without grandchildren?
8. Loss and the End of Life: How do we face the loss of dear friends and family members, particularly spouses? And, ultimately, how do we best prepare for the end of our own life?
We'll visit these topics in more depth in future posts as we share what women in their 70s have told us and taught us.
Digested from the book, coming soon:
70Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade