What Scares Women About Getting Older? Everything!
"I'm anxious about the burden of caring for aging relatives."
Cicely Tyson, actress, starring in the upcoming screen version of The Help: "I've cared for my mother, my father, my sister, my brother. I've lost everyone in my immediate family. And when you're faced with those situations, despite the fact that you feel, Oh, God, if it ever happens to me, I won't be able to handle it, you don't know how you'll actually respond until you're in the circumstance. I never anticipated that I'd be the sole surviving member of my family. And I found that when the time came, I did what I had to do. I think all human beings would do the same thing."
"I'm scared about not being able to work as I get older—and about society's ultimately throwing me away."
Abigail Thomas: "Society has little to do with it. You throw your own self away. You decide that you're irrelevant. The trick about getting older is to find something you don't know how to do—something you want to improve on. And since I write, I want to get better at that. It has to become about the next thing to do, your passion, something that comes out of yourself. Without passion, we're all sunk—we're just consumers who go out and buy another toaster."
Joan Borysenko: "I never plan to retire. On the other hand, I don't want to be forced to work 60 hours a week because I can't afford my mortgage payment. So there's something to be said for having a financial plan that allows you to retire when you want. We've got to recognize that the old model of staying with a job till you're 65 is dead. It's over. Prepare to be your fullest self at every step of the way—to do the things that are most resonant with your deepest inner values, even if you don't make as much money as you did in your younger years."
Joan Hamburg: "A few years ago, I read a fascinating study about people 90 and over. It looked at how they'd survived to this age, despite the fact that many had suffered illnesses or eaten fast food night and day. The commonality among those studied—Jews, Italians, Poles, people of various races and family backgrounds—was a sense of optimism, a sense of being needed. For some, that meant having to babysit a daughter's child; others were still going to work every day. All of them had a sense of hope and purpose. If you don't have that, age sits and looks at you and says, 'I'm waiting.' I just about fainted the day, at age 50, when I received information from AARP. I threw it in the garbage. That's not me. There's still too much stimulation and joy in my life to sit around and wait for the end.
"Women have skills that we don't even know we have. You've got to learn to reinvent yourself. Write 'new' on the box. Never be complacent. Stay ready to go to the next step. Think the way Americans thought in the early days of our nation: We are entrepreneurs, grasping opportunity, unafraid of rejection. We've got to get into the habit of constantly learning something new."
"What if I end up a bag lady?"
Florence Falk: "The fear of becoming a bag lady represents the fear of becoming marginalized. To be a bag lady is a metaphor for being cast out—and women have always been cast out of society unless they've made it a point not to be. I had this fear, What if I can't depend on myself? The sense of dependency is deeply conditioned in us culturally. That's why it's terrifying to think that you might not be able to take care of yourself. Others can look at you and think, Why is she still single? And men might feel threatened by a woman who's comfortable in herself. The world beckons men to be independent. Not true for women. That's changing, but it's a very slow turnaround. Women don't realize how bound they are to these cultural ideas."
Joan Borysenko: "I've already had many conversations with friends about living in a group, both to cut expenses and to stay connected. We've all agreed we don't want to be old bag ladies. So how can we devise a lifestyle that makes this possible? It's not about surviving on cat food. The question is, 'How do we live to our fullest potential and have a lot of fun as we get older together?' That's what I'm planning for."