Women Aging Well: The Intentionality of Happiness in Your 60s and 70s

Psychologist Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia, has written a new book called, Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age. It is number 10 on the hardcover nonfiction list and climbing fast.

The NY Times Book Review writes,

“In her book, which has entered its fifth printing since it was published on Jan. 15, Pipher cites research… suggesting not only that people become happier as they age but that the happiest people are women aged 65-79.

Contrary to the cultural scripts that say women are old and useless and in the way — diminished versions of their former selves — in reality older women are the happiest demographic in the country,”

 

In a NY Times Opinion entitled, The Joy of Being a Woman in her 70’s, Pipher describes us older women–

“We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins.”

I love that phrase, “thriving in the margins.”

Pipher, alongside Glenn Close and Nancy Pelosi, is jarring long-held stereotypes of aging American women slipping into lonely, unproductive obscurity.  Before the iconic Jane Fonda, all we had was Grandma Moses to emulate – the folk artist who famously began her painting career at the age of 78, staying current until her death at 101.

In 2019 we are fitter than our predecessors; we are living longer; and we are redefining retirement, if there is such a term these days.   Pipher says, “Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice” and as we enter our 60s and 70s we are perfecting our skill set.  According to Pipher, true happiness stems from things like self-knowledge and emotional intelligence.

So, barring illness or catastrophic events, it is up to us to choose these happiness-links, which were not esteemed by our Younger Selves distracted as they were by parenting perfection, job achievement, marriage fulfillment.  Although American society may still devalue mature women, Pipher says that we are increasingly happy and  vibrant.

 

But back to intentionality — the self-help literature on aging says it comes down to 3 E’s.

 

Exercise

Empathy

Engagement

 

Notice the word, Easy, did not make the cut.  It would be far easier to sleep instead of exercise, to pursue our own ends rather than the ends of others, to disengage rather than engage (in others, in activities, in learning).  Grandma Moses did have to pick up that paintbrush and prep a canvas. Jane Fonda did have to don her tube socks and leotards for her aerobic workouts.

 

So let’s strive to thrive.   Even in the Margin, which it turns out is the place to be – paved by Grandma Moses, and unabashedly inhabited by Pelosi, RBG, Close, and Fonda.

Pretty good company, I’d say!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-No offense to Grandma Moses, but we should definitely not go out our front door au-naturel.  We of 2019 have make-up, hair coloring, and fashion at our disposal.  And as my friend, Cathy, says, “Let’s wear make-up for the good of the world.”

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Sorry, Grandma Moses, the hat may have been ill advised.

-Check out this post on RBG.  Whatever your politics, you have to agree she embodies vibrancy and resiliency.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

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SWEAT- it’s a great feeling!

By the sweat of my brow, sweat equity, blood sweat and tears, don’t sweat the small stuff, etc etc.  I (Joy) got to thinking about this sweat stuff and realized after a hot yoga session-sweat is good.  It makes you feel alive!  It lets you know you’ve worked your hardest – or that the room is 95 degrees and you are attempting to do downward dog!

Sweating is a bodily function that makes me happy, satisfied with my performance.  In the words of Winston Churchill- “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”  Winston must have known something!

My daughter desperately wanted a yoga room in our basement so last winter we renovated the space and installed a sauna. (I wasn’t planning on it since I am now retired and watching my spending!)  But I love saunas and so does she. A perfect addition to a yoga space complete with light that turns from green to red by remote control,  Very Zen indeed! There is nothing like going downstairs in your own home with a towel wrapped around you to sweat for an hour!  This is sweat not from hard work like exercise, but pure heat raising your body temperature.  Ah sweat!  It’s wonderfully sinful! Next a hot tub!

Sweat is just fat crying-can’t take credit for this marvelous quote, but had to use it!

 

Barclay chiming in…

My friend, Geri, observed that when you first begin a hot yoga class, you think you look OK.  Your hair is neatly tied back; you’re wearing the right gear.  But then gradually over the course of the hour, you begin to turn into a monster.  Your hair becomes alternately matted and frizzy; your mascara from the night before has descended to your cheek; and you are pouring out sweat in all the wrong places.

But, you feel amazing!  Cleansed.  Accomplished.  And perhaps a tad high on endorphins.

The site, Medical Daily, tells us that sweating (while exercising) detoxifies our body, boosts our immune system, and cleanses our skin.  It’s even better, they say, if we do so with other people.

“Exercising increases the level of the “feel-good” endorphin hormones that are naturally released during physical activity. A 2009 study published in the journal Biology Letters found group workouts actually increase endorphin levels and cause less pain for those who work out together than those who train alone. Sweating it out during a group exercises like Zumba or hot yoga can help put a smile on your face.”

Oh, and it also helps get rid of any alcohol that may be lingering in your system from the previous evening.

So sweat away.  It’s empowering; it’s feminine; it’s mood lifting.

Channel your inner Jane Fonda, circa 1980, with her legging-socks.  A style that YOU could bring back into vogue!

 

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Today’s Takeaway –

-My mother was right AGAIN.  She loved to sweat during a workout.  Check out Keep Moving!

-Do not look in the mirror when you leave your Hot Yoga class.  You will see a frizzed out monster which in no way resembles you!

 

Enjoy the Sweaty Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

The Skin We’re In- Part One

“Crepe.”

I had never heard this word before.

Was it pronounced the French pancake way?  Or was it pronounced “creepy”?  Probably the latter considering the disturbing images of elephant-like skin – alongside an ad for a miracle cream to eradicate this Baby Boomer plague.  (Which of course I bought. Which of course didn’t work.)

Isn’t it enough that our underarms boast a certain jiggle which answers to many names — Hi Jane’s, Bat Wings, Bingo Wings, Lunch Lady Arms??

And isn’t it enough that our mothers were right when they yelled, “Get out of the sun!  Wear a hat!  You’ll get wrinkles!” ??  We Baby Boomers are embarrassed to admit that not only did we lay in the sun for hours, we also held up reflectors (cardboard wrapped in tin foil) to accelorate the process.

Did you also know that as you age the contour of your smile can actually turn downward?  Meaning, we look grumpy when we’re not.  It could be a result of our aging teeth not granting support to our sad mouths.  As they turn yellow.

And who knew that as you age your hair will stop growing where you want it to and boldly go to places it’s never been before??

So lest we get too depressed, let’s focus on some things we CAN do.  For now, we will address the infamous Hi-Janes.  Future posts will tackle other Baby Boomer maladies.

My friend Lisa is fond of saying, “The best exercise is the one you actually DO.”

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Here is a 28 day challenge for arm toning that is worth doing.  Yes, It looks daunting.  (When they say 70 push-ups, it’s obviously a typo.)

We will have to channel my disciplined mother, Peggy, who said you MUST keep moving.

And I never saw Peggy’s arms flapping.

Only her tongue — as I held my reflector high.

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Today’s Takeaway –

-Be grateful for make-up.  Just think of men who have to face the world each and every day sans concealer or foundation.

-Love the skin you’re in!   And practice Self-Care.  You ARE beautiful!  Just wear a hat when you’re in the sun.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Keep Moving!

Peggy was ahead of her time.  Back in the day when women weren’t supposed to sweat, she was dripping wet every morning.  “Barclay,” she’d say. “You must get out of breath once a day.”  Her Bible was the Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness.  Naturally she did her sit ups, push ups, jumping jacks in heels.    

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Peggy kept her slim figure intact until the very end.  Even when restricted to her bed, she arranged for a physical trainer to bring over weights and beach balls.   I suspect she was wearing heels under the covers.

“You just have to keep moving!” she’d declare. 

Now the downside to all this is that I grew up to be an exercise fiend.  I completed 15 marathons, played tennis 4-5 times a week, biked, took hot yoga — and sweated my way right into an eating disorder that can still rear its ugly head.  

But Mom was right.  Exercise is key to warding off depression, staying fit, producing endorphins, rebooting energy levels, combating disease. And if it’s a social thing, all the better.  Whereas my mom was relegated to the bedroom (the only acceptable form of exercise for a 1950s female was vacuuming), my world expanded through exercise.    

I met my husband and secured 2 jobs on a tennis court; my ladies doubles group has sprouted a wine group; and  during my brief and unspectacular hockey career, I encountered fascinating women from different backgrounds and orientations. 

So let’s follow Peggy’s advice and keep moving!  Just not in heels!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

 

  • Discover a new sport.  Consider Pickleball — it’s easy to learn and cheap.   It’s the fastest growing racket sport and has Baby Boomer written all over it.

 

  • After exercise, stick around for an adult beverage.  Your workout can lead to friendships you didn’t anticipate with people you wouldn’t otherwise encounter.

 

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox, Barclay and Joy