Encouraging women to evolve and create new opportunities at any age.

“A Touch of Gray” 

Kendra Brown, Ph.D.
Last month, I encouraged our readers to think in new ways about retirement. I warned that the old model of retiring may result in some unintended negative consequences:  the possibilities of simply fading away, losing identity and becoming invisible to the communities in which you live. I fear that older adults are not adequately, or accurately, appreciated by our modern society, partially because they are “out of sight” thus “out of mind.”  It’s a saying that has endured because of its veracity.  For those of you who think I may be somewhat paranoid in my fears, read on.

In the current June/July issue of the AARP Magazine, Robert Love (Editor in Chief) has written “Who’s Afraid of a Touch of Gray?”  He begins his editorial with some startling statistics.  For example, did you know that people over 50 control more than 70% of the disposable income in the U.S?  He says this group of adults make up the “…third largest economy in the world, trailing only the gross national product of the United States and China!”  And yet, marketers virtually ignore them, in favor of youth.  According to Love, only 5% of advertising is directed to older consumers.  He calls it “insulting” and concludes his column encouraging AARP readers to spend some of their money with companies featuring older adults in their advertising – companies he describes as unafraid “of a touch of gray.”

You may not care that advertising isn’t directed at you, or that older models aren’t featured in slick magazine ads.  The point is, however, that despite our enormous economic presence, we are apparently not seen as important enough to engage.

Thus, my fears realized – that gray has become synonymous with invisible, and the consequence of that is to become unimportant!

Link to AARP Article
Link to AARP Article

A Call for Some New Terminology!

Terry Kinane Gray, Editor and website Manager
After editing and publishing Kendra’s July newsletter, I did some research on the terminology associated with aging. It’s apparent that terminology influences perception, so it’s powerful and important to consider.  I found that many terms were dismissive and belittling.  Even the best of traditional terms for aging do not reflect current lifestyles.
In July, Ina Jaffe, of National Public Radio, aired a survey about “despised and acceptable terms” for aging.  In general, the results were not enthusiastic about the terms typically used.  The least disliked terms were “older adults”, “elders” and “seniors.”  While “senior citizens” was not really liked, other terms had very negative responses:  “geezer,” “old timer,” “elderly,” “golden years,” and “geriatric.”
Jaffe concluded by citing a recent poll: “… nearly three quarters of baby boomers plan to continue working during their so-called retirement years, which may mean that the word retirement is also on its way out.  The point is we are getting rid of a lot of these traditional terms for aging, but we haven’t come up with anything to replace them…” 
Note that Kendra wrote about this too last month, citing an article in the July-August AARP, in which A. Barry Rand wrote about a new retirement model, created by the “Boomers” in which retirees look forward to “The Age of Possibilities”, rather than simply withdrawing from previous roles and departing into virtual invisibility.
Motivated by my research and the articles listed above, I began hunting for some replacement terms.  Many cultures celebrate the aging process and the concept of “elders” is central to the family and community.  Elders are respected for their wisdom and life experiences.  I liked the suggestions of thinking of this stage of life as the “mastery level” and the visual pictures conveyed by “elder heroes,” “wisdom keepers,” or “masters.”    

The term I like the best, and one I think could be relevant for a generation or two is:

Early on, life looks like a straight road with simple choices.  Once you’ve lived past 30, you know that lots of adjustments have to be made and accepted even to the best of plans.
I believe that what is needed at these points is someone who has made this journey before – someone with experience and a more accurate point of view- especially from the “rear view mirror” in other words, a valued and respected Trailblazer.

Some of my favorite Trailblazers are women who have met the challenges and adjustments of their lives’ paths and even cleared the paths for those who followed.  Women like the “Pages” in,   Eavesdropping,  and the Global Grannies (see June’s newsletter).  They created something new in their lives when something new was needed.  They cleared a new path; created a new road.  They did the ground work for us to become Trailblazers too!

Finally, I recommend Maddy Dychtwald’s article: Exceptional Exceptions: The Trailblazers of Our Future from the Huffington Post and the articles below. 

Ina Jaffe, NPR  

7 Cultures That Celebrate Aging and Respect Their Elders, Huffington Post
Carlyon Gregoire: Here’s Scientific Proof That Life Gets Better As You Get Older 
Maddy Dychtwald: Exceptional Exceptions: The Trailblazers of Our Future

"Aging is not lost youth but a new stage
of opportunity and strength."



Betty Friedan

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