Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The invisibility of older women

Now that I am retired, I have the time to open every email and click on any link which interests me. Today I spent some time exploring the website of Maria Shriver’s 2009 California Women's Conference which has as a major theme The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything—the “seismic shift” since women have become half of the American workforce.

One of the conference links explores generational difference:“The XX Effect: From Generation to Generation. What Do Women Want?” Access the website:

I was struck by the responses to "What do women want?” broken down into “twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties plus? Why “sixties plus?” Why collapse the experiences of women in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s into one category?

Surely the issues that women face in their 80’s are different from those faced in their 60’s? The 60’s are the decade when women contemplate retirement. Can I handle it economically and psychologically? Should I transition to retirement through reduced work load (assuming that’s an option)? How can I make the most of my retirement years?

By their 70’s, most women have left the work force and different issues emerge. As a retiree who recently turned 65, I would have like to have learned about the experiences of women in their 70’s, as I try to get a handle on what may lie ahead, assuming I get there.

When I was in my early 50’s, I became aware of the invisibility of older women, but I am still surprised when I see this in organizations/websites dedicated to the empowerment of women.

What’s behind this? Is it fear of old age? The women featured in the “sixties plus” category looked like they were in their 50’s—-a nod to our society’s obsession with youth which would have been a lot more difficult to pull off if there had been sections on women in their the 70’s, 80’s.

As the baby boom generation ages, just maybe we will see more honesty about age.


  1. I too find this shocking, is it that women in 70's and 80's and 90's are truly invisible. It is that sixty something is about as far as we can admit age wise.

  2. At the CLUW Convention, one of the producers or A Woman's Nation launched the report and book. Can't put my hands on her name right this second, but we were the first public venue for discussion of the project. A week of media blitz ensued. It looks fascinating, very readable and informative, though I agree with your analysis about the clumping of older women all together. I'm getting more sensitive to this kind of invisibility as I very quickly approach my own 60th birthday.

  3. As someone who just turned 65, I am really sensitive about this. As Elizabeth said, "It is that sixty something is about as far as we can admit age wise?"

  4. I guess we’ve made some progress.

    From NOW member Susan Waldman :
    “The invisibility of older women reminds me of my 35th birthday. That was my worst. At the time most surveys went something like this: 12-17 (years), 18 – 24, 25 – 34, 35 & up. I was now in the end of life category. Very scary. At least they now acknowledge that we get up to 60. By the way, I am 67.”