Here’s a wonderful article about 70candles by Leah Dunaief, publisher of the Times Beacon Newspapers on the North Shore of Long Island.
Read it below, or at
Then click on the publisher’s picture on the left side of the page.
Speaking to women across the decades
By Leah Dunaief
November 30, 2011 | 03:06 PM
Two high school classmates of mine are turning their age to advantage. Both are retired from distinguished professional careers and are now professors emeritus, one from the Department of Psychiatry of the Medical College of Ohio, the other from the Department of Psychology of Alaska Pacific University. She is now teaching in Albany. Both are wives, mothers and grandmothers. Friends since high school, they reconnected at a conference in Dallas and fell into a frank discussion about how to think of turning 70 and what to do with the rest of their lives.
“We are in the forefront of the ‘Longevity Revolution.’ What are our age mates thinking? We needed to gather ideas from people our age,” Jane and Ellen explained.
In their quest for more information from others, the Internet became their handmaiden. Starting a website called www.70Candles.com, Jane and Ellen are reaching out to women around the globe, asking for input about this stage of life.
“Women everywhere,” they encourage in their opening paragraph on the web, “welcome to our blogspot, a space for sharing experiences, thoughts and ideas about how to overcome obstacles and thrive as we approach and endure in the eighth decade of life. We hope this exchange will be a source of inspiration for the next generation of seventy year olds. Those baby boomers are hot on our heels and want to know more about what lies ahead. Nobody gave us a guidebook or shared what this path might be like. As we burn those 70 candles, we can help shed some light on the trail for them.”
And, they are thinking, for themselves.
Beyond sitting back and waiting for comments to come in, which are being posted — check out the website — the two women are also traveling to different regions of the country and inviting 70-somethings to meet and exchange thoughts in select locations for two hours. So far they have held four such focus groups, and they start off with a set of four questions.
“What’s the meaning of work in your life?” is the first. “Has your identity changed if you are retired? Are you still working full time? Part time?” The majority of women who have met with Jane and Ellen do work part time.
“How do you deal with loss of function?” they ask. They are referring in particular to loss of memory or hearing or balance or altered mental or social functions.
“What are the particular challenges and joys of this age?”
“What advice do you have for younger women?”
And then they added a fifth in their conversation with me. “What does it take to thrive in the 8th decade?” That, of course, is the bottom line for everyone who participates in this demographic-specific cross-pollination.
The answers are as different as the people, but certain themes recur in the course of conversation. Social connections are paramount, as women help sustain each other. Most of the women who come to these sessions seem to be comfortable in their own skins, not particularly concerned about money, appreciative of their lives and happy in the moment. They are physically active — walking, Pilates, yoga, swimming — and emphasize the importance of maintaining good health. And they build purpose and meaning into their lives by volunteering, working part time and spending quality time with their grandchildren.
There are also some common challenges: anxiety about careers, whether to stop and when, and what options to pursue afterwards. Where to live next is also a concern: downsize the house, near the children, someplace where there are no stairs? Many at this age have already made these decisions and can share their experiences with the others.
The women also seem clearly divided between those who are single and those with partners. For those who are alone, some express loneliness, especially those who are recently widowed.
And then the final issue: dealing with death. At this age, many have lost parents, good friends, siblings and spouses. Death is real.
Throughout the exchanges, there is much laughter, some tears and the sense of pleasure at being together. Jane and Ellen are onto a good thing.