When I picked up my Bus Pass after celebrating my 60th birthday, I remember reflecting over the previous 60 years, my youth and my middle age, mostly with gratitude, but also with a few regrets. I also remembered looking forward, with hope and optimism to the millennium and to my future as an older woman, in what I hoped would be my primetime. The year was 2000 and I hoped the years to follow would have the potential of being an exciting and challenging time for mature women like me in the UK. I considered myself fortunate to be living at a time in history when finally women’s talents and strengths were receiving recognition and reward and that my generation of women had the opportunity to change the perception of growing older for generations of younger women to follow.
Having reached 60 years of blissful retirement sprung to my mind, thoughts of spare time in which to finally do all those things I’ve been aching to do for years. Just simple things like pursuing my hobbies, painting in oils, sewing, and gardening. Then there were more exciting things I was previously unable to do because of work and family commitments, like serious walking, travelling abroad and furthering my education. One thing on top of my list was to go back to school to conquer the complexities of my computer, e-mail, Internet and all! That had to be a priority if I was to keep up with the younger generation, talk their language and gain their respect. Modern technology divides the generations like nothing else into who can – and who can’t!
60 years was the official retirement age for women of my age (born 1939 and those a few years younger). In the past 10 years the age of retirement has gradually risen over to bring women into line with the men. But for me that momentous 60th birthday theoretically signified the official ending of my working life and the beginning of an idyllic period of retirement. And to cushion my old age, I was finally entitled to a state pension, which I worked hard for over all those years. Well – so much for the theory. Now 10 years on having celebrated my 70th I must confess that my 60th birthday was where the idyll ended and reality began.
In some ways mature women today have never had it so good. Convention and social attitudes of the past no longer bind, and the preconceived traditional image of age is fast changing. Modern women have to a large extent been liberated from the constraints and frustrations of previous generations by the advent of feminism in the 60’s and 70’s, which helped create the independent female. More importantly, women today no longer have to put up with the “put down” by men, who in past generations harboured the degrading assumption that women were subservient to men. In fact quite the opposite is clearly demonstrated today by the increasing number of female achievers reaching the top of their chosen profession or trade by sheer hard work and ability.
Even so for the high achievers who do manage to scale the heights there are still many talented, conscientious women who don’t fully achieve position and just recognition. And some older female workers have further concerns, for within the female rank itself inequality in the form of ageism can sometimes rear its ugly head with modern employment trends favouring younger women. Despite their experience, some capable mature women are frustrated and insulted by the promotion of inexperienced young women, purely on an age basis. But with recent changes in the employment laws things are now moving in the right direction and older women are now being recognised for their merits.
And for myself – how do I find life 10 years on? I’ve never been busier or felt more
fulfilled…..age is but a number!