This book, focused on women past the ago of 60, is a combination of stories told by the women themselves, interspersed with the latest research.When I was young, women in their 60s were…OLD. Not many of the ones I ever saw were vibrant – they were mostly sedentary and seemed resigned to being…old. Ms. Singer’s message is that “change is not just for the young, you can do something new at any age.”
For the stories, the author interviewed women (in-depth interviews, with follow-ups), and her subjects included women of various education levels, marital statuses, etc.
Considerable research is discussed and cited. One of the awesome findings discussed is brain plasticity, meaning that the anatomical composition of the brain actually responds to learning, thought and action. Researchers such as Dr. Michael Merzenich of UCSF believe that brain “fitness programs” can “help prevent, arrest or even reverse the effects of cognitive decline.” WOW!
While I enjoyed the stories and the research, I found myself bothered by the emphasis on the idea that retirement is a bad thing. The author suggests that women should stay ten years past when they thing about retirement. WTF? She suggests that “retirement can damage your health, and the longer you’re retired the greater the health disadvantages.” She also discusses the increasing numbers of women past the age of 60 who are returning to work as if it is totally because they WANT to be there. I am opposed to a mandatory retirement age, and if someone wants to work til they drop, fine. But I totally believe that the vast majority of older women who are working (paid employment) are there because they HAVE to, and not because they want to. To be honest, I don’t recall reading anything in the book that made me think otherwise.
Chapter 4 (“Money Matters”) was full of cautionary tales that tended to reinforce my feeling about women needing to work as they get older. The book is focused on Australian women, and there is discussion of the various pensions, etc. that women might get – but not much about the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US, which is financial ruin due to health costs. Likely that is due to the fact that Australian women live in a country that is enlightened enough to provide health care, and that’s a very minor quibble about the book.
I enjoyed Chapter 5, focusing on appearance, and the way women get past a certain age and suddenly they are invisible/ignored. I liked the way she advises women not be ashamed or feel guilty about caring how they look, and her advice that “if people aren’t seeing you or listening to you, drop them. Find a more appreciative crowd to hang out with.”
So many negative stereotypes are attached to aging! I appreciated the way both the stories and the research address them, and REALLY like they was the book highlights the place of friendship in the lives of women and the value of participation in the community.
It’s a valuable (and enjoyable) book, and is full of practical suggestions, inspirational stories and wise words. I give it four stars (would likely be five if it had more US focus and if the thing about retirement being unhealthy for you was more fully explained. In any case, I appreciate the opportunity to provide a review in exchange for my NetGalley review.