When you see a man with gray hair and crow’s feet, you probably assume that he’s a fount of wisdom and at the zenith of his career. An aging woman, on the other hand, is usually thought to be on the downhill slope, a sweet grandma rather than a tough CEO.
“Our country’s ideas about old women are so toxic that almost no one, no matter her age, will admit she is old,” writes psychologist Mary Pipher in an article in the New York Times.
However, the power and prominence of today’s older women is flying in the face of these long-held stereotypes. Think Nancy Pelosi, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Glenn Close, Annie Liebowitz, Marillyn Hewson (CEO of Lockheed Martin) and Susan Zirinsky (president of CBS News), to name just a few. Rather than allowing their advancing age to define them and keep them down, these powerful women have ascended to the top of their fields.
But career success isn’t the only thing that’s distinctive about older women these days. According to research from the University of Southern California and census data from the U.K., women aged 65-79 are also some of the happiest people around. They’ve been around long enough to experience negatives like divorce, death, bankruptcy, etc., so even the little pleasures can stand out in stark relief. When you have that perspective, even sunset or a warm bath can sometimes inspire a feeling of utter bliss.
Older women also know how to make their own happiness. “Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice,” says Pipher. “We don’t need to look at our horoscopes to know how our day will go. We know how to create a good day.”
We may be grandmas. We may be slowing down a bit and even retiring. But we’re also stopping to smell the roses. We’re a joyful force to be reckoned with.