Hold the presses! Haven’t we already determined that today’s boomer women are better off than we’ve ever been; healthier, better educated and more wealthy than any generation of women before us? And for the most part, ladies, we are! But that doesn’t mean everything for boomer women is coming up roses.
In a story that grieved me dearly, allvoices.com reports “a forty-nine percent increase of visits in the emergency department for drug related suicide attempts from women fifty years or older” and “Suicides in maximum numbers of women between the ages of forty and sixty-nine…” These numbers are staggering, disturbing, heart breaking and unnecessary.
Just this week the Today Show aired a Today’s Woman segment titled, “Facing Forty.” “It used to be turning 40 symbolized the end of youth. Now, it’s the beginning of something better.” The segment showed women celebrating themselves and the big 4-0 by running triathlon events, visiting Italy and enjoying a beach and spa getaway. But as Sarah Brokaw, licensed therapist and author of “Fortytude” points out, and I agree, it’s a time of mixed emotions and feelings amongst women are split. While some women are excited about approaching this new era many more are fearful and anxious about what 40 means and view it as a time of loss or an ending of something instead of the wonderful new beginning it really is. Trisha Ashworth, co-author of “I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids” confessed that for her, after the celebration and the 40th birthday party was over she felt “blindsided” as the black clouds of doubt began to roll in. “What’s the next chapter for me? What do I want for my life and who am I?” These were all questions she had not taken the time to reflect on but these are very real questions women grapple with everyday. As children age out and move away from home, as the marital relationship changes due to death or divorce, women are feeling disoriented and are asking themselves, “Who am I now? “What’s next for me?”
While there are many aspects of aging that can be a little frightening the majority of our fears are unfounded and rooted in societal stereotypes. Contributor to the All Voices story, psychologist and licensed clinical social Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, discovered an alarming rise in the number of suicide attempts amongst women ages 45-64, and cites disappointment as a factor. “Middle-aged women are more aware of their mortality and could be disappointed or let down that it is too late for happiness.” For years society has portrayed the over 40 woman as miserly old women who lock ourselves up in the house to die with nothing but a cat and unrealized dreams. But that’s an old story and I triple dog dare you to be bold enough to write a new one. Any dreams, wishes or desires a woman holds can still be realized regardless of age. If you want to go to school, go to school. If you want to get married, get married. If you want to start a business, start a business. Women are doing it everyday and are realizing greater fulfillment in their 40’s and 50’s, even 70’s and 80’s than at any other time before. Aging is a beautiful journey, ladies. And it’s time to change the way we see ourselves, love ourselves and value ourselves as aging women in this society. Write your own story! Go ahead..I dare you!