Personal Views and Stories

“Issues specific to older people include employment discrimination, income, health (costs and services).  In terms of inclusion, one person aptly put it ‘we’re invisible’ – I was actually told not to mention my age when applying for jobs.”

“Clearly, older citizens get the shaft all the time.  It’s irrelevant that those who rule are old.  They are the super-rich and most of the old are a long way from that.”

“As an elder person, I have a big problem with special needs transportation in our area, the enhancement of Medicare coverage, and protection of the Social Security we earned (entitlement) and now depend on.”

“Our humanity and environment are at risk. Ending the endless wars and avoiding nuclear catastrophe are what we as elders must prioritize.”

“There is no doubt seniors are disenfranchised when it comes to jobs, and the ever-increasing republican mantra of ending social security and medicare, ensures seniors need to work, work, work until the end.”

Ageism is Real

Ageism, defined as discrimination against the older adult, is very real in the lives of many, if not most, American women.

The older woman loses her currency for no other reason than she looks her age. At work, her suggestions are frequently rejected; socially she is shunned because she no longer looks young; her adult children consider her ideas outdated.  The media ignores her, focusing on older celebrities who look years younger and insist, like 84-year-old Jane Fonda, that she’s living her best life.

Pat Taub, WOW blog, Portland, Maine

An older woman contemplating no longer looking young

When ageism isn’t validated, older women miss the opportunity for authentic healing conversations, where they can share their experiences of ageism and extend support to one another.

To illustrate some of the ways older women encounter ageism, I solicited responses on the WOW Facebook page, posting the question, “How have you been affected by ageism?”  Here are some of the responses:

HELEN: “I find I cry often and get nostalgic.”

GAIL: “No more firsts and lots of lasts.”

Pat Taub, WOW Blog, Portland, Maine

A woman reflecting on how ageism has impacted her life

EMMA:  The loss of respect in the sense of not being heard with the former sense of credibility.”

LINDA: “I was laid off at 60 and had hoped to work for 7 more years.”

ELLEN: “Ageism in the clothing industry makes it hard to find styles that are stylish, flattering and fit well. Some lines seem to think we older women want bedazzled clothes every day.  Others seem to expect us to just give up and be frumpy.”

Pat Taub, WOW blog, Portland, Maine

Today’s older woman bemoans frumpy styles, like those of yesteryear

WALKER: “When I visit a technology store, it results in being talked down to.”

SALLY: “I have a wonky walk and use a cane. I get odd stares.  The stares, from those who even make eye contact, are puzzling. They are not empathetic or cruel, just blank.  I wonder, if the walk with the cane and my obvious age, translate into, ‘I am so glad I am not like her.’”

EARLENE: “I’ve been invisible in my own family for the last 15 years . . .  No one asks what I want or includes me in conversation. Even when I try to share something, there is dead silence.”

PAM: “I’m finding a shift in things that I get asked to do at church.  I’m not asked to participate in the things that I’m good at (and I enjoy doing) but am being asked to be a docent and usher—stuff like that.”

Pat Taub, WOW blog, Portland, Maine

RENE: “On a political Facebook page I had to change my profile for a while because my grey hair and obvious age had people sniping about my age.

LINDA:  I have become more invisible.  I sometimes find myself talking and no one is listening.  My opinions matter less.  Sometimes I feel irrelevant.

LAURIE: “Ageism, especially for women, is sooo prevalent in the corporate world. . . It’s like this unseen discrimination is acceptable. Rather than continuing to get angry, I was fortunate to be able to retire early.”

JUDE: “I find I am treated differently at the doctor’s office now.”


Those heartfelt confessions were met with supportive comments, like the following:

EMMA: “It makes sense to mourn the loss of freedoms.  Hopefully that frees us up to be creative in doing things within our capacity that fill us and bring satisfaction and gratitude.

TONI:  Crone beauty is overlooked in magazines that force the idea that only the young, and slim are beautiful.

Pat Taub, WOW blog, Portland, Maine

Angela Davis, who exemplifies Crone beauty

ELLEN:  While I too mourn the losses of my younger years, I now find the benefits of aging, where I have become more patient, more at peace with myself.

JANE: Being invisible has its positives.  I no longer have to worry about how I look when I enter a restaurant.  It’s a relief not to be an object of scrutiny. It’s a new freedom.”

Pat Taub, WOW blog, Portland, Maine

Peggy Seeger’s new album features the song, “The Invisible Woman,” celebrating the freedom in not being seen

CAROL: “I take pleasure in passing along my wisdom to younger women, to being a mentor.

Other positives offered were the rewards of slowing down: greater compassion, living with gratitude and finding something in each day to bring a smile.

Don’t let the culture shame you over your struggles with ageism. These are real, genuine feelings in response to a culture that frequently discounts the wise older woman. Don’t ever forget you’re not alone.  There is a sisterhood of older women who share your concerns, ready to offer support.