Health & wellbeing

Do women become invisible after the age of fifty?

07 Mar 2024 | Written by Susanna Lewis

Ahead of the next ‘Writing for wellbeing‘ workshop, The Joy Club member and wonderful host Susanna Lewis shares her thoughts on the ‘invisible woman syndrome’.

We often hear in the media the phrase ‘the invisible woman.’ The phrase is mentioned on talk shows, podcasts and in glossy magazines. The younger women in society look puzzled, while those of us over the age of fifty know exactly what it means.

So, what is this ‘invisible woman syndrome’ that is felt by so many women over the age of fifty? Basically, it refers to the feeling of being ignored, pushed to one side or overlooked, generally because of the age of a woman. Women over the age of fifty start to feel irrelevant or just lost in their life and this is all compounded by society’s view on women once they reach a certain age.

Why the age of fifty, you ask? Well, the age of fifty seems to be the trigger for a dramatic change in a woman’s life. So much happens to a woman around this time that it is no surprise that she can feel completely overwhelmed by her own life and life in general. On reaching fifty (or thereabouts) a woman is usually faced with many significant and often traumatic events and this can have a devastating affect on her life and health. Around this time, we are often dealing with ageing parents, menopause, retirement, redundancy (due to a younger workforce), children leaving home, changes to our body and medical problems, an ageing body and even the loss of a partner through divorce or widowhood.

Add to the above issues the view in society of the ‘ageing woman’ when we are bombarded with photos and advertisements of young, healthy-looking women, is it any wonder that we can feel left behind and no longer a part of society – ‘an invisible woman.’ There are women on social media shouting out about the validity of the ‘older woman’ and we frequently see articles like ‘fab at 50’ but in all honesty, many of us don’t feel great for many reasons.

We look in the mirror every day and we may see a tired face staring back at us and we wonder what happened to that young, bright-faced girl of thirty years ago. Our heart sinks as we contemplate how exhausted we feel compared to just a few years ago. Self-confidence can decline at this time as we feel overlooked by society and at work. Some of us may have been passed over for promotion at work and we sigh as we see a younger person take that promotion that was rightfully ours.

And yet, somehow men don’t receive the same treatment as they age. As men start to grow older, we refer to them as distinguished and charming. As their hair turns grey we call them a ‘silver fox,’ a term of endearment and attractiveness. Think how many of us swoon over George Clooney now he has reached the tender age of 62 with a headful of silver-grey hair. And yet it has often been viewed in a negative way if we see a woman with greying hair.

So, what can we do as women, to ensure that we don’t feel invisible once we reach a certain age? It is difficult to change society’s image of an ageing women but that does not mean we should accept it. We can, however, change our own perception of ageing and how that relates to us as individuals. Ageing cannot be stopped in its tracks, but we can learn to embrace it and own it! This is our time to be ourselves, to live without restrictions, to embrace who we truly are without caring what others think. I know this isn’t easy. Trust me, I have encountered the negative feelings regarding ageing and I have often felt ‘invisible’ myself. Transition and change into a new phase of our life can be difficult but we can do this by taking certain steps to create a happy, fulfilled and content life, whatever our age.

So, what are my top tips for abandoning the ‘invisible woman’ and becoming the woman you are truly meant to be?

1 Self care is very important. Look after your mental and physical health and you will naturally increase your overall wellbeing. Use beauty and health products that make you feel good about yourself. This can be aromatherapy oils, face creams, bath products and cosmetics. Have your hair cut regularly and treat yourself to a massage every now and then.

2 Exercise is very important as this can help boost your self-esteem through the increased production of feel-good hormones so try and get some exercise every day. A walk in the outdoors is perfect as just being out in the fresh air can make you feel good.

3 Start a new hobby. You are never too old to learn something new. Think about something you have always wanted to do. Maybe learn how to make your own clothes, learn a new language or perhaps you have always wanted to publish that novel that has been floating around your head for the last thirty years! Whatever it is, search out a place to learn and go for it. There is nothing stopping you and you may find this new hobby enriches your life.

4 Start your own business. Yes, really! The over 50 women’s age group is the fastest growing community for starting a new business. For many years women have worked for other companies, juggling jobs with childcare and not really feeling fulfilled at work. On retirement many women are discovering that they are still capable of working and earning extra income for their retirement dreams. Maybe you dreamed of running a small coffee shop, baking celebration cakes or maybe you are a keen photographer and fancy running a small photography business. Look at your talents and interests and see how you can develop this into a small business.

5 Join a community group of like-minded women. This will help you keep in touch with other women and help relieve any isolation you may be feeling. Women supporting women is one of the most powerful feelings you can experience. Plus, you get to meet new friends which all enhances that feel good feeling. There is no better community, in my eyes, than The Joy Club with such a diverse number of activities you are bound to meet a like minded person which will give you such a positive boost. Look for local groups too. Try out your local WI, art group, writing group or walking group.

It is very easy to be self-critical as we get older, particularly for women. We notice the ageing process in ourselves, and this can lower our self-esteem. We can’t change ageism in society, but we can change how we deal with it. Think positively and remember that you are relevant and important in society. We all have a value in the world, whatever our age. You can redesign your life for the better so remember to make yourself visible, not invisible. Go out into the world, hold your head up high and be the person you want to be with confidence and grace. Create a life that makes you feel alive, to grow and thrive rather than just exist. This is your time!

If you would like to explore this subject further why not join my ‘Writing For Wellbeing’ class on Monday 11th March at 11am here at The Joy Club.

Susanna x

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