In the year 2011, the first wave of the 76 million baby-boomers will turn 65. Our changing demographics, fueled by increased longevity and the aging of baby-boomers creates the basis for a social transformation heretofore unknown in America.
Because of our increased life expectancy, and better health care, aging and concepts of middle age means something very different today to women than it did to previous generations. It is a time of spiritual and psychological potentials. It is a time when a woman becomes a wise woman or crone.
Baby-Boomer women are aging differently than any generations before them. They challenged the norms of prior generations. It began in the 1960s when they protested the war, ushered in the first wave of women’s liberation, developed careers beyond the standard women’s roles of teaching, nursing, or office administration.
Women born in the period after WWII challenged the norms of society, made conscious choices about marriage, divorce and/or being single. They made, and continue to make alternative decisions about methods of birthing, health care, retirement, and death and dying. In short, they have questioned the norms that society had previously set. This author believes baby-boomers will follow the same paradigms of innovation as they move into the next cycle of their lives.
There can be rewards of growing older that include self-determination, freedom of choice, joys of relationships, meaningful work and interests, social support, spirituality, and self-understanding. The benefits of these rewards also include emotional balance, self-assurance, inner directedness, self-acceptance, and acceptance of one’s current life.
Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen expressed that our culture does not value the wisdom of old age or of women, thus creating a potential for anxiety about aging. For example, in past history women were burned at the stake and called witches for having valuable knowledge. She pointed out positive spiritual and psychological possibilities women gain as they become wise women. In fact, the term “crone” carries baggage from witch-burning history, when negative associations were attached to traditional knowledge and the powerful women who linked their communities to it.
To take her place as a wise woman, a postmenopausal woman has to overcome her fears of aging and fears of speaking with authority. Comparing traditional and tribal societies where the crone stage is considered a woman’s time or arrival into her full wisdom and power in exposes a contrast to our modern society. It is one that reveres the glamour of youth, often at the expense of maturity. Menopause can be an exhilarating time of freedom, growth, and empowerment. The rewards of aging include an inner directedness, self-acceptance, and acceptance of one’s current life.
Mid-life baby-boomer women are on a passage to becoming wise crones. This generation is defining aging in a new paradigm. Midlife no longer defines the stereotypes of old age that once included limitations, loneliness, and retirement. Life can be an opportunity for rewards connected with aging; an expansion from the rich knowledge and experiences that have been part of their life’s path. The path of aging can be one filled with new horizons.
Women can learn to celebrate the freedom that comes with becoming a crone. Because of our increased life expectancy, and better health care, aging and concepts of middle age means something very different today than it did in previous generations. Instead of entering menopause with anxiety and a sense of loss, it should be a time to claim power at this phase of life. It is a time of spiritual and psychological potentials. This phase of life brings possibility of wisdom about life and the potential to inspire others through this insight.
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