Aging, Menopause

Career Moves: Changing My Focus from Younger Adults to Older Adults

The Generation Above Me

A post by Karen Austin of The Generation Above Me:

I spent the first three decades of my adult life on various college campuses—as a student, an adjunct and a clinical faculty member.

I taught a variety of undergraduate English courses and managed various student support services.  I enjoyed mentoring young adults and giving them tips on how to succeed in college and how to move on to graduate school or employment.

But this mentoring relationship shattered at midlife.

At age 48 I followed my husband half-way across the country to a new campus.

The students there didn’t view me as a mentor.  I was used to working with students who pursuing humanities majors; this new campus had a lot of students pursuing majors in the allied health professions.

Consequently, they found my area of expertise in English irrelevant for achieving in their fields.

Also, my age was moving me very far away from the near peer role I played for so long.  They would seek me out if they needed a tissue, a fork or an adhesive strip, but they didn’t ask me for advice about their career or graduate school.

Being ignored or being defined as campus mommy wasn’t working for me.

After my first year at this bad-fit campus, I spent summer vacation visiting all six of my parent figures: my mom and step-dad in Utah, my dad and step-mom in Texas, and my in-laws in Oklahoma.

I noticed that as they were entering their 70s, they were managing minor age-related challenges.  They are all still living independently and most of them were still working.

However, I could see that aging was going to soon get a bit tricky.

Because I was surrounded for decades by people 18-25, I had very little understanding of the challenges and opportunities of aging.

I found myself so deficient in this important area that I quit my job and started a graduate program in Aging Studies offered by a university across town.

I have changed gears and restated the unifying theme of my life: I am defined by my interest in growth and development across the lifespan.

Now I am hyper focused on issues related to healthy aging and supporting older adults in late adulthood.

And age is now on my side.

The older I get, the more I will become a near peer to the older adults I now work with as we support each other to age successfully.

KDAhelpingout

Karen writes: My blog ,The Generation Above Me, is aimed at midlife adults. It contains information on how to achieve active aging as well as how to support aging parents. Some of the posts are information rich with links to high quality sites about aging. Other posts are personal essays where I grumble or exult about midlife.

Aging Studies:  Colleges and Universities around the country offer programs in Aging Studies. Here’s a link to Karen’s  program at Wichita State.

Photo: Karen at work!

Aging, Celebrations, Menopause

Let’s Talk Skin and Gravity!

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A post from writer Meg Tipper:

So let’s talk gravity, skin and gravity.

I never used to think much about my skin except to notice a zit or to put on sun screen.

Perhaps a decade ago, in my early 50s, some strange extra-terrestrial presence began creeping over my body.  I was afraid to notice.

But one day, my nephew made its presence undeniable.

It was summer.  We were sitting on a couch together, face to face, with our legs extending towards each other.  He first just looked down at my legs.

Then he put both hands on my thighs, a few inches apart, and squeezed them together, causing my skin to look even more like corrugated cardboard.

Then he looked at me with horror and asked, “Aunt Gangy, what’s wrong with your skin?”

As my 50s wore on, it was not the wrinkles at the corners of my eyes or in my forehead that got my attention.  Wrinkles I expected, wrinkles people talked about.

What I was not prepared for was sag, the sheer force of gravity on skin:  the way my cheeks are falling onto my chin, the way my upper arms jiggle, the way my breasts are now resting comfortably on my stomach, the way my ass has no personality.

It is sad to feel my sexy body deflating right before my eyes.

This spring I will have the pleasure of walking down the aisle as the mother of the groom.

While I am over the moon happy for this wedding, being the mother of the groom is not what little girls dream of.

Perhaps in shock, definitely feeling a little rebellious, I allowed myself to be talked into buying a dress for the wedding which is low cut, sleeveless, and tight.

I was told I look “hot,” and who can resist believing that?

However, when I looked at myself in my hot dress in the cold light of a mirror at home, alone, all I saw was sag.

I have brought in the best sag-fighting artillery:  heavy upholstery in the way of a bra, uplift in the way of an impossibly tight and uncomfortable undergarment, which promises to eliminate any lines or bulges, but also makes me feel like I will be prevented from sitting or peeing during the wedding.

I stand in front of the mirror and try to find a way to hold myself, say, tucking my upper arms behind my shoulders; I search for a way to angle my face for the inevitable photos, so that can I swivel my neck around and hide the chicken skin.  Suddenly, I have a serious interest in moisturizer.

I know it’s crazy. I am an attractive, older woman.

I am 60: glorious, sexy sixty.

I’ll keep telling myself, and I’m sure, come springtime, in my hot dress, on a fabulous occasion, full of love and happiness, I will feel it!

Meg Tipper

Meg Tipper is retired after over thirty years as a teacher at almost all levels of education.  Her last teaching job was as an English teacher and Writing Center Director at Gilman School in Baltimore.  She has published articles, stories, poems, and personal essays and has been a regular contributor and columnist for Catonsville.Patch.com.  Meg lives in Catonsville , Maryland, with her partner, Jim Himel.  They travel frequently and work on their old home and garden.

Meg’s first book, Standing at the Edge: A Year of Days After Sudden Death  (Apprentice House, 2010) chronicles her journey after the sudden death of her 22 year old daughter, Maggie.  Her son, Stephen Feiss, teaches math at Mt. Mansfield Union and coaches soccer at Winooski High School, both outside Burlington, Vermont.

Standing at the Edge:   Proceeds from the sale of Standing at the Edge go to the Maggie Feiss Fund of the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF).  For more information, go to the Standing at the Edge website.  The book can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Aging, Fashion

Guest Post: To Be or Not To Be–Grey Hair, That Is

young-skunk-closeup

A guest post by my friend Gail Crane:

When I was in high school, my friends always commented on the grey hairs I already had.  Not many, but just enough for people to notice.

In my early 30’s, my Mom commented that I needed to dye my hair as I had too much grey for someone my age.

So I began the every 5 week task of dying my hair.

At first I had it done by my hairdresser when I would get my hair cut, but finally I decided it was too expensive and my stylist told me how to do it myself.

So for 30 years I’ve covered up the increasingly grey, or rather, white hair on my head.  At first I colored all my hair at 5 weeks.

Then as I got whiter and whiter, I had to also put color on at 2 ½ weeks–but only on my part, around my face and at my neck.  Otherwise I started looking like a skunk!

I have played with different colors.  My original hair color was dark brown.  I’ve been dark brown, light brown, reddish brown, and that brassy blondish brown that happens from putting color on your whole head each time instead of just the roots.  Now I mix two together to get the color I want.

It really doesn’t take that long to color my hair, but every time, I dread the process:

Covering up the counter top,  spreading towels on the floor, and putting on old clothes with a towel pinned around my neck to keep any color drips off of my clothes, skin and especially the floor.

No matter how hard I try though, I still seem to drip some of the mixture (which starts out white so you can’t see it) onto something.  Then voila!  You have a black spot on your floor which is unable to be removed.

We’re waiting until I finally decide to go grey to get new flooring in our bathroom.  No reason to do it yet.

I often toy with going grey. I see many women with beautiful white hair and wonder how I would look.

My sister, who used the same color as I did for years, said she was going to stop coloring her hair when she retired.  And she did, going through looking like a skunk to get to her pure white hair.  She likes it except for the pink scalp that shows now.

Sometimes when I start seeing those white roots appear, I think it would be nice to not have to bother with the messy coloring process.

Sometimes I wish I had never started coloring my hair in the first place.

But for some reason, I just am not ready to be grey.  Will it make me look old?  Make me feel older?

I don’t think I’m ready to go there yet.

Maybe, just maybe, when I retire in four years.

But maybe not!

Gail at Reunion

Gail Crane is a long time friend of  mine. She lives in Hillsborough, NC with her husband Joe and her two cats.  She says she’s a little more vain than she wishes she were, but even though she admits to being officially old, she’s just not ready to look it!  Her two grown children don’t want her to go there yet either.

Decided to go grey?  I’d love a post about your decision. Shoot me an email!  Thanks!

Aging, Menopause

A Mirror Fast: Could You? Would You?

Mirror

The idea of mirror fasting has hit the blogosphere!

Here’s an article in the New York Times giving you the reflective scoop:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/fashion/mirror-fasts-help-take-the-focus-off-yourself.html?_r=0

I probably need  a chocolate fast more than a mirror fast, but the concept of NOT looking in the mirror is intriguing.

But give up the mirror?  Even for six months?

Could you?  Would you?

The bloggers in the story aren’t menopausal, yet.  I think we menopausal beauties need the mirror to mark the years, to see the wrinkles inching their way in.

I don’t want to suddenly be old and not know it happened.

I have a friend who says her smile lines are symbols of all her happy moments. Another who says crinkles around your eyes represent your deep thoughts.

Hmm.

Not sure I’m there yet, but the concept of using the mirror to celebrate a well-lived life is an appealing one, that’s for sure.

What about you?

Interested in a mirror fast?

Photo:  My daughter Laura found this mirror at the Durham Arts Festival. It’s made from a spacer on a big, big truck. I’m not sure what a spacer does for a truck as it speeds down the road, but it makes a funky mirror. So here’s another question: If you were a spacer, would you rather be rolling down a highway or shining from a wall?