Work helps me maintain my good health
I am blessed with good health. Working is part of my portfolio of what I feel is very helpful. I expect it’s because I am not good at facing up to a normal retirement. It’s all around choice and being able to continue the contribution that we make to our employer and our own environment.
I don’t know what other people around me think – everybody seems ok with it. I am blessed to speak to students where I work and it’s a great experience.
Students and young people are curious about our past experiences. We all have a contribution to make to the world we live in – crossing boundaries between generations.
We all have a contribution to make
As older people, we have a responsibility to question if our contribution is of value. I learn from different generations all the time.
We can contribute – things change, things are different, we can reflect and learn. We are healthier for longer – our minds are sharp. When my mother was 60, she seemed old because she did nothing.
When you get to your older years, you won’t have to think about retirement because it will be seamless.
Do what is right for you
You have to know what you really want to do and listen to the sound coming from within you. I have plenty of girlfriends who are happy to have more time for their family and their garden, and I think that’s great if that’s what is coming from inside you. I am one of a growing breed of older women who want to keep working. Maybe not five days a week, 12 hours a day but I sure as hell want to do something. It’s up to me to figure out what that is and have an honest conversation with my employer to establish the parameters. You have to be confident in what you can contribute to that business – own the output.
Assumptions about older women in the workplace
Men don’t even talk about it. I think that men are less aware than we are. I would be smart – make-up and heels.
People ask me why I still do this. They expect guys to keep on working. No one questions why Trump is still working in his 70s. It’s taken as a given. It’s the same with politicians and news reporters. But they don’t expect that for women.
Most people expect older women to go for coffee in John Lewis. And if you feel like you have to do that, even though you don’t want to, you can get into a dark space. I thought, ‘this sure as hell is not for me’.
Older women can seem invisible. Try and be visible – make eye contact.
The challenge of not working
I used to run the business management department at a university. It was a very busy environment, a full-on job. I knew I needed to hand it over when I was around 67/8. I had ideas but thought it was someone else’s turn. I was offered another job by the Vice-Chancellor for another year; it seemed really interesting so I thought, ‘yes,I’m doing that’. And then it came to an end but the transition wasn’t good. It was horrible. The first three months were horrid. I didn’t know what to do. My husband works away from home so I was often alone. I didn’t want to run or go to the gym; I just wanted to lie in bed all day. So then I had another job opportunity and it all picked up from then. Organisations aren’t good at managing what happens next.
Staying active has been my saviour
I’ve always been reasonably active. People were surprised when I became a keen runner in my 60s. But when I joined a running club, there were lots of older people. Nobody gives you any slack! There is not enough encouragement for older women to stay active. It has been my saviour; it has given me a goal, it’s something I can do as well as anybody else. Nobody else has done it in my family. I would encourage everybody to do it!
Give us all a chance. Don’t make assumptions. Women have to speak out that little bit louder to stand out and be heard. We have been incredibly lucky as a generation – we can’t stop now! Keep the fight up. And our daughters will thank us for it.
We have to change views. We have to be part of the solution and change perceptions.