"My dad died at forty-nine, and my mom died at thirty-one. I was eighteen when my dad passed away. As an eighteen-year-old, I thought he was old, and this is what happens. To me, that was old. When I hit forty-nine, I thought, 'Oh, this is really young.' So as a younger person, my late forties was old to me. When I got to that point, I realized how young my dad was when he died. When my mom died, I was only eight, so I didn't have any benchmark for age. I didn't even know how old she was when she died because I was so young. I didn't know her age when she passed away until my late twenties. It was terrible, seven children."
"Aging is a blessing to me because my mom never had a chance to age. So anytime I get older, I get another wrinkle or grey hair; I think of my mother and how she never got those things. Every extra day that I live is one more day that I have that my mom did not. I see my face now and how it has changed, and I wonder what she would have looked like had she been able to grow older than thirty-one. I feel blessed that I have this time that she did not get."
"People misinterpret women as not being with it - integrated into society as much. I also believe there is a misconception that women this age are perceived as ‘bitchy’ rather than what we would call knowing what we want. Assertive versus aggressive, or assertive versus angry. Or women that are perceived as bitchy because they won’t put up with how men think they should behave or what men think they should do."
"The other thing is that people may not think that women in this age group are still finding themselves. I realize that I need to anchor myself in my brownness. That is something that I am figuring out right now too. It has become more important as I get older, particularly in the last two years."
"Women and men are treated differently when it comes to aging - the silver fox vs frumpy woman. 'Look at him; he keeps himself in shape' and 'she is letting herself go.’ That dad bod is sexy, but grandma pouch is not; let’s increase the shapewear industry because women can’t just age gracefully. And then the whole makeup thing - every other post on Instagram is about anti-aging products. Gravity happens; what is wrong with it? Days go by, and time goes by, and should we be expected to be perfect over time? Where men sometimes become more attractive to significantly younger women - you don’t hear the reverse of it that often - and when it does, the woman is criticized."
"I am hopeful about this next generation of kids. They seem very open and feminist and not racist and not homophobic; it makes me feel good; they seem one step better than our generation."
"The most painful thing about getting older is that I know, because I am over fifty, that I will never be better than I am now - in terms of health and physical fitness. I wake up now, and things hurt, and I think, 'Oh no, it's only going to get worse.'"
"I have, and I haven't matured as I have gotten older. I still feel like my young self a lot. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself and remember, 'Oh yeah.' And I have days when I feel more discouraged and less open or free. I don't know why. I am starting to feel like that might be reversing as my kids become adults and more self-sufficient."
"People don’t understand or don't know that a lot of us are still kids. That we are much younger than we appear to be. Sometimes I look at my age group and think we are almost invisible. So many women in our age group are doing interesting things, contributing, producing, nurturing, and still doing all the living things. As you get close to retirement, it’s not just about moving away from an occupation. It can be about moving toward things you really want to do."
"If I could go back in time, I would say to my younger self, 'Stop trying to fit in. Be authentic. Know that even though you are six feet tall, you still belong. You will never fit in, so stop trying to. Know that as a human being, you belong.'"
"I regret only that I wish I were where I am now fifty years sooner. My mindset. I am super content right now. I am glad I don’t have to make those hard decisions all over again. Financially we are in great shape, and I no longer have to work so hard. I would probably do it all over again if it meant getting to this part - it feels like the reward. The second stage of life, when you are just BEING, is just marvellous!"
Barbara G., 64
"The best part of being my age is freedom. Being on my own is good. During the year when my kids are gone to school, I love my time. I also love that everything can be how I want it. I miss them when they leave, but I like being alone."
"From older women, I learned about being independent. My mother's side of the family was all independent. My mother and all my aunts. On the fault side of that, people look at me as the strongest person ever - I realize now that you don't have to come across as strong all the time. I learned a lot from my one aunt - you can say how you feel, and you can tell people how you feel on a regular basis."
"At this point in my life, I feel discouraged about being alone. I like being with someone - I don't NEED to be with someone. I like companionship. I also like my alone time. I like companionship without so many expectations. I just want to be in a grown-up relationship. I am discouraged that I won't ever be in a relationship with someone I fully trust."
"As I have gotten older, I have become more accepting and more aware of the needs of others. Locally and more broadly. I have become more accepting of people who are different."
"I feel hopeful about a lot of things at this point in my life. I am hopeful about my career growth. I started my trajectory late. I am excited that I am a pioneer in the field where I live. I am excited about the growth potential there. There is a community of people that are really caring and compassionate and understand their privilege, which I feel positive about."
"I am discouraged about the mental health crisis (locally and more broadly), climate change, homelessness, and the impact of social media. These things bother me, and figuring out how to solve them."
"My biggest accomplishment is being a mom. Consciously becoming a parent and committing to the process makes me proud. I am proud that I went to university in my thirties and then went to grad school. "
"I think society has been extremely unkind to the idea of ageing; it's something that is natural and happens to all of us. I feel women have had more of this pressure to appear younger in appearance. I know men have these feelings also, but in society, I feel women are targeted more. The old saying 'grey hair makes a woman look older, but a man more distinguished.' Also, when it comes to dating, it appears to be acceptable for an older man to date a much younger woman, but I feel that when an older woman dates a younger man, there is more judgment."
"I am discouraged by the lack of understanding the younger generation has about the value of life with respect to older people. I have learned some incredible things from my parents. My patients, when they are able to tell me a little bit about themselves, are incredibly interesting."
"If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to stop caring what other people think about me. Basing my self-worth on what other people say about me or think about me has been the reason why my self-worth has been so shaky. You can't control what other people think about you, so stop doing that. I wish I had never built that into a core part of myself. Now I would say, 'Absolutely give zero f*cks.' It's just so damaging. I would say to be much more my own person as I was growing up. My parents told me that, but they were 'old,' so I didn't really listen to them. If I could go back, I would say, 'Be your own person.'"
"From older women, I have learned so much! I have learned not to worry about things so much. That whole thing of 'Is it going to matter in five years?' I've learned that we will all do stupid things and must find the humour in those things. I have learned to find the joy and ridiculousness in the humanity we experience daily."
"I think the next generation of women will have a better experience with aging. Every generation advocates for the one coming after them. Although, the day that the laws changed in the US about abortion, I called my mom and said, 'I am so sorry.' It's not that my mom was overly political, but it feels like we let them down. It didn't change in Canada, but it could. It seems like the first time it's ever happened, it's always been progressing, but now it's going backwards. I hope this isn't the first generation where it will go backwards. It's terrifying, and I worry about it. I kind of see it in everything. In teaching our books, things are changing so much in the US. It is happening in our country a little bit too. For this generation, I hope we keep moving forward and that we keep expanding things. Take menopause, for example; my mom never talked about it really at all. Hopefully, we will keep advocating for the generation coming after us to improve things for them."
"The best part of being my age? Retirement, I think. It took me a few years to transition into retirement and feel comfortable with it. The best part is not having to jump out of bed in the morning and then going and doing a million things. It’s just having more time. Having more time to do things and not thinking about ‘fitting more things in.’ If we are sitting here and still sitting here three hours later, it’s ok in my life. It is nice to have that time to do what you feel like doing at that moment, and if something else happens, it won’t be a massive kink in the plan because everything else can be pushed to tomorrow, almost unless you have appointments. I have board meetings to work around, but there is so much more time to work around things now; it’s nice."
"I can also finally do things I have always wanted to do because I have the time. It’s almost as if my interests and passions from when I was young - I loved sewing and crafts and being creative in my own way - stopped when I had children. I did those things when I was single and in my twenties, but once I had children, there was no outlet for that kind of creativity; it just felt like I didn’t have the time for that, so that’s the one thing now - it’s great! I am doing all those things I did when I was younger - I started reflecting on what I loved doing when I was young. I circled back to those interests - sewing, needlework, crafts etc. The other interest I had as a young person that fulfilled me was reading; I read all the time. I couldn’t do that once I had kids. So now I am back to that; it’s nice to be able to read. It’s still the one pleasure I don’t say, ‘I will just take the afternoon to read’; it doesn’t feel as productive as other things. If it’s the summer, I allow myself to read, or I do if I am on vacation. "
"If I could go back in time, I would probably say to myself, 'You are going to turn out okay.' I think I worried a lot about what people thought. I worried about wanting things that were not important to me now. At the time, I wanted to be recognized for certain things and accomplishments, and I always wanted my parents to be proud of me. I never really felt I was doing that. If I could go back, I would tell myself, 'It's going to all be okay.' 'You are going to turn out okay' When you are young, you can't foresee that."
"The best part of being the age I am right now is that I can say no to things I don't want to do, jobs that I don't want to do. I feel like I know my worth now. I am still learning, but I have learned who I want to waste my time with and who I don't, and work I don't want to do."
"I just finished saying it doesn't matter, but the hardest part of being the age right now is feeling like I could have done more than I have. At this age, I struggle with what I have to show for it career-wise who I am. On a personal level, I wish I had done more things. I wish I had more things in my portfolio. I like to think about things I have done, and now I wish I had done more. I wish I had pursued certain things more—a lot of second-guessing at this age."
"I hope that the next generation of women will be more comfortable in their skin. I worry about some of the cosmetic procedures some women have at a young age - that scares me. I hope they are more comfortable with themselves and their appearance. They certainly are more comfortable talking about the stages of life they are going through - physical changes - about periods and that kind of thing. When I was young, we feared having an accident, and you didn't talk about it. Even something simple like a bra strap showing when I was young was a big deal. Younger women are all very relaxed about those things. They shouldn't agonize about their body shape or what their hair is like.
I am better off than my mom was in some ways more relaxed, and I hope my daughter will be even more advanced in her thinking. I know there are pressures on guys too, but not like on women."
"If I could give advice to younger women today, I would say, 'Please put it in perspective (whatever the problem is). Ten years from now, it won't matter. Don't be afraid to try things. It's good to scare yourself now and again. Getting into a rut and not stepping out of the daily 'safe zone' is easy.' I won't say, 'You can do anything,' but I would say, 'You are capable of much more. You need to know your worth. Take smart risks.'"
"The best part of being my age is watching our children turn into great young adults. They are good people. We contributed to that, and seeing it is satisfying. It’s what you hope for your entire life with them."
"The worst part is that you start thinking about how much time you have left. You wonder how long your health will last so that you can do things like travelling. When I think about all the people I know in their seventies and how many of them can do what they want once they get into their eighties, things can start going downhill quickly. There are certain places I want to go to, and I want to make sure I get there."
"If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to worry less about having a clean house and material things. I would worry less about that and spend more time with friends and family. I tell my kids, ‘You have only one life; if you want to do something, do it now.’ I wish my younger self had done more things and worried less about things that don’t matter so much. With age comes wisdom and perspective. Younger people worry too much about what other people think. I wish I had travelled more. I was always the caregiver, so I didn’t. I would tell myself to care for myself, not just others. I cared for my brother after my dad died, and then I had daycare kids, and then I had my own kids."
"When I was young, I thought fifty was old. I remember my dad's friend turning fifty and my parents having a birthday party at our house for him, and I remember someone asking me if I thought he was old, and I said, 'Yes, he is half a century, he's old.' He was gray; he had gray hair; he was old to me. I was probably thirteen years old. Now I think old is eighty, eighty-five."
"When I look at old photographs of myself, I think of my mom, to be honest - especially the one for this project. I think it must have been a photographer who took the photo; my mom must have been there in the background. There is a lot of joy in that picture. My mom would have done my hair. I like it, and it's just so happy. I like my hair in this picture. And I remember that dress; I had worn it many times with the little scarf built into it. It was in England."
"My experience of being forty-nine is different than my mom's because I have a supportive partner to help me through. Having some girlfriends that can help you with what you are going through is important too. I don't know if my mom had that. Having a good doctor. I think the blame on menopause used in relationships isn't fair. I don't know if there was as much information back then. I believe educated women would understand, and maybe educated men as well. You have to understand what your body is going through."
"As I have gotten older, I have gotten more patient. I have gotten smarter in some ways. In my career, I have gotten way more settled and confident. My social life has gotten so much smaller, maybe it's Covid related, or maybe it's age-related. Both of my kids were really into sports, so there was a lot of socializing that way. There were more parties when I was younger. When I do get together now, I am more comfortable than ever. I am more comfortable in my skin."
"Women may lose their power sooner as they age compared to men. Men are afforded a certain respect longer. Why? I think it's culturally ingrained. It's still the power imbalance between men and women. Women are seen as less competent, weaker, and less intelligent. Out in the world, I come across as more verbal, stronger, and more competent."
"If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to use sunscreen and take better care of my skin. I would say 'Do NOT fret about being fat. Do NOT do ridiculous fad diets. Just be active, try to eat healthily, and don't compromise. Do what you want to do.'"
“At first, I didn’t like the idea of aging, but now I realize it is inevitable, and who cares? I work with people, women in my industry, who are in their sixties and seventies and are very busy and active. So I think there are more options for people as they get older. There are many different things we can do as we age now. There are more opportunities to work flexibly or part-time. I think the pandemic helped with that. I feel okay about it now. When you have kids, especially teenagers, you don’t have so much time to think about yourself and be preoccupied with trivial things.”
“I am single, and I never envisioned my life, at this age, without someone to share it with. It has been very difficult for me to come to terms with that. I feel like I have, though. Life has so much to offer. Even alone, I am fine. I don’t have everything I thought I would have at this stage, but life is still very fulfilling. It’s not about the objective or the goal but about the process.”
“I always tell myself, ‘You are the result of everything you have done, the good and the bad. It makes you resilient, and you are who you are because of that.' I learned a lot from the stupid things I did. I don’t really have regrets and don’t hold the stupid things against myself anymore. I wasn’t very good to my mother as a teenager, but one can’t hang on to regrets; I had to accept and own those mistakes and learn from them. Regrets just weigh you down. So now, life is good because of that. Learning about yourself takes a while. I don’t know if it takes women longer. I think men seem to be more carefree.”
"How old do I feel in my head? In some situations, I feel fifty-four. I have some experience, and I have some perspective, and I have figured a few things out. In other situations, I feel like I am twenty-eight. Not in a naive way, but in that, I feel excited about what could happen, what life could bring. I am noticing the incongruity between how I look on the outside and my actual age. People sometimes tell me I look a lot younger than my numbered age. What does it actually mean? It's intended as a compliment. I think I feel most of the time I feel fifty-four. There are times when I have interactions when I feel twenty-one. It might be something I might not have experienced since I was twenty-one. I didn't expect to be in this position - not in a marriage - at this point in my life. Putting myself in certain situations where I am doing something alone for the first time or having new experiences interacting in the world - intentionally - it's also exciting - I don't know that I feel young doing it - but I feel excited doing it. I don't know why I am equating youth with excitement. New experiences - that spark of new experiences, novelty, challenge."
"I think people sometimes don't notice or consider the vitality of older women. Women are often considered to know nothing or should have their shit together. I don't think people see women as nuanced. I don't think we are considered complex, especially by younger people. Women aren't seen through that lens, particularly by younger people."