Hi everyone

I need your help.  I’m meeting a journalist quite soon who will interview me for a book about older women and the wisdom they’ve gained, possibly called ‘Older and Wiser’ (the title could change, of course, as it’s early days).

Now this is very exciting and I’m humbled that she’s asking me, but the thing is, do you think people become wiser as they age?  I would say, maybe, perhaps, and possibly for reasons I’ll give below.  I mean my work as a nurse, voluntary sector worker, health and social policy researcher and freelance consultant was for a lot of the time interesting and some of the time fulfilling but there was a reason for it – I had to pay the bills. Now I’m free of that I have developed and reinvented myself as a writer and I just simply love that.  I mean this is the real me and what I really, really want to do.  But does that make me any wiser?

What is being wise anyway?

The thing is there are some theories of ageing that are the absolute antithesis of becoming wiser, such as disengagement theory where it is assumed that as you age there is an inevitable withdrawal from society and the social system within which that older person resides. That kind of makes sense if you think of the very old and frail who have lost relatives, friends and loved ones, who become isolated and are unable to participate in society as they once did.  Indeed, as one ages, I mean really ages, there is often not only a loss of motor skills, there’s also a lost sense of everyday popular cultural life.  And that can begin to manifest, dare I say it, quite early on.  It’s the closed mind, I’m speaking about.  Take politics.  I mean we all know that old myth that when we’re 17 we’re apparently very left wing but by the time we’re 70 we’re meant to be somewhere right of Genghis Khan, which hasn’t happened to me yet. In fact I’m probably more left wing than I ever was. But you often hear people saying ‘I’m not interested in politics, and yes, I am dismayed by….but no, I’m not going to think about it, at all’ and they could be any age.  Disengagement, in my view, starts early.

And I try to not get too shocked when people dismiss social media out of hand, and I don’t mean just Facebook but Instagram ( I really must get going with this) and Pinterest (actually not interested in that so much).  Or anything IT related like setting up a food delivery account; an essential in my view as you age.  ‘Oh no, I prefer to actually go shopping’ is often what people say, and I’ve led a workshop for older people on exactly that subject, so yes, I only have that very small sample as evidence plus a few other encounters.   I take a deep breath when I hear that response.  But then, I say to myself, ‘get a grip, you don’t do opera or the theatre and don’t really want to either’, so I am behaving exactly the same as that person who rejects IT related stuff and/or politics.

The thing is we are all so different.  The way I see it is that just as we were when we are young so we are as we age.  Some older people will want to party, some will want peace and quiet, some will want to garden, some will travel, some will be homebodies, some will engage in their local community, some will live abroad, some will take up new hobbies and interests, some will want to do absolutely nothing, some will dress comfortably and others will dress in sequins. We are so not one homogenous block of older people who think and age the same way.

But maybe, as we age, we have some insights and that I would accept.  My insight is that work was a blessing (and I say that because work today is a very different beast from the 60s, 70s and 80s – think the development of capitalism, neo-liberalism and all that) but it was also a burden and freeing myself up has enabled me to develop other skills.  At the age of 70 I’m having the time of my life.

One insight I do admit to, gained from my work and from personal experience, is that it is wise to prepare for your older frailer age.  I’ll write more about that at some point.  But if I live until I’m 80 (and statistically I could) my insights may be very different. What I do know is that retirement looks very different at 70 than it did when I was 60 and still working.  Why? Because I’m still working but in a different (unpaid) way!

But am I wiser?  That, I’m not so sure about.  I think, a younger person might see older women as one large group of older wiser women.  Is that the case?  Do you see ageing as the route to wisdom?  What are your thoughts on this?

Setting wisdom aside what age has brought me is a few grey hairs.

Well, no actually I think my hair might be a definite white colour and although I’ve casually mentioned it in passing, yes, I have decided to go au naturel.  But that’s not going to happen overnight.  My hair, said my hairdresser, is dyed, therefore you cannot dye it again. What he has done though is given me a white streak at the front and I shall grow it out to its natural white colour, which I think is going to be great!

white-hair-webThis growing out phase will take time, mind, well over a year.  But alongside this change in my hair colour I have decided to change my overall appearance just a little bit.  I intend to keep that slightly tanned look that I have now by using a slightly darker foundation through the winter months (which will be blended in very thoroughly, I hasten to add, with a brush).  This plus my dyed eyebrows will counter that pallor that I usually associate with white haired people.  And don’t by the way, refer me to models with beautiful grey or white hair with lovely tanned or olive complexions – they’re usually in their 40s and 50s.  I’m speaking for and talking about the pallor of the 70+ woman.  It was always the lack of colour in and around the face that kept me defying and denying my natural white hair, but I think I’ve got round this by my idea of retaining a slight tanned look with well-defined eyebrows.

There you go with age comes not wisdom but a very keen interest in my looks – but hey, why ever not!

That’s all for now but do let me know what you think about gaining wisdom as we age!

With love

Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper

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23 thoughts on “Older and wiser? And greyer? Or maybe white?

  • 18th September 2016 at 11:01 am

    I’m not sure I like the term ‘wiser’ but I certainly think that there are times when I have more perspective because I have been around longer and know that the difficult times ( and the good) pass as the tide of life goes in and out. Also learning that I cannot really control much- people places and things ( especially people!) I can control how I respond to things though. I feel free to explore more too and not worry what people may think. I am about to start a gentle ‘life list’ – not a bucket list – of things I want to do/ experience. Like a solo trip to Amsterdam to see the art galleries and museums. I think that there is a wisdom in wanting to grow but knowing my limits too – so bungee jumping will NOT be on my list!
    Have grown out my hair colour last year and enjoy seeing what emerges. The halfway part took courage to sit with! So tempting to give in and colour.

    • 20th September 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Hi Steph and thanks so much for your comment. Apologies for the delay – I’m in France on my hols! Yes, I don’t like the term ‘wise’ but I do think we can have insight into situations and thus has been gained through all the things we’ve experienced. Love your idea of a bucket list and thanks for the feedback on your hair.

  • 18th September 2016 at 11:29 am

    Older and wiser….not sure they really go together, I know many wise young people and quite a few old and ‘less than wise’. I know that I’m less irritated and annoyed by silly things than I was; when the life in front of you is shorter than the life already led you begin to realise that life is for enjoying. Does that make me wiser? Not…..as my grandchildren would say.
    I too find it amazing when people my age won’t even try technology, it has made my life so much richer. Being able to communicate with my older grandchildren is wonderful and I feel that both generations benefit.

    • 20th September 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Yes exactly I so agree with you. You don’t have to be old to be wise – age has nothing to do with it. And yes, knowledge and use of IT is so beneficial and actually it’s absolutely essential to know how to navigate your way around the net as we age. Once we cannot go out into the world (and that could happen) IT will bring the world to us – what’s not to like ? Thanks so much for your comment.

  • 18th September 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Congratulations! You are an excellent spokesperson for older women. How wise of them to have chosen you.

    Perhaps older & wiser should be: older, now know who I am & can be happy despite the barrage of misogynist messages received since birth. (i know, this would never get published)

    For me, the process of aging has been, & continues to be, getting to know what my values are, how I want to live life in our consumer & sexist society & being able to say with confidence,”I am not doing that, because I know I am comfortable choosing this.” Being older for me means that societal & peer pressures are easier to ignore. It’s important for me to be analytical & to examine the whys of how society works. The whys seldom mean to a pleasant life for women. Just think of the on going income gap, lack of societal respect & support for young women working in the home, youth culture, etc. So, if one is analytical, one can live a happy, empowered life knowing that one can work for change.

    Women are wise indeed to have figured out how to be happy in our pale, male & stale society.

    I am 65 & was able to stop my career at age 60 & now collect the pension I paid into for over 35 years. I too love my new life which consists of cycling, hiking, walking, eating real food, making art, travel, following world & local politics, fashion & looking healthy. This is what I have learned makes me happy.

    PS. So glad to have discovered both your blogs. Thank You.

    • 20th September 2016 at 1:25 pm

      Yes, it’s a challenging world with many pitfalls and while thanks must be given to those pioneer feminists because much has been gained we must always be vigilant re: the place of women in society. I think our life experiences can give us insight into many things and especially the importance of living a fulfilling life as we age. Thanks so much for your comment, Pierrette.

  • 18th September 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Hi Penny. This post is great food for thought. I don’t know if the word “wiser” is the best choice for my thinking, but I think that as we age, we can look back and learn from our mistakes and our past behavior when we were younger. We can take those errors and turn them into great advice to pass on to our younger generations. We begin to see the world differently. My vision of the world is most likely a lot different than that of the youngers. I see the world as regressing. We need love, because like George Harrison, I dig love. I do not dig intolerance nor do I dig hate and our world is filled with hate and anger and intolerance. We need to take a step back.
    We, as a people need to start taking better care of we and our older elders. Older generations paved the way for the younger and no older person should be treated poorly.
    As far as IT goes, I embrace a lot of it and I honestly think most older folks do as well. But there is an element of shallowness. Instagram and Snapchat as well as Twitter have taken the place of a great read and great journalism.
    There’s a lot going on..and I want to say more but I don’t want to sound “Wah-wa” ish!

    • 20th September 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Catherine and apologies for taking time to reply but guess where I am? Moissac, France! Just come back from a morning market – bliss! Anyway, yes I think you can learn from your life experiences about all sorts of stuff but whether it makes you ‘wise’ is another matter! And I do agree that above all we need to love one another and be tolerant of difference. Also while I agree that there is a lot wrong with social media I do think older people need IT more than they realise. My other half teaches IT to older people (as in older than us – late 70s/80s) and hus class say that most of their friends won’t or don’t want anything to do with IT. But I also know quite a few younger than me who reject IT. For instance, do you have the experience of sending an email or text to someone who phones you back? That drives me nuts! I find that very hard to understand but you know, be tolerant and all that. From my perspective to reject IT is to reject a means of communicating with the world and that’s not a healthy thing to do as you age, imho. But, I know, I know I’m not being tolerant!!!! So I’ll stop now!

  • 18th September 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Penny,
    I think we are now more realistic having learned some life lessons along the way, but I, for one, would not call myself wise, even though I am often called upon to suggest things, give advice and once or twice, settle an argument! I agree with the other comments, and, like Pierrette, being comfortable with our choices is what it’s all about. I am realistic enough to know that I will never fit into a size 10 again, but I am also comfortable with that and look the best I can in my 12 – 14s.
    This age brings so many benefits, and although there are certainly things that some of us can’t and will never do again, there’s a lot which can and does, make us happy.
    And it’s great that there are people like you who can put it all down for the world to read! Thank you!

    • 22nd September 2016 at 10:27 am

      Thanks so much for your comment, Judy and apologies for the delay in replying but I’m in France! Yes, I think as we age we have built up knowledge and experience of life, whether that makes one wise is another matter!

  • 18th September 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Penny,
    As you get older you do have a wider range of experience and perspectives to draw upon but that doesn’t necessarily mean you make positive choices or have grown “wiser”.
    Communication is always important and, as technology progresses, I think it is in our interests as older people, to keep up to date and open to possibilities as far as we can. We may not like social media – indeed we may actually fear it for all sorts of reasons (some more well founded than others I suspect) – but it is a form of communication that can keep us in touch with our families and friends and open our minds to all sorts of interesting things we may not otherwise come across. However, technology can do so many other things for us and can certainly help us to keep independence as we ultimately grow more frail. I think we dismiss it at our peril and at the cost of our future independence and well being. I don’t think IT comes in the same category as other interests at all therefore.
    In some ways older people are no different from any other group of people – we all have our character traits and personalities which is what makes us all so different and interesting. Some of us will continue to be open-minded and thirsty for new experiences and knowledge as we get to our seventies whilst others will remain closed to change or anything new.
    Keep up the good work Penny and thankyou for a fantastic blog.

    • 22nd September 2016 at 10:45 am

      Thanks so much Wendy – answering you in the Tarn & Garonne area! Yes, we are all so different and some of us will definitely want to continue exploring options and possibilities until the very end. And yes, I very much agree that the IT thing is an essential and I find it quite amazing when people reject the idea of setting up a food delivery system saying that they either prefer to go shopping or that their daughter will help them. But I carry a bit of baggage there, Wendy, as my mother was totally unprepared and it was all down to me. I’m absolutely determined to plan ahead and not rely on my daughter!

  • 18th September 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Older and wiser? Hmmm….
    Older ….. definitely but I’m not sure wiser covers it. We gain a great deal of knowledge through our lives some of it useful some of it not. We also gain a great deal of experience.
    We can use this knowledge and experience to help ourselves and others as we grow older – but does this make us ‘wise’ – the jury’s still out on that one.

    • 22nd September 2016 at 10:53 am

      Totally agree with you, Rena. Yes, there is all that life experience we have accumulated but I don’t feel particularly ‘wise’ as a result of ageing. The discussion I have with the journalist will be interesting and your comment really has helped me with that – thanks!

  • 19th September 2016 at 7:09 am

    I think wisdom and common sense have a lot in common & my dear old mum used to say ‘there’s nothing common about sense’. I haven’t found anyone who was young & foolish becoming wise with age perhaps gaining experience but still being capable of being very foolish. I think using the experience you gain & passing it on to those who ask for advice could be regarded as wisdom but it’s also possible to find a young person, often a very young person, who is ‘wise beyond their years’.

    • 22nd September 2016 at 10:55 am

      I agree, we have our life experiences and can pass this on to others but young people can also be wise. Thanks so much of your comment.

  • 19th September 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Penny, I love your blog, you are so spot on! I don’t think I am wiser, just better at finding solutions to some of life’s problems. I feel I have much to learn about life still, and have learned much from my own adult children, children in law, and younger friends. I’m (very) surprised to find that I love being my age – almost 70, not working, spending time with my husband of almost 50 years, and discovering a real love of cooking now that I have the time, and it’s not a rush job after work. I keep fit, love clothes, shoes etc, as much as I ever did. Sometimes the changing world fills me with concern, politics makes me angry mostly, but I like technology, am skilled at using it as my job required that, and keep it as a tool to use when required. I no longer shop on line now I’m not working, as we live within walking distance of shops which I don’t want to see close. After years of punishing footwear when I was younger, somehow my feet have survived unscathed, but they make it clear they prefer more comfort to height now. Not that I don’t look at windows full of pretty high heels wishing I could still trip around in them! If I had to pass anything advice-like on, it would be: eat real food, avoid sugar, care for your skin, teeth, and feet, especially feet, they have to take you a long way in life. Health is your best investment.

    • 22nd September 2016 at 11:00 am

      Hi and thank you! Yes, health is the best investment and a keen interest in life I think! As for politics it’s easy to despair but I try to put everything into a historical context and try and understand the various points of view. As for clothes and shoes, I hope to never lose my interest in them! Thanks so much for commenting.

  • 20th September 2016 at 4:15 am

    We are not elderly…we are elders…to be respected and learned from.

    • 22nd September 2016 at 11:03 am

      I agree up to a point, but I’m going to argue with the journalist that age does to necessarily bring wisdom. Yes, age brings us accumulated knowledge and experience of many more things and activities than younger people but it’s how we apply it that counts. And older people aren’t necessarily always ‘wise’. I know I’m not!!

  • 21st September 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Hi Penny – what an interesting post.

    I do believe we get wiser as we get older simply because we’ve made more mistakes and (hopefully) learnt from them! We also have years of life experience that helps give us insight into the likely consequences of certain behaviours and what outcomes can arise from certain situations.

    I do agree that some older people want to narrow their lives as they age. My own mum was an example; she decided she no longer wanted to travel anywhere outside her own little town except on very important occasions. She had no interest in learning how to use the internet despite me trying to persuade her that it would be something that would give her a lot of pleasure and also be very useful in terms of online banking etc. Yet my mum was the first person I saw use a laptop and this was when she was long retired from work and in her mid sixties! I felt very sad when I saw this self-imposed restriction of her world and hoped I wouldn’t be the same.

    I do find I’m less likely to try some new things as I get older – for example conquering my fear of driving on the other side of the road in Europe. On the other hand I have tried completely different things since retirement; blogging being one of them.

    As for white hair – go for it. I love my grey hair and can’t wait for it to go white. My hairdresser says the process of going white takes about 10 years on average – so bring it on!!

    Have a great week


    • 22nd September 2016 at 11:08 am

      Thank you so much for your comment, Veronica. Yes, we do have so much more life experience than younger people and more insight into how to deal with challenges and problems, but I would say we are not necessarily always wise. This is because (as Wendy says in her comment above) the older population is made up of people with different character traits and personalities and as we respond to life we will respond differently and sometimes not wisely!

      We’re having a great week at the moment in Moissac on the River Tarn – lovely!

  • 3rd October 2016 at 2:47 pm

    I do feel wiser now, though I wouldn’t necessarily use that word, but I think it’s to do with three things: perspective, experience, confidence. There are things I can do now I couldn’t when I was younger, like admit I’d made a mistake. And not take things too seriously. As for IT, I get frustrated when I hear women my age (late 50s) saying they are scared of technology. Social media isn’t rocket science!

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