By Susan Rothfuss
It was my 50th birthday. As a long-standing member of the Baby Boom generation, I had already lived through “Trust no one over 30,” received the “Over the Hill” coffee mug at 40 and now I was stepping through my step class at 8:00 a.m. before heading to work at my own company. I remember this twenty years later because one of the other class members was a 70 year old woman who was able to make it through our one hour class with apparent ease. As I huffed and puffed in amazement that I had lived 50 years there she was at 70 moving with ease through life.
I remember telling myself, “I want to be able to move at that age like she does.” She was truly a role model. It seemed like the next thing I knew I was facing retirement.
The Gift from our Mothers
If you were born female between 1945 or 46 and 1964 you are a Baby Boomer woman and that makes you a member of a generation of women who are the most active, invested, demanding, skilled, talented and entitled-to-live-life-on-your-terms. We are standing on our mother’s, grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s shoulders – they got us the right to vote and went to work in the factories during WWII. We were born in the “sweet spot” of the Baby Boom. And now we are retirement age.The Women’s Movement brought female baby boomers so many gifts. The Women’s Movement itself was, arguably, the most important one for our generation. Suddenly young women could imagine professional careers beyond nursing and teaching. Women who were born in the middle or tail end of the Baby Boom generation always knew engineering, medical and legal professions were possible career options. Those of us born in the first few years were not quite that lucky. We were the ones blazing the trail for those who followed along. But whenever you were born as a Boomer, you learned to upgrade your ideas of what was possible. You might have had to “kick down” a few barriers. It was our job to overlook men and women who didn’t welcome the Women’s Movement. Some of us had to overcome our own ingrained beliefs about what a woman was capable of doing. To do those things we had to think outside the box from High School through retirement.
Outside the Box
That skill of thinking outside the box may well be the best tool in your toolbox to remain relevant after your 50th or 60th or 70th birthday! It is even more important to not let the box define you after retirement. American female Baby Boomers can still be anything they want. This is truly a time when the quote, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it!” is true.
If you are new to the age of 50 now is the time to think about what you want once you reach retirement age. Preparation is an important step to maintaining your relevance in your community, and your life. By this age, you know who you are. But are you the person you want to become?
Learner or Knower
Becoming is an important part of staying relevant. An important part of becoming is determining whether you are a learner or a knower. Which are you? Knowers know a lot. In fact, they believe they know so much they aren’t likely to learn new things. They believe they have learned what they need to know so leaning is not their goal.
Learners, on the other hand, know there is always something new to learn. They remain curious throughout their lives. Because they are curious they remain interested. Women learners may be deeply interested in one or two things. On the other hand, some women are interested in a myriad of things. Either way, you don’t want to stop learning. Your interest in learning makes you a more interesting woman. Retirement offers women a playground. We simply need to decide which new interest we will choose.
If you want to remain a relevant woman to those around you humor is one of those things that intersects with all age groups. If you have been a very serious person all your life, you might surprise people who have known you for years by lightening up the conversation now and then. Your grandchildren or your friend’s grandchildren can offer plenty of material. But don’t work too hard at it. If it doesn’t come easily to you, simply enjoy someone else’s story. That can endear you to them pretty quickly.
What Do You Want to Become?
My “retirement” came a few years earlier than I expected in 2010. I have spent most of my life encouraging others. That was never my paid job, it was simply my natural inclination. If return “customers” offer a clue to success, I have a boatload. As I said, I never earned my living with my advice or encouragement. That changed when I retired.
It took 18 months to begin to recover from making a choice to close my business of 20 years. My long-time partner had retired a few years before and the economy and circumstances led me to decide it was time to dissolve the corporation. When I did, I immediately applied for a DBA (Doing Business As) license as a life coach. At the same time I began to write Breathe Into Wisdom It’s There, It’s Yours, Use It.
Little did I know that the book would turn into part memoir, part life-class and actually be published. I share this with you because I became an author. Something I had always thought might be interesting, but very unlikely. That book has led to speaking engagements and helped my fledgling life coaching business, You see a lot can happen to female baby boomers over the age of 50,60 and yes, even 70.
With all of that said, what keeps me feeling relevant today? Taking action is key to my feeling relevant. As teens and twenty-somethings Baby Boomer women were always on the cutting edge – marching to Stop the War, involved in Student Strikes, and sometimes even joined their mothers in the Women’s Movement to burn their bras (though many of us put them back on!), marched for a woman’s right to have control over her own body. We marched for Civil Rights and Voting Rights. We were the first generation of women to demand and win financial independence from our husbands where credit card companies and banks were concerned.
Women never lose the fire in their bellies to right injustice when it rears its ugly head. If you are not feeling relevant – pick up the phone and volunteer to help with the election. Whatever your political leanings get active and help get out the vote.
Find a Good Life Balance
A little more that two years after I closed my business, my husband and I moved closer to our daughter and her family. That move brought us to mid-Michigan. I had lived in Lansing, the state capitol, many years before and loved the combination of the action of state government, the array of cultural opportunities on the Michigan State University campus and the warm mid-western quality of life. Those three elements of being a Baby Boomer woman today allow me to demonstrate with other Baby Boomer Women, and a few good men, on the State Capitol steps when I feel called to action. I attend faculty concerts with amazingly talented faculty and guests through the music department at the university. The warm Midwestern welcome I received when we arrived in central Michigan was shown through the offer of invitations to have book readings in brand new friends’ homes!
Balancing life learning, political action, offering my life coaching experience and keeping physically active at my local YMCA pool are all part of the balancing act this 70 year old Baby Boomer uses to remain relevant. My wonderful husband, who is part of the generation preceding the Baby Boom, appreciates all of the ways I keep reinventing my daily life in retirement. He has no interest in participating in my myriad of activities but supports me in all of them.
The importance of that previous sentence is huge. It doesn’t matter whether you are a single woman, married, widowed or divorced. Your marital status doesn’t affect your ability to remain relevant. Your attitude is the most important thing in how relevant you feel you are.
If you believe you have something to offer – you will have something to offer. If you believe your life experience and work experience have real value, you will find new ways to offer them.
Henry Ford was right when he said, “Whether you believe you can, or you can’t. You’re right!”
Just Do It!
This week I have four great volunteer opportunities. All I did was listen. Here is a sample:
Volunteer at the local school “clothes closet” – children arrive every day at the school with dirty clothes. Some are homeless or in economically challenged homes. You name it, someone is going to need it in the next few weeks. Organizing a closet, collecting clothes, raising money to buy things when they are on sale. Those are skills most women already have!
Get Out The Vote – can you make a phone call? You can help. Can you walk and talk? You can help.
Concert Across America – This was a local concert in support of gun violence prevention. Sixty volunteers made this concert happen. Forty local musicians and dancers volunteered to perform and another 20 volunteers did everything from serving on an Executive Board of the sponsoring organization to serving cookies and cider to guests at the intermission.
Three things happen when we volunteer – we meet new people, we help make good things happen and we make ourselves relevant by being present.
It’s up to you to define what interests you, what makes you feel impassioned. Then it’s up to you to turn off the TV, stop looking at Facebook and grab your cell phone. Google what interests you. Read about it. Find out who is doing something to make the situation better. Then call and ask how you can help. It may take a few tries. You may have to be persistent. But once you find a good way to help, you’ve just taken your next step toward remaining relevant as a member of the Female Baby Boomer Generation. Congratulations!
For Susan, loving people has been a life-long passion. Along the way she has feasted on many of life’s joys and experienced life’s sorrows. She has been married, divorced, a single mom, a professional Girl Scout, worked for a Fortune 50 corporation, owned her own business for 20 years and now enjoys life-coaching. She lives in mid-Michigan with her wonderful husband of 32 years. In Susan’s book Breathe Into Wisdom It’s There … It’s Yours … Use It! she shares her life stories along with the life lessons she learned from them. Learn more at SKRCoaching.com.