In her review of Women and Aging: An International, Intersectional Power Perspective, Carol A. Gosselink notes our sexist, ageist culture, but indicats the need to consider the intersections of gender and age with economics, politics, race/ethnicity, religion, and so forth. Gosselink goes on to point out how these intersections “produce privilege and power differentials that disadvantage women in their later years compared with younger women and men of all ages” (para. 1). So, what does successful aging, defined as satisfaction with past and present life (Bowling & Dieppe, 2005), look like for women compared to men?
Gosselink discusses how Women and Aging highlights the variety in the aging experiences of women, while “offering insights and strategies for empowering women” (para. 1). The review notes that it is not certain to what extent and which women are empowered to live satisfactory lives as they age. For example, older women with inherited wealth, pension income, or sufficient earnings during their working lives as well as low health burdens are able to avoid poverty. Ethnic minority women, whose beauty is marginalized by society in youth, may be more likely than majority women to be perceived as undesirable as they age. Are the generation of women who have fought for control of their reproductive lives, as well as the freedom to explore their sexuality, as empowered to and applauded for maintaining vibrant sex lives as their male counterparts? Does a woman hide her age and continue with the life desired, pursue the employment options set aside for aging women, or gracefully take on the traditional grandmother, caregiver, and nurturer roles that society expects?
What strategies, interventions, and supports are available to increase the likelihood that women are able to live the lives that they desire as opposed to the lives society grants them as they age? How might changes in societal attitudes and perspectives provide important options beyond medical interventions to improve appearance and repair those parts and aspects of women’s bodies deemed ugly and dysfunctional by virtue of aging?
Bowling, A., & Dieppe, P. (2005). What is successful ageing and who should define it? BMJ : British Medical Journal, 331, 1548–1551.
Read the Review