March is Women’s History Month! With women aged 60 and over now outnumbering men by over 7 million in the U.S., aging is truly a women’s issue.
It is also more important than ever to understand that historically women are still at a disadvantage as they age. For a very long time, they are more likely to take a step back from work to raise children, and when returning to work they often earn less than men for the same job. They are highly concentrated in low-wage work while also living longer than men. The cumulative disadvantages a woman faces over a lifetime can compound, forcing far too many into poverty and/or health insecurity in their later years.
Women’s History Month traditionally gives us the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women to our history, culture, and contemporary society, according to the National Council on Aging. It can also serve to highlight the impact of women on America’s social and economic well-being. This month we can also reflect on how much there is to still address as we try to keep pace with the evolving needs of many generations of women.
The National Council on Aging has outlined these important challenges facing senior women today.
1. There are more older women than older men with older women have lower incomes and higher rates of poverty than men.
2. Older women have lower median incomes than men ($20,431 vs $34,267). Older women are more likely to live in poverty than men as a result of wage discrimination and having to take time out of the workforce for caregiving.
3. Older women are more likely to live alone increasing the risk of social isolation. About 28% of older adults lived alone and women were nearly twice as likely to live alone. As women age, their chances of living alone increase:
– 26% of older women age 65-74 live alone.
– 39% of older women age 75-84 live alone.
– 55% of older women age 85 and older live alone.
Additionally, older women tend to report higher levels of social isolation and experience worse health outcomes as a result of ageism. These struggles frequently go unnoticed. Thus, improved social awareness and stronger legal protections of older women’s human and labor rights are critical to ensure that all older adults can live richer, fuller, meaningful and longer lives.
As we begin this month, it is important to focus on women’s history and contribution but it remains equally important to challenge current cultural problems like sexism and ageism. Women’s history month should take this time to think about how the empowerment of women and promotion of gender equality in health and well-being will not only benefit women, but societies at large.
Here are a few small ways to improve our own feelings about being older women and making sure those around us share in this mission. We feel that we also reinforce these improvements at the Brookhouse Home for Women.
- Make Strong Social Bonds. Meaningful personal connections ground us and boost our confidence
- Practice Good Personal Hygiene
- Avoid Negative Stereotypes That Can Impact Self-Esteem
- Eat Healthy and Stay Active
- Practice Independence Whenever Possible