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The good news is we’re living longer, healthier lives than ever before. Sixty-year-olds smirk at the idea that they’re approaching “old”, or getting ready to retire.
But some disparities take longer to redress. Gender distinctions in the workplace, for instance. While women have long earned less than men for comparable work, senior women experience sexism just as much, if not more, as their youthful counterparts — and a longer lifespan doesn’t appear likely to balance this equation.
When women drop out of the workforce to raise children — or to care for aging parents — they get “locked into a lower pay grade for the rest of their lives,” according to a new article in Slate magazine. The wealth gap is greatest among people older than 65: “11 percent of those women are living in poverty, compared to 6.6 percent of men.”
In fact, notes the article, in a bizarre twisting of the knife, today’s mature women are required to look as “hot” as they did decades before. Boomers with bucks comply by keeping personal trainers and purveyors of botox, bioidentical hormones, hair dye and cosmetic dentistry flush with new business. Women at lower socioeconomic strata, however, are priced out of the youth market.
Contrast this bleak picture with the experience of a man who was invited, by the manager of his town’s Nordstrom department store, to become the store’s greeter — when he was 86. He’s just celebrated his hundredth birthday, and is still working at the job he accepted fourteen years ago. The happy employee says he will “keep on working until I can’t work anymore.” How welcome, indeed, it is to have this option.
What does this blatant gender gap mean for reverse mortgage professionals? The older women you meet with may be despairing in ways their husbands (or younger female reverse mortgage clients) have not experienced, which can also affect their demeanor.
And even if they’re resolutely cheerful, the lack of financial opportunities earlier in their work lives may have affected older senior women’s outlook as well as their nest egg. Recognizing their unpaid and probably unheralded contributions as mothers and caregivers won’t make up for the money they didn’t earn earlier in life, but it will bestow an invaluable measure of honor on their lives, which will be treasured in the vault of the heart.