The New Longevity (Part 1): Gender Roles and Work

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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.

Female Reverse Mortgage Clients

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.

 

3 comments

Bernadette Collins February 18, 2014 at 7:27 am

Spot on! You’ve hit on the salient facts and it’s written as if I wrote it. I remember at 40, my boss shouting across the room when I asked a question, “your problem is that menopause thing!!”. Nowadays it’s the younger employees sneaking out for drinks so the older folks don’t find out! And as a salesperson, praying that they won’t bust out in fits of laughter when I leave, after I’ve worked so hard at a great presentation – what they probably see is this over 60 year old woman – their mother – wanting to work with them as partners. Yet, my husband of the same age finds himself with a growing following in his mortgage business again.

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Amara Rose February 18, 2014 at 10:57 am

Hi Bernadette ~

I’m glad the piece resonates with you, though sorry it’s from direct experience! We’re the generation that’s breaking the mold and turning aging perceptions on their ear, however. Sixty is sexy (think Suzanne Somers, still a bombshell at 67).

It’s up to the Boomers to educate the younger set about just how enlivening (and enlightening) the later years can be — and how your accumulated wisdom might help them, if they will slow down long enough to listen.

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