I was sitting outside at a pool party chatting with a woman from Switzerland — soft-spoken, impassioned, about 80. Her husband of 50 years, she explained to me, had died seven years before. She’d played a very traditional “wife” role for five decades, but when he died, she had to learn to live independently. She had to learn the practical things, like how to manage finances. She had to learn the harder things, like who in the world she was, if she wasn’t busy being a wife.

She told me she wanted to develop courses and teach other widows to grieve and heal. I thought to myself, “I’m so proud of her for still dreaming, still creating, still listening inward to her desires.” Then she said, “But there’s no way I can do that. I’m too old. Who would want to come and see an old lady like me?” She made a gesture with her hand – as if shooing away the possibility.

If you had asked me a few years ago, I’d have told you that “I’m too old” was something no one worried about anymore. I thought that with all the news stories about how we live longer than ever, with all the Oprah shows about ninety year-old body builders and activists, with all the “I can do it!” notions in our culture, that, “I”m too old” would have edged its way out of our speech.

But in passing elevator chats or longer dinner party conversations or all the time in my work, I hear women say it, again and again. They aren’t saying: “I’m too tired, too frail.” They are saying, “It would be inappropriate. I will be laughed at. No one would buy it, show up for it, support it.”

Sometimes I think they are testing me, because they usually look down as they say that – but then their eyes dash up to mine, as if to ask: do you agree?

I don’t. I don’t think you are ever too old, but I certainly understand why you’d end up feeling that way.

The people who keep telling you you are too old are terribly afraid of your power — your courage, your grit and your light. They know that grandmothers, unbridled, shake things up.

I speak not just for myself but for all of us younger women, when I say, your visibility heals us. You, speaking up, being visible, doing your activism or your writing or your art or whatever it is – you heal us from the crazy images of women we see on every billboard and magazine cover and advertisement. You remind us of who we really are. You remind us of what it is really about. Your visibility grows us into bolder, freer women — happier women too. And we know your presence doesn’t only empower us, it heals every soul on this planet.

We want you to speak up.

Love,

Tara

Is there an older woman in your life with whom you want to share this message? Please pass it on to her.

ps. Special thanks to Paola Gianturco and her book Grandmother Power (great holiday gift, btw) for enriching my understanding of this topic.

Join the discussion 43 Comments

  • I enjoyed your post, and I agree. I do believe there is a lot of age discrimination.

  • To your point (which I love!), Tara, check out legendary businesswoman & grand dame of eclectic style, Iris Apfel, who at 91 is still sporting her bagel-round spectacles & rocking the fashion & business worlds.
    https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&tbo=d&noj=1&gbv=2&biw=1280&bih=694&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=iris+apfel+images&oq=iris+apfel+images&gs_l=img.12..0i24.10488.14958.0.16225.13.11.0.2.2.0.43.405.11.11.0…0.0…1c.1.KuN3KAN1t54

  • paola gianturco says:

    As I was reading this, I reflected on the heroic activist grandmothers whom I interviewed all over the world who are bringing electricity to their villages, fighting for justice, halting the practice of FGM, and more. Insurgent grandmothers—a worldwide movement of them—are rising up against the status quo because our troubled world is just not good enough for their beloved grandchildren. How rewarding to discover that their stories inspired your blog today, Tara! (PS: “Grandmother Power, A Global Phenomenon” really does make a great holiday gift for grandmothers—and for grandOthers who are interested in international women’s issues.)

  • I guess I am getting to be an older woman, age 63, but I have so many dreams that I have to live to be 200 to get it all done. I never did the wife thing, although I’m married. I’ve never been traditional. The first day MS Magazine hit the newsstands, I subscribed. Everyone sets their own limitations, including myself. It’s our job to push through, and dream big!

  • You are never too old…My mother graduated from college at the age of 65. She had spent the previous 45 years being a wife and mother to 6 children. Since raising her children she has travelled the world, travelled the country in a VW van, and done more amazing things than I can hope to achieve. She is my inspiration that you are never too old!

  • Nancy says:

    Thank you for the gift of your inspiring post! You have given me new eyes through which to see my own aging process as I marked turning 50 this year and also am about to celebrate my first baby – my beautiful, strong, amazing daughter – turning 21 next month. I am always looking for my own role models in women who have gone before me, but aside from being a model for my daughter since the day she was born, I hadn’t seen myself going forward as a role model in the way you describe. Truly, I have found that, overall, the trajectory of life so far has been to keep getting better!

  • Sheaupyng J Hs says:

    I am almost half century old, yet, I still feel the craving to live up the Abundant life promised for my in Jesus Christ. When I look back and reflect on my past life, there are so many twist and turns I wish they didn’t happen; to make a long story short, I am an immigrant from a dysfunctional family in Taiwan, and ended up now a single mom with two teen-girls; sometimes I feel the calling to write out my Taiwanese version of Joy Club, maybe I can some how used by God to minister or make in pact in the lives He connects me to. This article inspired me, Maybe it’s time to be have a serious talk with my Abba Daddy about what He wants me to do with my life story. Anyway, thank you so much for being such an inspiration. Take care and God Bless!

  • uzma says:

    Very true and powerful. We all desire to be ‘seen’, and yet don’t really ‘see’ ourselves. We’re afraid of the world laughing and we’re afraid of owning our greatness. Thank you for the encouragement and powerful words !! God bless

  • Ainhoa says:

    Yes you’re right.
    Visibility heals us, as It is easier to face our fears than run away from them.love

  • […] really liked Tara Mohr’s article on this topic today. Inspiring to anyone who has ever felt like trying something new, but stopped […]

  • Kim says:

    Love this Tara! I had the pleasure of meeting a wise woman the other day. She is 73 and an amazing artist. She told me she is getting “Older & Bolder” and “Whiter & Wider”, then she just hooted with laughter. It made my heart sing! You are right that old, wiser women who live their truth do inspire us. Someone said to me lately when she heard about me taking the Playing Big course she was surprised. She continued to say that she was surprised at my age (53 ๐Ÿ˜‰ that I still wanted to take courses and learn more. When she saw the “look” on my face she rallied with… not that you’re old or anything like that. LOL that remark still makes me chuckle. I hope at 93 someone says that to me again.

  • mary englert says:

    Is there a way to connect with the 80 year old Swiss lady that lost her husband of 50 years? I am having a hard time having lost my husband and would so like to hear what she has to say. I have found that grief itself can age you tremendously. I will be 70 on the 29th of Nov. but never have felt old before losing my Kurt. Grief and loss are part of life but people like me need help transitioning through it. Thanks for your wonderful work, Mary

  • Cyndia Montgomery says:

    As I’ve made my journey through menopause the last few years, I’ve shed so many of the skins that have held me back. Fear, doubt, indecision, more fear. I’m working on a plan for a new career now; one that embraces my talents and my joys. I occasionally feel those negative thoughts nibbling at me and have to make a conscious decision to shut them out. It’s not easy.

  • […] This post was inspired by this post this morning by the beautiful Tara Sophia Mohr. Tara gently opens so many conversations we need to […]

  • Bronwyn says:

    Thank you so much for this beautiful and important post, it had me in (good) tears. These conversations between women at different stages of life are SO important, and strangely rare in our culture. For some reason I have been hesitant to speak openly and frankly (on my blog and elsewhere) about my very powerful experiences of midlife transformation. I’m afraid of alienating younger women. You reminded me how important it is to voice our experiences for each other, even through our fear. So I wrote this post: http://www.theartfullifeblog.com/what-if-we-shared-the-truth-about-midlife/ Thank you for inspiring my courage! I also wanted to say, if there is any way to communicate with that amazing woman at the party – the work she imagines is so needed! I have watched friends struggle alone with being widowed. It’s a place where we are silent and unhelpful. Yes indeed such work is needed. Thank you Tara.

  • MYSTICMAMMA says:

    “your visibility heals us”
    here here! aho! yes! specially ” The people who keep telling you you are too old are terribly afraid of your power — your courage, your grit and your light.” You are right on!
    Thank you for this beautiful insight Tara! You rock! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Niamh says:

    Reading this article, I could have shouted out, “Yes, yes, yes!!!” Your visibility really does and will heal us. I want to live in a world with far greater visibility of older women. I feel a world where the voice of older women is strong and powerful would transform the world not just for young women but also for young men. Please use your voices.

  • Martina says:

    Dear Tara;

    Thank you so much for posting this letter today. This subject has been very much on my mind as I progress towards my new box, “50 – 55”.
    For a while now I have noticed myself becoming more and more invisible – which is strange, since I am not the kind of person that just slinks into the background.
    We have so few older female role models, but I am happy to say, there is change in the air!
    Please have a look at Arie Seth Cohen’s blog, Advanced Style. The book and the documentary are coming out soon. I cannot tell you how special all of these women have become to me!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWKTfqivbRQ

    Truly inspiring.. Martina

  • Doretta says:

    Thanks for this post. I have had thoughts like this, but I push pass them. I have too many dreams to accomplish. On days where I am a bit tired…the thought come up and I thank it fir sharing and keep moving. I love your work Tara. Thanks.

  • Cheryl SD says:

    Thank you for posting this! I need to hear this again and again. I’m 61 now and I am realizing that my time in the corporate world will be coming to an end in a few years. I hope it will end only when I am ready to transition into something a little slower paced. It seems like I’m starting to feel “older” and wonder sometimes where I will fit into things when I’m no longer a corporate employee. I feel like there is a lot of wisdom that comes with years and years of experience – wisdom that I would like to share in some way. I like the idea of “Grandmother Power” and the term “older and bolder” expressed in one of the other responses. Thank you for sharing that younger women in their 30s and 40s – those entering their “prime” years – are interested in what we grandmothers have to say and share. My corporate job is in the fashion industry where the star customer is in the 18-29 age range. That’s even younger than my daughter! I think the general focus of advertising toward a population so much younger than myself has somewhat altered my view of myself. I don’t pay a lot of attention to advertising, but it is there before us in so many places. So thank you for sharing, helping me to revive the hope and dreams within myself. I have a couple of friends close to 10 years older than me who are active and vibrant, starting new businesses, sharing their love and light with the world. I use them and my much-loved, now deceased, step-mother who was so active well into her 80s, as role models of how I want to live my life. I just need to remember to look within myself and at those I want to emulate, rather than the pictures and ads of the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you again!

  • Doretta says:

    I want to add something else. I took a professional photo of myself today. I debated with the photographer over sit brushing areas of my face. I decided to show my best self…naturally. Anything else would feel phony. It is easy to feel old in this era we live in. But we need only go with our gut.Then we ,at least I arrive at a place of being alright with myself and my journey. Lines and all ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Tia says:

    Incredible, inspiring post. Even at the age of 57, I have my doubts about doing and especially starting anything new. I usually say to myself, “if I just would have done it sooner-when I was younger, etc.” Reading your post reminded me that I do have power from a lifetime of lessons learned and it’s called, wisdom. I can definitely still shake it up and I think I’ll start to do just that with a few great ideas I’ve had lately.

    Again Tara, thanks. I love your blog. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    Blessings to you and yours.

  • As an “unbridled grandmother” I want to say “Yes” and thank you for the reminder.

  • Susan says:

    My mother was 80 when she got her first computer. From that day until shortly before her death at 96 she was online every day keeping up with what was going on in the world.

    I use her as my example. At 60, I taught myself wordpress. I’ve since built three websites for myself and am currently building a huge one for the non-profit where I work. I’m also about to launch a whole new career as an online entrepreneur. Other people my age are counting the days until retirement while I’m too excited to sit still. Too old? Never!

  • Anna says:

    It sees like we all feel either too old or too young. The perfect age must last about 3 days!

  • Tina says:

    A million thanks to you for this beautiful post, Tara! This past year, I turned 50. I cannot ever remember a time in my life I have felt happier, more creative, in tune to myself or productive. This year, I launched a blog, began podcasting and writing my second book (after a six-year writing/creativity hiatus). Your sage words are added fuel to my spark. ๐Ÿ™‚ Joy, peace and thanks to you for saying what needed to be said!

  • Gina Lee says:

    Love this! Thank you Tara.

  • When I turned 40 I gave up high heels. At 50 I put them back on.

  • YES! As my birthday approaches, I see that I’ve been letting fear of aging create ageist thoughts. I wondered if I’d have time to be the kind of successful ceramic artist I want to be, that, yes, I might be too old. BUT THANKS to your writing and all these great comments, I know that I am not too old at 57! I am still learning, growing and creating!

  • This post sang to me! The “I’m too old” belief seems embedded in my brain tissue and I’m not near 80! Thank you for this gift.

  • Kaye says:

    Thanks Tara! You rock girlfriend ; )

  • Katie says:

    I am constantly reminding myself that I am NOT too old, just because others tactfully tell me I am. I always think of my father, a professor, who when his 40 or 50 or 60 year old graduates would come to him and say “I want to do X, but I’ll be so old by the time I finish/qualify/whatever” would always say “And how old will you be if you don’t do it?”

    But to the point of the woman at the pool party: Who else COULD do it? Older widows aren’t going to participate with some young girl leading who couldn’t possibly understand what it is to be in that position (whether or not that’s true doesn’t matter), and she can eventually spin off a group focused on the young widows, who have problems that are so different and yet so much the same. If you see her again, tell her.

  • Mary Montanye says:

    Tara, you got right to the heart of my fears with this one. People have been telling me I’m too old for some time now (I’m 63), but you know what the saddest thing is? Those who have been saying that are my peers, my women friends who are my age or just a few years older. They tell me to “give it up, act my age, enjoy my “retirement.” I guess I have to go to the young women, like you, for encouragement, because I’m not getting it from the women I know! Thank you, Dear One.

  • kat says:

    I echo the commenter who observed that there is still age discrimination in our world. I experience it with women in particular.

    I love that you say “The people who keep telling you you are too old are terribly afraid of your power -“. And it seems that women fear it most (at least in my experience).

    I just took a fall which has left me somewhat disabled (maybe permanently, maybe not, says the doctor). The first thing I was told by a younger woman was that I should go on disability. It’s clear she has no idea what that truly means – going into near destitution financially, and giving up almost all control over your own life. I am still quite capable of working, and I refuse to be put out to pasture so that someone doesn’t have to see that I am keepin’ on keepin’ on despite a challenge to my physical way of being. I have not asked for any help from her or anyone else, and don’t expect to be treated differently due to any lack of range of motion in one arm. I am extremely adaptable, and I can figure things out on my own. If it takes a little longer time-wise than someone might like, then I view that as a sign they are overly rushed anyway, and perhaps they need a good, deep breath, and a little slowing down before they injure themselves as I did.

    60 is not old, nor is 70 or even 80 – thanks for championing this belief, Tara!

  • Angie CunninghaM says:

    Thank you Tara, for always writing what is in my heart at the time. I just turned 51 and there are days i feel all of that 51 but most others I look in the mirror and think how fast time flies and I don’t feel 51 nor think I am 51 really. I want to do the same as that beautiful woman you wrote about, reach out, write to women who at their midlife find themselves alone, independent, wanting to make a difference, make a mark in their life. But we wonder like that woman who would care or listen or feel different from what we have to offer. Thank you Tara, you are always an inspiration to me.
    Angie Cunningham

  • Angie CunninghaM says:

    Amen to you! Keep on keepin on, life is short, live it however you wish to its fullest!! Angie Cunningham

  • Tara Leaver says:

    How funny and sad at the same time; I’ve been waiting years to feel old enough to do the things I want to do! It always felt like I was too young to know enough, be enough, or to have enough to give. One thing you have less of the younger you are is experience; I would be glad to learn the wisdom of decades of experience of life and love and everything else. A young person could not teach that.

  • Kat Gordon says:

    Abso-f***-ing-lutely!

    Love this. I am reading this just after leaving a Tedx Women event in SF where the final speaker was Angeles Arrien, a Ph.D. in her seventies whose opening words on the stage were “I’m the old dog here today.” Well, let me tell you, that old dog held us in her grip with all her hard-won wisdom and story-telling.

  • Sara says:

    Me too. I love the blog Tara. I retired from my job this week in order to move on to new areas of work. Most of my women friends are saying “now you can take it easy” “why dont you just do some classes, spend more time at home?” This morning I woke up and noticed some of my very old belongings on the mantelpiece. The age idea has so got to me that I found myself thinking “I better start getting rid of stuff, stop buying new things, no point in collecting more items, pretending to be young as if I have for ever” It’s insidious, this age thing. I agree there are some young people who value the wisdom of older women, but I cant help feeling there is also a more sneaky thing going on: young women enjoying their power and, fearing age, feeling superior to older women, wanting to edge us out! But there’s room for all of us. Please let’s forget the world old and replace it with “mature”. After all everyone wants to buy a house with a mature garden, where old means something to be valued.

  • Irene says:

    You go girl! Seriously, Tara – I love this post. I want to be like those women – I can’t imagine not creating something. Sometimes I want to just coast but it doesn’t last for long and then I need to get busy. I’m 53 now and I take dance lessons – Tap, Jazz at a real dance school and dance in the end of the year show with the other sexy mamas. I stopped for awhile because I felt self conscious – no more.

    I love your line about seeing older women being bold counteracts all that we see on bill boards – so true. And there’s this freedom that comes with age – we don’t feel the need to color in the lines so much – it’s freeing.

  • Nneka says:

    I remembered the time when I was interviewed by a potential employer. The line that made him thought of giving me a chance despite having no experience was this “One’s natural ability can’t be determined by experience nor age”

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