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Workshops and resources for women over 50

About: Chris Hauri

Chris is the owner and editor of this website. Prior to this venture, Chris founded The Grand Group, a vibrant Creative Marketing agency, and worked at large and small marketing agencies in Chicago.

Posts by Chris Hauri:

It’s About Time.

What have you noticed about the passing of time these days? In my research with women as they age, the word “urgent/urgency” kept cropping up.

Jennifer at 56 said, “I feel an urgency to keep doing and staying flexible mentally, whether it’s learning something new or just letting go of stuff around the house.” Pat at 62 said, “Time is no longer unlimited. I’m ignoring some things, but know it’s urgent that I finish others.”

I remember just a few years ago, sitting in corporate meetings, no longer active in the never-ending game of who can talk the longest/most buzzwords/sound the smartest. Instead I sat there stewing about how they’re wasting my life. How I could be doing something – ANYTHING – that would contribute to society more than whatever the topic of discussion. Even if I was just surfing the net or practicing Italian.

I came across this thought-provoking article on luminosity.com from April 30 about how we perceive time.  It talks about research that’s been done, but I was most intrigued by the following paragraph.

            We experience nearly the same throughout our life. Remember, being small children, we perceived every day as a year because each day was  full of new knowledge and experiences. Adults are more familiar with the world as a whole, they do not consider it so unusual, and so they receive much less new experience. That is why the older we get, the faster the days go by. Therefore, filling our lives with new experiences, we can slow the time down.

What a great reason to travel, for lifelong learning, for going to that new Peruvian restaurant, for just talking to new people…to slow down time. I hope you’ve learned a bit, slowed down time and put the right things on your “urgent” list. And “staying flexible mentally” is one of those things, Jennifer!

http://luminosity.com/article/10042, April 30, 2014

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That 6-letter word we dread…”SENIOR”

I came face-to-face with fears of being called a “senior” recently when I was contacting local “heroes” in the Oak Park, IL area to be recognized in our “Celebrating Seniors” program. People are nominated based on their service to the community and then are chosen to be included in the “60 Over 60” events. This includes their names, photos, age, and experiences in a section in the local paper, special events, etc.

Some folks were honored to be chosen. Others horrified! They didn’t want to be associated with “Seniors”, even though a few were in their 70s.

What is it about the word “SENIOR”? It’s great when you’re 17 years old and are a senior in high school because you have the world in front of you and can rule the hallways for your last year. It’s fine when you’re getting $2 off at the movie theater. But “call” someone a “senior when they’re not psychologically prepared and you have just flung the rudest insult at them!

“Senior” is especially alienating to the new generation of active, healthy, vibrant seniors, no matter what their age. (A friend calls these “junior seniors” – a much better descriptor!) Earlier generations saw seniors being infirm, sometimes a burden on their children, wearing knee high hose – often rolled down to their ankles with an handkerchief tucked into their sleeves. (When was the last time you saw a handkerchief???)

At 64, I sometimes have my senior moments – not being forgetful but feeling a new ache or looking in the mirror and seeing a much older person. But these are moments and not a mindset! I go for a relatively brisk walk or color my hair and I’m back to my youthful self. We all do this.

So if we don’t want to be called “seniors”, what DO we want to be called? “Boomers” is one term often used, but that only represents one group born between 1946 and 1964. This doesn’t include the spry 70 year olds. We’re looking for a term that describes the life stage, not the cultural generation.

I love the term “adultescents” coined by my psychologist friend, Liz Monroe-Cook. It works because our life is very similar to that of our “adolecence”, again a transitional time of physical and psychological change. Instead of raging hormones, rash decisions and risky actions we’re more likely to be safer, saner and in control. The life stages are very comparable, yet “adultescent” doesn’t trip off your tongue as smoothly as “senior”.

We have “encore careers” and a great website for the “vibrant nation”. Carol Orsborn calls us “Fierce with Age”. We’re “mature”, “grown-up”, “elder”, and “over the hill”. And we STILL need a better term for this alive, often active, sometimes couch-potatoish, wise and funny life stage – that doesn’t make us dread hearing.

Any good ideas, please send them to me. And I promise to lead the biggest PR campaign to change the world when we find the right word!

Baby Boomer Aging Survey – Your Input, Please

What have you noticed about your life as you age?

I’ve noticed that my life is NOT at all like the photos in the ads – a happy couple holding hands, riding off into the sunset in a golf cart! (Or worse, staged relaxation in bathtubs!) And people I know have a different reality than what’s pictured in the media.

Here’s your chance to share what YOUR reality is. Please take this survey that asks you to reflect on what your life is like now. It takes about 15-20 minutes and most people have said they’ve enjoyed the thought-provoking questions.

This link will take you to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GZBQBT2

Please complete the survey by Friday, December 6. (I know it’s a busy time…)

Also, share this survey with friends and family, ages 40-80. While the substance of the study is Baby Boomers, it will be interesting to see how Boomers’ realities compare to other ages.

The goal of this survey is to get a better “photo album” of what matters to a new generation of adults who are “aging”. Never before have people lived as long and as healthily as we do now. At 50, 60, 70 and even 80 we have a lot more time on earth to make the world a better place. So I’d like to use your answers to help create a more accurate, respectful representation of our generation.

Thank you SO much for your responses and sending this survey on to others. I hope to share results with you all in the future.

One last thing – survey results are ANONYMOUS! You can even use a fake name if you like. Be assured that specifics will be held in strict confidence. And if you have any questions or thoughts  about this survey, please email me at chauri@ mirrorwomen.com or call 708-533-2888.

It’s Not All Sunsets and Golf Carts

Are you fed up with the image of how we’re expected to age? Walking on the beach, hand-in-hand with the partner of our dreams, heading to the golf course where we meet another smiling couple, ready to hand us a tall, cool glass of iced tea? Or dancing into the night, remembering to throw your head back in joyous laughter?

If that’s not your life (it’s sure not mine!), please read the latest from Carol Orsborn, Ph.D. She takes AARP to task for their Pollyanna views of aging in the most recent issue of their magazine. And this viewpoint is SO REFRESHING!

Sadly, I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt guilty when getting a hip replaced because I was showing the world that 63 year olds all can’t dance! Or feel left out because I’m not planning a major trip this year because I don’t have the money. Or sometimes want to hide because I don’t look like a Chico model and am looking for clothes that don’t look bad around a plus size butt!

Aging is not for the timid (said either in a Hallmark card or by Dorothy Parker or some other clever wit). Those “senior moments” are real. So is that alien face in the mirror. And those blood pressure numbers. And hearing issues. There is loss and we’ll be faced with tough decisions.

What Dr.Orsborn is fighting for is our ability – our choice – to face aging and embrace the humanness of the experience. I encourage you to read her blog or pick up her book or visit her website, Fierce With Age.

In the meantime, appreciate your aging wisdom by visiting or calling a friend who you’ve been thinking of, and having a really good laugh together! That’s what good aging is all about!

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A Lesson from Hillary Clinton

Today’s Chicago Tribune had a good article about Hillary Clinton and her speaking engagements. What caught my attention wasn’t the content but the photo that accompanied the article. I didn’t recognize her! She looked so much older!

My first thoughts were how the Secretary of State job had taken its toll. Then, looking more closely, I realized she simply is getting older. Gravity is taking its toll on her eyes and her face. Her hairstyle is subdued, suit is impeccably classic. Mature. Hillary is mature. I think that’s a good term to describe her.

She’s not frumpy, she’s not old. She’s certainly not out-dated or dowdy, drab or dull. She’s mature, seasoned, even more sophisticated. Grown-up.

I put the photo away and came back a few hours later and looked at it again, this time not looking at the Hillary Clinton I know of, but as a total stranger. Neutral. No idea who she is. And thought “what do I think of this woman? What characteristics would I assign to her?”

The woman in this photo is experienced, smart, very real (no face-lift here!) with wise eyes. I would trust her to be truthful and fair. She reminds me a little of Madeleine Albright, another highly respected stateswoman. I realized how we project how people SHOULD look based on how they’ve looked in the past. The normal aging process, especially for women, is not something we readily accept in appearance.

I’ve been a bit saddened lately when I look in the mirror. I’ve caught myself not knowing who that woman was in the mirror! That can’t be me! She’s not cute/sexy/trendy/etc. any more!

We all have these phases where our hair suddenly looks flat, our skin flat and our eyes flat. Or something along those lines. I’ll change my clothes to see if a different color or neckline helps. My next reaction is “its time for the cosmetics counter”, when I realize I just did that a couple months ago. Hair salon? Yep, did that, too. Maybe it’s time I look at myself differently.

So I did the Hillary Clinton test and looked at myself in the mirror as purely objectively as I could. I didn’t look for outlandish wayward eyebrow hairs or to see if my nose is getting bigger like I usually do. (I KNOW I’m going to grow into the “family nose” – just waiting for it to happen!) I looked at who that mature person in the mirror might be.

I’ve got to admit, it’s hard to do. We know too much about that mirror image. We know who she USED to be and who she SHOULD be. And, truly, some of this comes through.

Who I saw in my mirror is a woman with an interesting face and clear bright eyes. She’s engaged, probably a good listener and straight shooter who is fun. There aren’t many worry lines, so I’m thinking she’s pretty easy going, confident and kind. I think I’d like this person. Oh, and she is a bit mature!

Take a look in your mirror and see if you can see through all we do to hide our real selves. And see all the good things that woman is! Feel free to share who you found!

Got a few hours? Get an experience.

This past weekend was the annual Wright Plus housewalk for the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust in Oak Park, IL. Glorious weather, beautiful houses opened up for 2500 guests by very generous homeowners. Great organization so that all ran smoothly. I was volunteering on the buses, helping people find their way to lunch, to meet friends or plan their day while dazzling them with stories of the town and its more colorful inhabitants. So I heard many unsolicited positive comments.

The most amazing thing about the day is the 550-600 volunteers that make it happen. They come from all over Chicagoland and the country, some using the annual housewalk as the basis for a reunion. Some are Wright fans and docents, others sign on so they can view the houses the night before and others simply love being part of an event.

Only about 28% of people 55-64 volunteer, more women than men and more college-educated than not. Maybe it’s because I came from a family that was very community focused, but I’m surprised that number wasn’t higher. There are opportunities to be found for every interest. Take a look at any of the volunteer clearinghouse websites like Senior Corps (which incorporates VolunteerMatch.org).

Want to volunteer at a food pantry? Or be on a food pantry board of directors? Like animals? You can play with cats, take them for a ride or volunteer for the Lincoln Park Zoo Run. Be a business mentor, repurpose computers or hold hands with a hospice family that really needs you. Event planners and fund-raisers are always in demand. But so are accountants and gardeners and people with retail merchandising experience.

What all these opportunities offer are pretty amazing benefits that don’t easily equate to dollars:

– Meet interesting people who have the same interests as you. Ever think about the civil war? You can be in a re-creation. Care about human rights? Help relating refugees. Like to travel? Be an Airport Roving Volunteer for Traveler’s Aid. The list goes on.

– Help your community and feel part of something bigger than just yourself and family.

– Learn a new skill or about a new topic. Life-long learners live longer to learn more.

– Get back what you choose – whether that’s the great feeling of helping out or a 20% discount on unique fair trade goods at Ten Thousand Villages, we all have our reasons for volunteering.

So how do you volunteer? And why? What else could you do to help someone else if it just meant turning off the TV for an afternoon or two each month? I could put in a plug for the many organizations I volunteer with, but I’ll let you look for your own. Or email me and I’ll be happy to make suggestions!

What makes you go “Hmmm”?

What are the things that make you sit up and take notice? Something you hear on the radio — maybe new revelations about a rock musician you never knew. Or a friend’s Facebook posting about some struggle she’s having. Or an article on organizing that suggests something new (even though you’ve read – and plan to file – just about every article ever written).

My latest big “Hmmm” came while watching the excellent 60 Minutes interview of Bill Gates and the breakthrough ways he’s addressing health in developing nations. His stories are about using creativity and technology to solve problems – toilets that don’t require fresh water, solar-powered refrigerators to keep vaccines fresh, and more. After a “WOW” reaction, I moved to “Hmmm”. What are the implications of this? How will all these people, who likely would have died of disease and famine, live in the future? Are their community infrastructures set up for meaningful lives?

This is not an article about Bill Gates and whether or not he can save the world. It’s an article that asks you to go “Hmmm” and be aware of what captures your attention.

A few years back when I was in a Masters program at DePaul’s School for New Learning, our lead professor consistently invited us to note the things that made us go “Hmmm”. We were delving into mindfulness and how to be engaged in your own life. He wanted us to grasp these notions that make us think deeper and, maybe, differently.

When we go “Hmmm” we’re raising a flag to stop and pay attention. “Hmmm” topics deserve a little time – some internet research, a discussion over a glass of wine, a trip to the library. They also ask us to ask “why” did that topic bring about a “Hmmm”. It warrants reflection on our personal history of why is this important to me today. And what is my thinking about this topic – and does it challenge or change my values in any way?

Let’s take “Hmmm” in a few directions. I had another “Hmmm” the other day – “Hmmm, I don’t seem to have any eyebrows left”.  Where did they go and what should I do about it? (This proves the “Hmmms” do NOT have to be earth-shattering, heavy topics!) Why is this important to me? It’s another external sign that I’m aging and I don’t like how I look without good eyebrows. (And I spend good money getting them shaped – HMMM!) What am I going to do about this? Invest in the best eyebrow shadow and learn a technique that won’t make me look like Aunt Sophie when I apply it. What else? When I dig deeper, I realize this is about loss of my youthful looks and how I need to accept what I can’t change. (Beyond that great eyebrow shadow – which is from Smashbox, by the way!) I’m going to read more to understand acceptance.

Another “Hmmm” – a good friend was diagnosed with a bit of breast cancer (italics are mine – I really don’t understand the medical explanation at all!) Had a little bit of surgery, no chemo or radiation needed but still had some tense hand-holding times. Big “Hmmms” here – when was my last mammogram? With a strong family breast cancer history, how might I prepare if I heard the same news. How would my “tribe” feel and be different if we lost our dear friend. And how might we appreciate each other more deeply and often to enhance our bond.

You can see that “Hmmm” can take us a lot deeper than what we normally think about every day. And when we dig deeper, explore new territories and engage in our lives, we’ll find there’s a lot more meaning hidden under the surface.

What made you go “Hmmm” today?

(A special thanks goes to Russ Rogers, Ph.D., at DePaul for making us “Hmmm”.)

Who didn’t want to be Annette?

She got to hang out with Spin and Marty. She always got the guy in those beach movies. She was so cute AND talented – not like Darlene who was talented but not cute. Or Doreen who was cute but not that talented! Did you know her best friend was Shelley Fabares from The Donna Reed Show?  And she first got to hang out with Tommy Cole and then Frankie Avalon!

Annette Funicello’s death was announced today, another one of our TV friends now gone. When you’re getting older, so are your old role models. And Annette had been diagnosed a while ago with multiple sclerosis, so this isn’t a surprise. It’s just kind of sad to hear these passing notices.

Was Annette a role model for you? She was a Mouseketeer from 1955-1959, so that meant my sister and I religiously watched her every afternoon from when she was 7 and I was 6. She was before Barbie. She was before we were in Junior High! So we were really impressionable! We had Annette paper dolls and wore anklets like her and wanted to learn to tap dance, too!

We never got to see her Beach movies but Muffy Lipton lived two doors away and was almost the same age as Annette and kind of looked like her. She was our babysitter and we would pump her for information about boyfriends and the beach (Lake Michigan!) and clothes and all the things Annette would tell us – if she were our babysitter. We would do anything for Muffy!

Compare clean cut Annette to later day Mouseketeers, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Maybe they were more Annette-like on “Anything Can Happen Days” (Wednesdays in case your forgot), but it seems like they grew up a lot faster than Annette. Back in Beach days, Annette’s bathing suits were supposed to be modest one-piece numbers. But the studios managed to get her into NAVEL-EXPOSING two-piece and fishnet suits. And Annette didn’t need the make-up the later girls piled on!

There are still some similarities. Teen Beat led the pack in gossip and paparazzi, even though it wasn’t yet called that. But magazines always followed our teen crushes. And Mouseketeers always were – and ever will be – perky!

So we say good-bye to another role model. Because Annette was in our den every afternoon, we seemed to know her better than our next door neighbors. She was a good role model and a good friend.

WHAT? How not hearing screws up our lives.

Went to a lovely wedding this weekend and here’s what I missed:

– The couples’ heartfelt vows

– The story of how the groom’s grandmother came to the U.S.

– What my niece is doing in Arizona – and everything about her new boyfriend

– The toast by the bridesmaids…and many more morsels of news and conversation.

Why? Because my hearing is going. I was tested by an audiologist and I have “moderate” hearing loss for someone my age (63). Which means I can’t hear much in noisy restaurants and can’t hear muffled noises. Now I know why “older people” leave parties so early.

I was told I wasn’t ready for a hearing aid, though they seem to be coming into fashion because most young people think the ear piece is connected to your iPhone. And I’ve heard the goods and bads of today’s hearing aids. The good – better than ever for reducing background noise, less feedback with cell phones, smaller and less conspicuous. The bad – really expensive and still not nearly as good as real hearing – even being bothersome enough that many aid wearers often skip wearing them entirely.

I met a retired audiologist the other day and will interview her in a future column. She understands the hearing aid problems and has developed programs to improve hearing without aids. Her recommendations are mostly quite simple: ask the speaker to please speak louder or use the microphone; position yourself within hearing distance or facing the speaker to read lips (or try to read lips – amazing what we can pick up); go to quiet restaurants; ask for audio headphones at live theater; and more. She talked about training people to be more attentive to conversation and be realistic about situations you can and can’t be a participant.

Have you thought about your hearing and how important it is to your life? It’s the one sense that truly can shut you out of the world of people. You’re no longer being part of conversations, not able to express your opinions and needs at appropriate times, not being able to hear the voices of people we love. Or hear music or birds or the garbage truck coming down the street.

In our late 30s my friend, Thomas, used to only order Daily Specials at restaurants and we all thought it was because he thought the food to be fresher or the dish to be more interesting. It turned out he couldn’t read the menu without readers and was too embarrassed to wear them. Creative solution! So now we can’t HEAR the Daily Specials and will only order off the menu!

I’d love to hear how you’re enhancing your hearing! Please share your best – and quirkiest – strategies for staying in the conversation. And stay tuned for more to come on this timely topic.

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Hip, Hip, Hooray!

Everyone with a new/replacement hip, stand up and do a jig!!! Because you likely can! I’m fascinated by the “changed my life” stories I hear from other new hipsters. And I also found we like to talk about our stories.

My sister had the same surgery a year before me (appropriate as she is 13 months older) and didn’t have the luxury of having compadres that knew and deeply understood her experience. She missed out on the “who’s doing it?” and “did you get the big pink pillow?” conversations that seem to have dominated my life for the last year. So she was excited to have me join her hip “club”.

Here in Chicago hips and knees are big biz. So we have rockstar docs (Dr. Berger with his outpatient surgery) and traveling teams that perform at sister hospitals on different days (Dr. Hopkinson and his cute residents from Loyola). And we have “institutes” and more physical therapy places than fast food joints.

The hip community that flocked to support me was overwhelming. Offers of sock-putter-oners, elevated toilet seats, and bath chairs abounded. Neighbors came to my aid with meals – and were disappointed when 4 weeks after surgery I was driving and didn’t need the glorious home-cooked meals, complete with fabulous desserts and wine, any more. Flowers appeared in my home and angels of mercy went grocery shopping.

My biggest surprise – and I think this is shared by everyone with a successful hip replacement – is there’s just no pain. Things normal people take for granted, like being able to walk and having a relatively fog-free brain, are wondrous results to someone who has had her life limited because of joint problems. Soon after surgery I cut out the painkillers I had been using for about 10 months to get to sleep. And I woke up without “pain brain”, what I imagine to be similar to “chemo brain”. Yes, you will be smart again.

What I hadn’t expected on this long journey was the physical and emotional challenges I faced for far too long. From the physical pain caused by deteriorating hip bone to the emotional pain of having to use a walker (WHAT? That’s for OLD people!) to how small my world became as I found going anywhere was just too hard, I saw what life looks like when our bodies let us down.

There are upsides to a health event such as this. We’re required to be much more creative to solve problems we never had – like using giant covered coffee mugs so you don’t have to get up for refills and throwing laundry down in pillowcases instead of using a laundry basket. And we have to be much more organized to make one trip to the closet instead of many. And using one pair of shoes because they’re comfortable. Personally, I also understood how many true and wonderful friends I have and learned how to ask for support.

On the downside, I saw how we waste so much of our lives when we’re not at our best. I learned how easy it is to turn to reality TV or Netflix movies to occupy my mind. And I saw how easy it is for fear and depression to sneak into our lives. Suddenly I realized what an easy target I would be for a mugging or home invasion. (Fortunately nothing like that happened!) And how hard it was to find positive thoughts to counteract a negative spiral, simply because I didn’t have anything positive to think about.

And I realized how little we are prepared for “aging”. Most of the challenges you face with joint replacements are those that old people face as their bodies wear out. No one has shown us how to walk with a cane or showed us the motorized carts many grocery stores offer. Nor have they prepared us for the emotional impact of going to a social function with a walker and how you feel like you’re in everyone’s way. Yes, it was fine when I was shuttling around my 87-year-old father and his walker, but not mine!

In doing research for a former grad project on self-esteem and aging I was intrigued by the work of Nathaniel Brandon. He said that self-esteem is made up of two components: self-efficacy, the confidence in our ability to think, learn, choose and make appropriate decisions and self-respect, the confidence in our right to be happy in our achievements, success, friendships, respect, love and fulfillment. Health issues tend to rattle our confidence in both these areas, thereby truly undermining self-esteem.

So often the first things to go after health are your purpose in life, your joys and your love for others. You may have seen the drawing that shows life stages using “wheels”. We start being pushed in baby carriages, we move to bikes, then cars, then walkers and then wheelchairs. That move from cars to walkers can be devastating to all the good things in our lives.

My goal is to help ease the impact on self-esteem as we age. Lofty but I’m working on the strategies to make this happen. One way is to invite women to share their stories so we know we’re not isolated on this journey. My sister will tell you how much better it is with a cohort.

Another strategy is to deeply understand the emotional and physical territories and what needs are not being met. And then take these insights to retailers, manufacturers and service providers who can help.

Another strategy is to become an advocate for women as they age, writing my blog, speaking at conferences, and writing to the media to help make aging an easier part of life.

We’re not our maladies. I was not a BAD HIP, I had a bad hip. I’m sure I’ll have other things in the future – but I will not “become” one of them. We should not feel any less of a person for using a walker, wearing sensible shoes (though PLEASE try to find cute ones), using Depend undergarments, having a hearing aid, walking with a cane, being in a wheelchair or asking for more light to see a menu in a restaurant.

I’m asking for your help with your stories. If you’ve had a life-changing health event that bumped your self-esteem and would like to chat , shoot me your email address and a brief description and I’ll get back in touch. Let’s share what we’ve learned so it’s not as hard for those who come after us. And please watch for more  resources and news.

And you hipsters…you can stop doing the jig now. Congratulations!

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