What older women wish they could tell their younger selves

'Be kind, always' 

Kashmira Gander
Wednesday 15 November 2017 10:18
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If the ‘feel old yet?’ memes prove anything - other than that some people have a awful lot of time on their hands - is that sometimes cliched adages are true: life is too short, time does flies, and you do really only live once.

Hindsight is a wonderful, and largely pretty annoying, thing - and for better or worse we can’t turn back the clock and tell our younger selves not to do this or that thing that is so obviously stupid now but the consequences of which we could never have predicted. What we can do, however, is learn from those with a few years on us about what they wish they had done a little differently.

So, we asked women aged over 60 from the Sixty and Me online community to share what they think young women should know, and what they someone had told their younger selves.

Don't be afraid

"Don’t let fear stop you from trying new opportunities, and never think, ‘I can’t do that because I’m a woman’" said one woman, adding: "You will discover there are no limits to what is possible for you in life."

Never be done with learning

“Be a lifelong learner,” were the words of one woman.

Set a balance between your brain and your heart

“In your personal life and love life, trust your instincts – follow your heart, but always take your brain with you."

You can't choose your family, so be selective with your friends

Surrounding yourself with positive people was a common piece of advice from the older women. “Choose your friends wisely,” said one.

“Spend your time with people who raise you up, not bring you down,” chimed another. A woman in her 90s suggested finding some younger friends so someone can take care of you if you fall ill.

Save money. Then save some more.

Perhaps not as romantic as being told to live your dreams - what if my dreams involve wearing an overpriced and luxurious coat that I can’t afford? - this piece of advise was shared more than any other.

Staying away from credit cards and leaving your pension well alone until you retire were also flagged.

“Being divorced after 30 years of marriage and with no pension is not fun,” admitted one respondent.

Find independence

“Be as independent as you can: financially, professionally and in your own pursuits however much you love your partner and or family."

Don’t be afraid of change - including ageing

“Everything changes - how you react to those changes is what matters,” said one woman.

“Don't be afraid of ageing. It's a different world than youth, but it is full of its own wonders as long as you stay curious and active," added another.

"When you are sixty, you will feel exactly the same inside as you do now," one respondent said.

"Nobody tells you this but it's great to feel like a rebel inside and know that you would probably make the same glorious mistakes all over again if you could."

But don’t change yourself

“Don't ever dumb yourself down for anyone. Be who you are and be confident in your choices. Never be a cookie cutter and the same as everyone else. And remember that you are allowed to change your mind, and you don't need permission from any one to do anything."

Don’t care what others think

“Ultimately it isn't about what others think or how many expectations of 'success' you've ticked off your list, it's about you and your journey."

Trust yourself

Many older women said they wished they had valued their own instincts, and allowed themselves to feel confident in their decisions.

Don’t be afraid to leave a bad thing behind

“Don't stay in relationships of any kind that are stalemated or worse, are unhealthy.”

Eat when you’re hungry

It seems obvious, but this is sage advice when many of us are undereating and overeating.

A partner is for sharing life with, not a basis for it

“Don't let a man derail you from what you want to do,” urged one woman. “Find a job or career that will give you enough money to buy your own house, your own car, go on vacations big or small. If someone enters your life who cherishes you for yourself then that's a bonus!”

Learn to say no

Being too keen to please others was a regret for many women.

“Do not get caught in the people pleaser mode" say one woman. "It is ok to say no. Always giving in to others and burying your own needs takes a huge intolerable toll on your health and wellbeing.

Your resentment is not worth the price of always giving in to people. I don't mean in a selfish way, but a protected manner. Be kind, always, but not a pushover!”

Seek help when you need to

“Don't be afraid to seek a professional counsellor when life gets tough (and it will) and you feel stuck,” said one woman.

“Let others help, you don't have to do it all yourself and remember your way is not always the best way. If your partner offers to do a chore for you say yes thank you and do not criticise or judge the way they chose to do it," added another.

Live alone at least once

"It's great to have roommates when you're young, but living alone, even for a short while, shows you what you need to work on in life, both personal and practical. You might even surprise yourself and find you like it. Living independently also prepares you for any time in your life when you may have to live alone, and not by choice. It's an experience every woman needs."

Master small talk

"Cultivate your manners and ability to make social small talk as you never know who you might meet."

Record conversations with older family members

While most of us have photos of our loved ones, the older women highlighted that few of us keep recordings.

“'Interview' your older family members and get their stories on tape. Make copies for everyone to have. You have no idea what a treasure this will be for you," said one woman.

Treat your body as if you will use it for a very, very long time
Many women said they wish they had treated their body as a tool they would need for many years. Exercising was a key piece of advice. One woman summed it up as: "Stop eating sugar and use sunscreen faithfully."

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