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The Phenomenon of Mature Women - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It’s Complicated—The Phenomenon of Mature Women

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, January 12, 2010

“It’s Complicated,” the popular new Meryl Streep movie is once again illustrating how older women are taking the world by storm.

Here’s why so many women relate to Meryl Streep’s character:

Social Revolution: Meryl Streep’s character is a prime example of the social revolution that is sweeping the nation. Women have redefined aging. No longer are we held to antiquated definitions of attractiveness—youth, fertility, and tight skin. At midlife, we move into our most productive years, both personally and professionally.

New Power: Now, just like men, we acquire power and allure by achievement. Our accomplishments, complexity and history are now defined as assets rather than as liabilities. This movie showed that an older woman could trump a younger women on the social playing field. We can partner with men of assorted ages—young and old— or we can play the field solo if we prefer. Partnering is an option, not a mandate.

New Timeline, New Dreams: The MacArthur Foundation reports that by 2050, life expectancy for women will rise to up to 94 years. We now regard the 50s and 60s as “middle” age and a passage of life that is full of adventure, reinvention and excellence. Streep’s character reminded us of the empowerment that comes with this stage of life.

Meryl’s character entertains multiple suitors within the film, which begs the question: do women become more passionate as they age?

More Sensual with the Years: Women become more sensual as they mature and this is especially true of boomer women who led the sexual revolution. They are more at ease with their bodies, enjoy more self-acceptance and have less attachment to social definitions of beauty. They know their bodies better and they take their intimate needs more seriously.

Passion Begins in the Mind: Passion begins in a woman’s mind and it is a product of her self-confidence and experience. As her thinking become more sophisticated, her passion increases and she may enjoy sensuality more. If she is married, she invests more deeply in her partner and is often willing to be fully physically and emotionally vulnerable, often for the first time. If she is single, she chooses her partners more carefully and is a wiser evaluator of other’s intentions.

This trend of empowered older women was made possible by the economic opportunities.

Money Talks: The economic empowerment of women over the last fifty years was certainly a facilitator of these social trends. No longer dependent on the support of a man, millions of women crafted spectacular careers and took the reins of their fate into their own hands. Their social and psychological transformation accelerated as their incomes increased.

Global Economy Shifted Women: The shift in the global economy has had a lot to do with the increase in female power. Brains count more than brawn now. As manufacturing decreased, the service industries increased and women rose to the challenge. We have fared especially well in the recession and now comprise over 50%of the labor force.

Education and Innovation: Women are more educated and enjoy the modern innovations in communication and domestic technology that make it possible to work outside of the home. Washboards have been replaced by motherboards and women have derived untold freedoms from a world that increasingly rewards them for smarts, drive and persistence.

Ladies, here’s what you can do to be maximally empowered in midlife:

Social Ties are Cheap Medicine: Women have to remember how you age is often under their control. Stay connected with your friends since studies show that social ties are essential to longevity. In fact, a study by the MacArthur Foundation reported that “ the influence of genetics shrinks proportionately as you get older, while social and physical habits become increasingly integral to your state of health—both mental and physical.”

Attitude is Everything: Optimism pays off and a recently release study of 97,000 women older than 50 reported that optimists were 9% less likely to develop heart disease and 14% less likely to die from it.

Shifting to a Brighter Outlook: Take the following three steps:

1.) Commit to a Cause Greater than Yourself

2.) Control the factors you can influence and disregard the rest.

3.) Challenge yourself to view setbacks as surmountable and problems as solvable.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia, please go to


“Researchers ask why optimism is associated with health, pessimism with disease” The Washington Post, January 12, 2010, Carolyn Butler

“Women and Work: We Did It!” The Economist, January 2010

“Sex and the Seasoned Woman, Pursuing the Passionate Life” by Gail Sheehy, 2006

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