By Barbara Morris
I love success stories. I am inspired by women determined to achieve their dreams, regardless of their age, and there is no better place to witness success (and failure) of women of all ages than on the TV show, “Shark Tank”.
A recent Shark Tank episode featured two mature women (with thirty-plus grandchildren between them) who laughed as they referred to themselves as grannies and insisted traditional granny pastimes such as quilting and crafts are not for them. They started a business in their garage, making and selling xylitol candies and their business is booming. If you missed the Shark Tank episode you can get their full inspiring story on their website: http://www.icechipscandy.com/ice-chips-peppermint-xylitol-mints.
Granted, not many older women have the entrepreneurial spirit of these two women. Why do you suppose that is? Because they are physically and or mentally incapable, or could it be because the culture and tradition that say once you are a certain age or reach a particular decade in life, you should no longer dare to dream and achieve?
When mature women work to attain outstanding success we “ooh and aah” and gush “Aren’t they wonderful for their age!” They may indeed be wonderful, but their age has nothing to do with their wonderful-ness. They simply push awareness of their age to the back of their consciousness and forge ahead to get to where they wanted to go in life.
It’s true that many older women remain productive far beyond what our culture considers “normal” but we rarely hear about them, either because they don’t want their age known, or they have their own business and are too busy taking care of and growing their business. They don’t have time to focus on or obsess about their age, and they don’t have time to chase after publicity to brag about how wonderful they are “for their age.” And so, we continue to “ooh and aah” when mature female entrepreneurs come out of the age closet (or the garage in the case of these two go-getters). (By the way, their mints are delicious.)
When my sister became a pharmacist in the 1940s, it was so unusual for a woman to become a pharmacist that she was featured in a newspaper story. There were two women in her graduating class. When I because a pharmacist in the 1950s, there were six women in the class. Today, probably more women than men become pharmacists. Gender is no longer a big deal in any occupation, and the age and ability of older productive women should not be a big deal, either.
With the lifespan having increased by thirty years in the past century, age 60 is no longer old but our culture continues to perpetuate the nonsense that it’s okay to refer to a 60-year-old as a “granny” or “senior.” Unfortunately, too many mature women accept the implied “age incompetence” that attaches to those two words. As a result, healthy older women who could be enriching their lives being productive, accept the traditional granny label and lifestyle, and fall into decline that comes with prolonged mental and physical inactivity.
Kudos to the “grannies in a garage” for going for their gold. I hope many mature women who watched them on Shark Tank have been inspried go for dreams that may have been put on the back burner because tradition told them they were too old to do what they were perfectly capable of doing “at their age.”