For Shari Graydon, it was a newspaper column that got her fired up enough to write a book.
“A columnist I read regularly had devoted her entire column one day to cataloguing the litany of the wrinkle-prone areas on a woman’s body and included areas of a woman’s body that had never occurred to me to be concerned about,” says Graydon, the Ottawa-based women’s advocate and author of I Feel Great About My Hands…And Other Unexpected Joys of Aging. “The art accompanying the piece included really vile drawings of these places on a woman’s body and I just remember being infuriated. And instead of trying to contain my fury in a letter to the editor, I invited about 30 women over 50 years old to contribute to this book.”
Here Graydon tells us about some of the key insights her book offers on aging, and why we should be happy about growing old.
Q: While we hear about many women’s struggles with aging, we do also hear about the benefits such as gaining confidence. Is that what you’ve heard too in your research?
A: Absolutely. The 42 women who contributed their stories of aging to the book were universally appreciative of having the opportunity to reflect on the benefits of aging and advantages, in their shopping, eating and making love to truck driving, golf and Tai Chi. It’s ultimately a very affirming picture of aging womanhood.
Q: So what were some of their key insights?
A: What we see often in popular culture is a much narrower picture of aging — of declining bodies, and certainly that’s reflected in the book. They talked about their confidence that comes with aging, the wisdom that comes with experience, even the relief at not having to experience some of the struggles that the younger women in their lives are going through. They talked about being creative and intellectual, life experience, having sufficient basis of comparison or perspective to put events into context.
Q: What should we remember if we are struggling with aging?
A: While I was writing this book, my eldest sister, who was only three years older than I am, lay dying in a hospital bed in Calgary. So at the end of the day, the essays really remind us that the only alternative to growing old and suffering the indignities of aging is dying before one’s time. If you have the opportunity to grow old, it is an opportunity in the sense that you have not been deprived of life before your time. You have not been taken from the people you love and who love you.