To me, loneliness and visibility are two peas in a pod — one loops into the other. If you are feeling lonely, you are probably feeling invisible, even if, like me, you never thought of yourself that way. “I feel invisible because of my age,” is a thought on the minds of many women of a certain age.
I did not say a specific age, nor did I say all women are faced with this dilemma. After all, these feelings depend on the woman. But I will say this, more women than not, as they age, feel lonely and invisible. Over the last few years, I’ve learned that it is a worldwide epidemic. The fact that I’ve been writing about loneliness and invisibility since at least 2019 should say something. I hear it mentioned on the nightly news at least twice a month. As a matter of fact, WHO (The World Health Organization) just launched a global initiative to combat loneliness. This is a genuine problem!
Though I now realize what a profound problem it is, it had never crossed my mind until a few years ago. It was when a close girlfriend of mine said, “I feel invisible,” during an informal focus group I held for a small group of women over 60, that the word invisible became part of my vocabulary for the first time.
Until that day almost one year ago, my only connection to the word “invisible” was Casper the Ghost. So, the word – and its meaning – was not a thought in this visible woman’s mind. I will tell you later why I feel visible and why the word invisible made such a strong impression on me.
IS INVISIBILITY ABOUT NOT LOOKING YOUNG?
Getting back to my focus group, the word invisible ignited a lively conversation among my girlfriends who were in their 60s and 70s. They were college graduates, women who had interesting careers. They were women who were wives or had a significant other, and many women who had children and grandchildren. I firmly believe in the need for woman to be involved in groups to combat loneliness.
Many of these women were well-traveled and involved in “extracurricular” activities. And yet, several of these lovely women said, “I feel invisible!”
Why? All their answers were the same, “Because I no longer ‘look’ young.”
The day I listened to the responses of the women discussing their feelings, on invisibility, I said to the group, “I think of Casper the Ghost when I think of invisible.” I blurted this out because that was my thought. Why? Because I never equated, as I mentioned, the word, invisible, in a human sense.
MY THOUGHTS ON FEELING LONELY AND INVISIBLE AFTER REFLECTION
Now after years of thought, I get it. Some of us feel very invisible. Widowhood, divorce, lack of friends, experience social isolation, and boredom as well as empty nester syndrome, retirement, indifference with a spouse and poor health can create the feelings of loneliness and invisibility.
When does this happen? Usually after the age of fifty.
So we have a choice darling. We can remain invisible Casper the Ghosts. Or we can, as I always said to my daughters and now to my grands, in a very upbeat and fast sounding voice, “TRY, TRY, TRY!”
To this day I remember every one of their stories vividly. I remember how I felt listening to them describe their feelings. I saw them as very visible and was stunned that they saw themselves that way. The word invisible upset me.
And I say this to you who are feeling in a funk, who are in a rut, who are apathetic, think of that little engine that said, “I know I can. I know I can.”
DO I FEEL INVISIBLE?
Over the past few years, in certain situations, my mind confronted the word – invisible.
When I walked into a restaurant with my ultimate concierge, as we were walking to our table I would say to myself, “Do I feel invisible?”
When I was with several members of our family, all younger, I’d ask myself, “Do I feel invisible?”
When I walked into Barney’s shoe department, where there were younger girls waiting for a salesperson, I would ask myself, “Will the salesperson choose to wait on the younger women over me? Am I invisible because I am an older woman?”
And on and on this went… to the point I wished I had never held that focus group!
FIGHT LONELINESS AND INVISIBILITY WITH POSITIVITY AND ACTIVITY
The more I delved into my feelings, the more I realized that I felt not only visible but very visible because I am actively involved in life. In my mind, feelings of loneliness and invisibility go hand and hand and one feeds into the other. You must spend time with others that make you feel connected and you must have the mindset to do so. In other words, visibility has everything to do with a woman’s positive and interesting lifestyle. I am of the opinion that 80 percent of a woman’s beauty is her inner beauty, not her outer looks, nor her age.
As a visible woman, I have maintained a relevant lifestyle, which means being connected to interesting people, places and being “involved in the now.”
My saving grace is that I wear many hats. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, girlfriend, world traveler, student, writer and owner of an online business. I work at being a relevant woman.
And so, this is my advice to any woman at any age who finds herself feeling invisible: When you are going through “an invisible passage” of life, it is up to you to find your personal gateway to feeling visible.
INVISIBILITY IS NOT AGE RELATED
Here is the true story of a girlfriend who had lived her entire life in New York. She was a city girl. She was married, had four children and owned a small newspaper. One day as she was walking down 5th Avenue, out of the blue she said to herself, “I feel invisible.” She determined it was age-related.
She went home, told her husband she felt invisible and together they made a plan to move to a community with an older population. She moved across America to Rancho Mirage, California. She and her husband began life anew. That was twenty years ago. She is now in her upper 80s and as visible today as she was in the thirties. She leads a wonderful life as a wife, girlfriend and jewelry designer.
When you are emotionally fulfilled, you become a visible woman. You feel your step has a bounce and your laughter is contagious. You stand erect with great posture, with your head held high. And you know you are respected by your husband, your family and your peers who see your relevancy, not your looks.
HOW TO GET STARTED ON YOUR PATH TO VISIBILITY
I believe we can all be more visible, vital and relevant in the second halves of our lives. Here are some ideas to get you started on your path to feeling visible.
Spend time alone.
Keep a journal. Learn to love the quiet of the day with nothing but your own company. Why? Because it gives you time to explore your feelings. Question yourself, your motivations and your reactions to your experiences. I am not telling you to become a recluse or to seek social isolation. I am explaining the importance of taking time to be alone and to be okay with it.
Take more risks.
Stop being stuck in the past. You will feel better moving forward. Delve into something you have wanted to accomplish.
Don’t allow your past regrets to saddle you to your past. You want to move forward not backward.
Seek out like-minded people who learn and evolve.
Choose to spend your time with women who lead relevant lives, see themselves as visible, and cultivate meaningful connections. Their attitudes will rub off on you.
Explore and travel.
If you live in the state of Illinois, you can drive to Abraham Lincoln’s library. Not costly, but this little trip will prove fruitful. I visited my high school friends in Kankakee by the Sea. We had lunch. I left with new information, happy as could be and will return this summer to reconnect. Or you could travel the US with a group of women (I’m inviting women like you to travel with me next year!)
Open yourself up to self-awareness and shape your dreams into reality.
Be a lifelong learner.
I once did a two-day seminar in the Art of Negotiation because I wanted to learn how to handle business and family interaction. Not only was I was one of the only women in the class and I could have been many of the participants’ grandmother! Of course I noticed that I was older than most of the young people there, but I felt relevant, darling. Learning and learning is power and power is very uplifting. I was living in the now and I felt invigorated with my new knowledge which in turn made me feel like a very visible woman.
Choose a new hobby or activity.
If you are an avid reader, why not visit your local library and meet the librarian and ask what is going on? See if there is a place for you to help children in the children’s department or you can consider taking classes set up by the library staff.
If that doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy, look into local groups, volunteering or even job opportunities! I began writing in my sixties and I very much enjoy working every day. It gives me purpose and I am blessed because I chose a career (or rather, it picked me!) that connects me with other women with the many of the same goals and desires.
AGING WELL AND STAYING VISIBLE IS ALL ABOUT YOUR ATTITUDE
When you find something that brings you purpose, a reason to put your red lipstick on and blowdry your hair (read about my newest obsession) and get out of the door. A reason to speak to and genuinely connect with others, you will feel your relevancy and visibility light you up.
It may be that you’ve outgrown some of the friends you have and you’re in a new stage in life. Before the age of 50, women are in sync with one another. They lead similar lifestyles and have similar routines. My friend Joyce says that she reinvents herself every 10 years, and I’ve come to think that we all do. Is it time to reinvent yourself? Read more on how to grow into new friendships after 50, here.
ARE YOU READY FOR A SHIFT?
I’ll leave you with this: If you want to change what is “visible,” start with the “invisible”. The key to feeling relevant, important, and valued lies within you. I see very clearly that there is so much you have to offer the world. Do you?
Do you feel lonely or invisible in your 50s, 60s, or 70s? What have you done to make a shift to become a visible, relevant woman? What do you notice and admire about visible, relevant women? Please join the conversation in the comments.