Gender Differences: Aging & Retirement

Gender Differences: Aging & Retirement

Does your sex or gender make a difference when planning for the end of your career and beyond? I’ve spent more than three years reviewing the literature on retirement and aging. I also became a certified retirement coach last year. Even though I’ve seen some articles and read books that talked specifically about how gender affects our ‘ever-after’ life, I believe some of the differences based on sex and gender need to be examined more closely.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be adding additional topics, new links, and more information about areas where gender or sex could make a difference in how you plan for your best life now and in the future.

Here is a sample of the topics I’ll be exploring with you:

Work Identity Issues

One of the pieces I’ll be addressing in this space is how professional women generally view retirement through a different lens than do some of their male colleagues. When I became certified as a retirement coach, I was taught that one of the biggest adjustments newly retired people have to address is their loss of workplace identity. From my own interviews and from the literature I’ve examined, women are more likely to see retirement as “their time” to live the lives they had deferred. Many women see retirement as a ‘liberating period’ of their lives and are less likely to struggle with identity issues.

The Face of Aging

Age discrimination is common to all of us – no question. Yet in the workplace, women are more likely to be denied opportunities at an earlier age than are men. A couple of explanations for this difference includes cultural expectations and physiological differences. We live in a culture that values women for their looks and youthfulness. Once a woman’s youthful appearance starts to fade, she may be perceived as less valuable. One of the other explanations has to do with a loss of hormones.  According to some research, once women start experiencing a reduction in estrogen, their faces begin to age more rapidly than do men’s faces.

Facing Ageism

Women may face more demeaning and condescending comments than men do. Comments like, “Here you go, sweetie,” or “Do you need help with that, honey?” are likely to irritate even the most civil older women. It could be that women are more aware of being demeaned because of the challenges we have faced over the years in the workplace. It could be that we are more likely to allow others to talk to us as though we are “less than” others. Women do appear to express their irritation about ageist comments more than men do.

Women Are More Likely to Live Longer than Men

According to the Social Security Administration, men who reach the age of 65 have an average life expectancy of 84 years. Women who reach 65 live on average to 86.5 years.  Some explanations for these differences include both biology and life habits.

Women not only are likely to live longer than men, but they are also more likely to end up spending some of their latter years alone. According to the Institute on Aging, older women are twice as likely as men to live alone.

Social Factors

One of the factors that help contribute to healthy aging is our willingness and ability to stay connected with others. Studies have suggested that generally women are more likely to develop social connections after leaving the workplace than are men.

Financial Matters

Women who have children are more likely to have wage gaps than are men. In addition, women are typically paid less than men for the same work. According to The Women’s Institute for Policy Research, women made 80.5 cents for every dollar men made in 2017. When a woman gets ready to retire, she may not have a sufficient work history to maximize Social Security benefits. In addition, she will likely not have the same financial foundation available for her retirement years.

Dementia and Risk

Research points to a greater likelihood that women will develop dementia than men. It might be that the increased likelihood for women is due to a longer life. Other studies have suggested that brain differences could be a contributing factor.

Some evidence suggests LBGTQ individuals may also have an increased risk for dementia. Stress, depression, PTSD and other risks might be contributing factors.

Current thinking emphasizes the role of regular exercise as a way to lower the risk of cognitive impairment later in life.

Leisure Time After Age 60

According to Pew Research, men over 60 who are still employed spend more time working each day than women do (by about 48 minutes on average). At the same time, men spend an average of 42 more minutes on leisure time. Women spend an hour and 56 minutes on household tasks (meal preparation, cleaning, errands, etc.) and men spend an average of 44 minutes on such activities. However, men tend to spend more time on maintenance (55 minutes a day versus 22 minutes for women).

Medical Care

Generally, medical providers may be more likely to dismiss female complaints more than they do men’s complaints. Symptoms such as heart attacks also tend to be different for men than for women. Also, women may be more willing to accept a medical expert’s dismissal than men would. This will be one of the areas that we explore in the coming months.

I’m looking forward to exploring these and other topics with you over the coming months. The more we know, the more we will be prepared to live our best possible lives.


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