Resist Becoming an Invisible Older Woman

     Have you begun to notice it?  The Millennial sitting at the next table at the coffee shop looks right past you without returning your smile?  The man sitting next to you on the airplane or bus nods when you take your seat and say hi, but ignores you the rest of the trip.  In the supermarket, people walk past without acknowledging your presence.

     Unfortunately, stereotypes regarding mature women do exist.  We’re often viewed as moms and grandmoms with little interests beyond family and home.  Younger persons have the perception that we couldn’t possibly be aware and able to talk about current movies, celebrities, issues, and events.  They seldom consider that we could have just returned from hiking in the Amazon rainforest, are working on a novel, or have a side business selling hand-crafted jewelry.  The sad reality is that some of us contribute to these perceptions.

     We need to be sensitive to the impact of our appearance.  A 30 year-old can get by wearing stretched comfortable sweats or 10 year-old faded casual outfits; their youthfulness and energy cause others to see past the clothing.  However, similar outfits on a 60 or 70 year old just seem to add to the tired, old image that compound lines, wrinkles, and gray hair.  It is possible to wear clothing that is comfortable and fashionable.  Further, unique clothing that gives an interesting look makes a statement and can attract attention, thereby combating invisibility.

     In addition to appearance, our behaviors can contribute to invisibility.  It’s nice to hear someone talk about the latest special thing her grandchild has done or her views on which supermarket has the best deals, but these hardly are topics that are going to attract attention or invite conversation.  We need to make an effort to keep abreast of current events.  When meeting others, it is helpful to attempt to learn about their interests and use those as a springboard for conversation.  If that is a challenge, try to launch a conversation based on something you observe about them.  For example, What does your tattoo symbolize?  That’s an interesting necklace you have on.  How do you like the screen on the tablet your using?  You get the idea.  And don’t overlook the importance of making eye contact and smiling.  By making the first move you could invite interaction and counter your potential invisibility.