Aging and Staying in Charge of Your Life: A Memoir

Mary in Mexico

From the 2012 Inspirational Social Worker of the Year comes a memoir about aging, big life changes, and the journey to happiness.

Join me in my older woman’s journey through aging, downsizing, de-cluttering and, as is typical of our age group, moving to a new city in order to be close to our offspring. At the start of my journey, I was determined to carve out an interesting existence alongside my husband of almost five and a half decades. You can imagine my shock when I realized I was seen as just another older woman in this mecca for retirees. Nobody in my new city recognized my special status as a psychotherapist and a teacher: in other words, as the mover and shaker I was during my long working life. It’s often said that older women are invisible in our society. I’d joined their ranks.

What’s more, living with my recently retired physician husband was sending me into black depression. I was miserable. As long as we lived in our large Toronto house and he saw patients most of the day, I was accustomed to peace and quiet for my own pursuits, Though I’d struggled for years to deal with his bossy behaviour, I could no longer tolerate his controlling ways. The new arrangement challenged our ability to find fulfillment side-by-side in cramped quarters.

To my surprise – and my husband’s shock – I decided to separate from him. I was desperate. If I stayed, I’d get sick, become demented or end up as an alcoholic. My solution? I found a dog-friendly apartment for myself and for Sammy, my wonderful black standard poodle. My new apartment, near the city centre and by the lake more than satisfies my idea of life as a woman living alone, free to shape her own life.

As for my husband, we have a new dynamic. We continue to support one another and do the usual couple activities together – seeing our personal trainers, going to church, joining in family events, – all things we both enjoy.

At the age of 78, I have found an inner freedom that eluded me in my marriage for decades. My message to women? It’s never too late to take your own power. Just remember – when I was married in 1961, couples didn’t live together unless they were married, women lovers were seldom mentioned, and unreliable birth control frequently resulted in unwanted pregnancies. Perhaps we’re ready for another societal change: older women relishing their final years here on earth.