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Posted on September 30th, 2012, by

Aging is a natural process but many people treat it like a disease or disaster. Women aging has certain peculiarities and many specialists dedicate their researches to this topic. Different specialists approach the problem of aging from different perspectives. Female accounts on aging are especially interesting because the authors see the problem from inside and can share not only scientific data, but also personal experience on aging. Last Gift of Time by Carolyn  Heilbrun is a sincere and informative narration about author’s experience of aging.  The author not only shares her  ideas but also gives valuable advices which may be helpful to many women who approach this age. Traditionally aging  has several negative consequences. The decrease of social activity, health problems, lack of social contacts often accompanies aging.

This may result in depression and health problems. That is the reason different literature which aims to make aging a better experience and show positive sides of it.  Barbara  Walker in The Crone Woman of Age, Wisdom and Power and Doris Lessing in The Diaries of Jane Somers also give their ideas on aging. Their books have something in common with Caroly Heilbrun’s work and some of their ideas are different.

Heilbrun knows what she writes about because the theme of aging became the object of her research and personal investigation. She was bothered with the theme of aging since early years. She has even planned to commit a suicide at the age of 70. Fortunately she changed her mind when she approached this date and even managed to find benefits in her age. As she writes herself she finds not less pleasant things at the age of 60 than she had when she was about 30. Heilbrun managed to find new goals in her life and she possesses ability to share her experience with her readers.

Heilbrun posts important and fundamental questions: This harsh question, what’s the point’ is judged by some as cruel, unacceptable in our culture. To me, it is a very real question, the question that renders living too long dangerous, lest we live past the right point and our chance to die (Heilbrun, 42). The author does not  feel embarrassment when talking about such important things as death or aging.  She frankly shares her fears and doubts when discussing such important themes. Heilbrun gives other women hope because she enumerates all benefits women can have when they get older. She enumerate things which give sense in life of women under 60 and these simple but very important notes can be very helpful and even saving for many women.

I believe that the meaning and finding simple things to enjoy is the main message the author of the book wants to convey to her readers.

For many women life after 60 becomes meaningless. Unfortunately our society gives very little  chances to older women to express themselves and find meaning in their lives. Being feminist Heilbrun blames mail-oriented society. In addition it is evident that reduced social roles  and lack of career opportunities is general problem for men and women under 60.  Heilbrun proves that life of older women is not necessarily senseless. She uses her own example and the stories of her friends in order to prove that women have the power to change the situation for better. Aging is not a catastrophe. It is rather the time of changes and if to mind this it can become the period of opportunities. Heilbrun enumerates benefits of aging and describes things which helped her to meet her 60the birthday with dignity. What is really important about the book is the fact that the author not only encourages her readers to perceive the reality of aging but also gives simple and easy-to-follow advices which can be really helpful to her readers.  Heilbrun shits the very understanding of aging process. She shows that aging does not mean the end of career but rather shows that new opportunities emerge in the lives of the women. The narration is very valuable because Heilbrun had experienced this shift herself and it started with the shift of the consciousness first. She writes her book aiming her readers to change the perception of the very process of aging.

Barbara Walker in her The Crone Woman of Age, Wisdom and Power also makes an accent on the important social roles of women of older age. Walker gives a wonderful insight into social roles of mature women through the human history. Her book proves that women of any ages are able to have normal and valuable life. Her stories are inspiring and shed light to the important issues. Same like Heilbrun, Walker points out that women do not loose their abilities and functions with the age. She gives a lot of examples of women who not only found the meaning in their lives but also helped other people and made big contribution to the culture, politics and social structures of their countries.

Walker also notes that patriarchal society gives mature women less chances in comparison with men of the same age. Walker describes the time of pre-patriarchal societies when older women were the most respected and valuable members of the society. Important social roles of women from the past may be very inspiring for contemporary women. The most important message Walker wants to pass to her readers is to remind women about their great abilities and talents which only grow and develop with age.  Unfortunately contemporary society treats older women like women with limited abilities. Vivid and bright examples from Walker’s book prove that aging does not limit female abilities but vice versa, adds experience to their talents. Same like Heilbrun, Walker encourages women to seek for meaning and importance in their lives. Making an attempt to investigate the reasons of present poor position of aged females Walker investigates different spheres of our life. She studies the role of Church in the position of contemporary women.  The author blames Christianity in the limitations and restrictions contemporary women face in the contemporary society. Walker points out that Christianity made men central figures in the religious community. Taking into account the dominant role of religion though the human history this position naturally resulted in the development of male-oriented society. The author described real historical characters as live people of flesh and blood. In her book Walker did an important thing. She described outstanding historical females in such a way that contemporary readers may feel inspired and even motivated by the narration. The author reminds her readers that great females from the past do not differ a lot from the contemporary women.  The study of myths makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of female roles in the ancient societies.

Walker uses her academic knowledge and good writing skills in order to pass her ideas to her readers. Her passionate writing may be inspiring for many women  who feel lack of self-respect and motivation because of their age. Walker is not afraid to make a challenge to the patriarchal society and she turns to historical arguments to prove important roles of females through the history of mankind. Same like Heilbrun, Walker blames male-oriented society in the poor position of the contemporary women. They both make a distinction between the position of aging men and women and prove that the difference is not for females’ sake.  Both authors make an attempt to bring sense and meaning into the life of mature women. They use different means to fulfill their intention but they pursue the same goal- to prove older women that life after 60s is not meaningless.  In contrast to Heilbrun, Walker does not turn to her personal experience. Her main focus is the history of the entire mankind. She investigates female images through the entire human history and proves great meaning and importance of these images for the development of the mankind. Walker’s book is inspiring for women of any ages because it underlines sacred and privileged position of women ancient history. An accent on mature women is also very interesting as it gives new vision on these women and expands the vision of social roles of older women.  Heilbrun also makes an attempt to expand female vision on their roles and functions in the society.

The Diaries of Jane Somers by  Doris Lessing also explore the theme of aging. In contrast to Heilbrun’s book The Diaries of Jane Somers is a fiction novel with definite subject line and main characters. Despite Heilbrun and Lessing present very different works in reality the authors explore same topic and want to deliver same message to their readers- they both explore the problem of aging and want to attract public attention to this problem. Doris Lessing has chosen an interesting way to pass her ideas to the readers. Fiction novel presents information in interesting form. The theme of aging and personal transformation of the protagonist are the main focus of the novel. Jane Somers, the protagonist of the novel appears as a real character of flesh and blood and many readers can easily note that the character experiences same feelings and troubles as they do. In the beginning of the narration Jane is an ambitious young woman who is interested in her career and who is afraid of serious commitment. Tragic events change her life and make her to seek for the new sense in life. After the death of her husband and her mother Jane Somers changes her outlook. She suddenly becomes worried about people who are in need. She makes good friends with the old woman Maudie. Her entire life changes and she gets new vision of the situations and people around her.

Relationship with Maudie help Jane to discover new aspects of herself. She discovers that there are other interests than career and clothes.

She also comes to the realization that there are people who are in need and even smallest help may be really life-saving to them.  Jane finds out that society pays too little attention to aged women and these women have very little chances and opportunities for happy and full life.

On Maudie’s example the author illustrates the scope of the problem. In the beginning of the novel Jane illustrates social attitude to age women she is irritated with these people and wants to avoid them by any means. Unfortunately cotemporary society very often neglects this category of citizens. The problems of the aged women are very seldom become the focus of attention in the contemporary society. The image of real aged women who lives in need and does not have anybody to help her attracts public attention to the problem. Her past life and her life after transformation differ greatly. New neighbor Jill, who arrives to Jane’s old apartment, very vividly illustrates Jane’s past life. Jill is also preoccupied with her career. Jane watches this girl like her own past reflection but she can not change Jill as nobody could change her in the past. The second part of the novel, which got the name If the Old Could shows Jane’s aging. Jane meets her real love for the first time after she turns fifty. The author illustrates that this period may be a beautiful part of women’s life. Doris Lessing uses an example of fiction character in order to illustrate the life of women after they turn 50s. The book shows different aspects of aging. It shows such problems as loneliness, poverty, lack of social contact which often appear for aged women. On the example of the protagonist it shows that aging may be the source of new opportunities. It may open new horizons and give chances for self-realization and self-perfection.

From the one side the novel illuminates the problem of aging and from the other side it gives hope and opens new perspectives. The author very vividly illustrates the vices of the contemporary society but she also points out that it is not necessary to correct the entire society. The changes may start from each separate individual if he or she pays little attention to people in need who surround him or her.

The issue of female aging is important problem of the contemporary society. Different authors dedicate scientific research, autobiographic narrations and fiction narrations to this theme.  Caroly Heilbrun gives her personal experience of aging and illuminates problems and benefits of female aging. Her book is not only a source of interesting information but also real guidelines for those who want to avoid problems of aging and enjoy positive sides of their age. Barbara  Walker in The Crone Woman of Age, Wisdom and Power and Doris Lessing in The Diaries of Jane Somers also center on the theme of female aging. All three authors underline social inadequate reaction on aged women who turn to be one of the most defended category. All three authors stress on the great resources which aged women have to share with the world and all authors also underline that the contemporary society  does not pay necessary attention to mature women. All three books attract public attention to the problem and, what is the most important, give women confidence in themselves. All authors write about benefits and positive sides of aging and the readers may greatly benefit if the follow positive advices of the authors.

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