How Would You Rate Your Life?

We asked 1,200 women 60 and older to share what they've learned about love, work, parenthood and finding their true path. Prepare to be amazed, amused, surprised—and inspired about your own life's possibilities.

by Nanette Varian • Editor
illustration woman and owl
Photograph: Illustrations by Juliette Borda

OK, we admit it. We goofed. Our wide-ranging survey on attracted 1,202 wise, wondrous, wickedly witty women ages 60 through 95-plus who bared their souls—and gave us a piece of their minds. They sounded off about their careers, their kids, their mates, and graded their life’s progress with candor, humor and grace. Then we asked them at what age they’ve been happiest.

“You should have let us pick more than one!” they blasted back. Of course. More is, after all, the bible of second acts. Life doesn’t just go on; it can refresh in the most remarkable ways. Sure, aging ain’t for sissies, as these women well know. But our over-60 sisters are here to tell us: You evolve. You adapt. And you become smarter about finding happiness right here, right now. So read, laugh and learn.

“Forget what they say about the teenage years. There is something about maturity that allows one the freedom to grow without fear or reprisal or criticism—and that is HUGE.

Life on the “A” List
We asked respondents to grade their success in four key life categories. Here’s how many gave themselves an A in each:

Work: 44%
Religious/Spiritual Satisfaction: 38%
Current Marriage/Romantic Relationship: 37%
Parenting: 31%

We also learned that . . .

--Women who pursued activities outside their work and family were 12 percent more likely to give their romantic relationship a top score. They were 25 percent happier with their life over 60 and were 17 percent more satisfied with their entire life so far. Those with outside interests were also 25 percent more likely to say they have found their true path in life.

--Having children did not affect women’s perceptions of how successful their life has been, both in general and specifically after 60. Moms and nonmoms gave themselves nearly identical grades.

--Being part of a couple did not significantly affect respondents’ sense of how successful they had been at their life after 60. (Women in a relationship were only 5 percent more likely to give themselves an A.)

--Women who have worked primarily outside the home were 12 percent more likely to give themselves an A for their success at life after 60. (Not being retired pulled A grades down, but by just 6 percent.)

--87% of all respondents gave a top rating (A or B) to both their life over 60 and their entire life so far.

The Betty White Boost
A distinct spike in confidence occurred at the uppermost end of the respondents’ age group, so we named the phenomenon for our favorite 90-year-old icon of cool. Quite simply, the older the women were, the more likely they were to give themselves high marks and the less likely they were to judge themselves harshly. Women age 80-plus were the most likely to award themselves an A for current relationship success: A full 50 percent did so (and unlike the younger respondents, none of them gave themselves an F). The 80-plus women were the most resolute in the belief that they had made the right choice about parenthood. And they gave themselves the most A’s for work success, followed by women in their seventies (no woman in either group gave herself a D or an F). The older the respondent, the higher her grades for both life after 60 and entire life so far, and the likelier she was to say she’d found her true path in life.

Originally published in the November 2012 issue

Share Your Thoughts!


Post new comment

Click to add a comment