How men and women age differently
by Lucia Dore
Most people over 50 can find it difficult to make life decisions, especially because “ageism” in society is alive and well. Such discrimination can make it hard to find jobs and even perhaps a partner.
Even though we know discrimination exists (see COVID-19 highlights the world’s inequalities: does the older person face discrimination: https://www.behaviouralshift.com/post/covid-19-highlights-the-world-s-inequalities-does-the-older-person-face-discrimination) we hear more about the discrimination of women than men.
In answer to the question: “Do you think the challenges that you face are different from those that females face?” one male said: “I believe that women have an easier time than men as proactive opportunities are offered.” Discrimination against women is also more in the public eye than a man's, he added.
Men are not encouraged to enter certain professions, he noted adding that fewer men than women enter the teaching profession and they are not often eligible for a career in child care or early education. He believes that much of the discrimination that men face arises from the media.
Older men also have their struggles, not just in terms of health, be it potentially high blood pressure or diabetes, but in other life challenges too. “Women have better resilience [than men] and can be more adaptable to changing circumstances”, he noted.
This fact has been proved over again by leading psychologists the world over. On “World Health Day, 7 April 1999,” an article entitled “Myth No. 3: Men and women age the same way,” this claim was debunked. “Far from being the weaker sex they seem to be more resilient than men at all ages,” the article states.
While some of the differences between women and men are due to biological characteristics, others are due to socially determined roles and responsibilities, such as gender divisions and gender roles. For example, historically men have taken more risks as well as consuming more alcohol. This is changing, however.
Overall, women live longer than men. Part of women's advantage with respect to life expectancy is biological. Far from being the weaker sex they seem to be more resilient than men at all ages, but particularly during early infancy. In adult life too, women may have a biological advantage, at least until menopause, as hormones protect them from ischaemic heart disease, for example.
Another concern for older people is seeking employment or job hunting. This is tough for everyone over 50 and this has just got tougher. The COVID-19 pandemic has done that. Unemployment is soaring all over the world. One male commented: “Employment agencies receive so many applicants they can be very selective and immediately eliminate older people. Even in their late 40’s,” he said.
Behavioural Shift has often written about this subject: See, for example, “How to grab a job if you’re 50 plus” (https://www.behaviouralshift.com/post/how-to-grab-a-job-if-you-re-50-plus) and “Issues of isolation because of the pandemic”. (Solitary confinement https://www.behaviouralshift.com/post/solitary-confinement.) Although people are increasingly alone, which has brought about the growing worldwide phenomena of “loneness”, meeting new people virtually has also become easier as a result of the growth of social media, burgeoning technology and new modes of communication.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed many peoples’ work-life balance. As the same male said: “I’m currently in hospitality and having gone through a company restructure, work hours have almost halved”.
Increasingly, people are also working from home, resulting in less travel and online Zoom meetings, he noted, adding: “Certain people are less stressed with the small things as they put them in context with the gravity of COVID-19.”
All is not lost however and gender inequality is moving in the right direction. The distinction between men and women is also becoming blurred as sexual orientation becomes less binary. The 1999 article notes: “An improved quality of life for both women and men can be achieved through a more equal distribution of work; caring and leisure activities between men and women throughout the life course; educating boys and girls to understand and avoid gender stereotyping; combating gender discrimination in all aspects of life, including jobs, pay, education and access to health care; and mainstreaming gender analysis in all areas of healthy aging.”
Photo: by Carole Railton (copyright). "Some of the differences between women and men are due to biological characteristics, others are due to socially determined roles and responsibilities."