What to do with our third acts? I remember when I was in my forties and realized that I had now had a longer lifespan that most women who were born 100 years before me, who couldn’t expect to live till 40. (http://ourworldindata.org/data/population-growth-vital-statistics/life-expectancy/) So my last 27 years were a gift. Now I figure we who have exceeded 65 are in a sort of 3rd life. And “according to the Administration on Aging, 37% of women in the U.S. over 65 live by themselves”(source). According to this article on Aging Horizons, A surprising number of single retired women relocate abroad, despite the idea that we are old and fragile.
How does it feel to be a woman of a certain mature age contemplating moving to another country, away from family, friends and the familiar? The “retire abroad” propaganda makes it sound romantic and easy. In some ways this is the case, but I think it is important to come to terms with what is at stake. It isn’t for everyone, and it is best to at least be eyes wide opened when contemplating the move.
Family and friends will be far away, perhaps when you need them most. In many places you can afford to hire care, but you can’t hire love. Will your family come and see you? I’m not sure, in my own case, mostly for economic reasons, even though I will probably be settling in the Americas. Are you good at making friends and creating a social structure for yourself? You need to be honest with yourself about this. Just because the literature says the we women are much more sociable, that means on average, some of us are more introverts. I personally want distance and space as well as friends. It takes me a while to really establish relationships. This is why it is a priority of mine to find a place that my friends and family will be likely to want to come. I don’t fool myself that simply wanting to see me is enough to bring the tribe to visit. I had visitors when I lived in Vietnam. Not in Saudi Arabia. As my friends and family start to age, maybe they will want to move away too, and I would like to think I have blazed a bit of a trail for them. As grandchildren look for adventure, I’m sure that if nana is in a place they might want to visit, they would be more likely to see me. As I said, I’m just trying to be realistic.
Still interested in people of the opposite sex? I found that, for me, Asia was not so conducive for amorous encounters. I’m tall and I’m very western in my gender ideas. Living a singular life does not mean entering the nunnery, though it mostly did amount to that in my years in Asia, as most of the Asian men of my generation were very conventional and conservative. In Asia, also, the western male retirees generally are interested in the younger Asian women. It is just a fact. When I travel in Latin America, on the other hand, I find that there is at least the frisson of flirtation. I’m not quite so invisible to the ardent eye.
To retire alone as a single women requires some fortitude and confidence. I think it’s a great challenge and a departure from whatever roles we have lived in our home countries. In a new country and a new community, you are no longer seen as someone’s mother, wife, employee, etc.. You can define yourself as you choose for the third act, and that is a thrilling prospect.