Women's voices: The experience of aging for late midlife women
Studies on aging reflect the losses inherent in the aging process. How the aging process is viewed, either as a loss or as a natural process of living, may affect the adaptation by late midlife women to life changes. The aim of this hermeneutic phenomenological inquiry was to explore the lived experience of aging for late midlife women via reflective journaling and a photo elicitation interview; and to illustrate how the creation of the art medium of collage allows women to make meaning of the aging experience in their lives. The personal narratives of fifteen women, ages 55 to 64 years with diverse backgrounds formed the basis for this inquiry and the holistic portrayal of the late midlife woman. Using the philosophical framework of van Manen four themes were discovered: invisibility, conflicted self, freedom, and relationality. Invisibility was expressed by the women as one of disregard; not being seen by others or over-looked in day-to-day activities. Conflicted self dealt with the conflict between the inner being and the outer physical body; the women saw the outer body changing in physical appearance, yet the inner body remained relatively unchanged over time. Freedom related to the women's ability to let go of expectations of others (societal demands) and allow them selves to be the persons they were in their own reality. Relationality was the interconnectedness the women felt with family, friends, colleagues and the changes in these relationships. The narratives and collages of these women portrayed a holistic picture of aging; not confined to decline, but rather a life of anticipation.