What to Expect When You are Seventy

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Stella Fosse

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What to Expect When You Are Seventy

Having been in my seventies for all of six months, I am only marginally qualified to write about this decade. But never having been reticent about sharing an opinion, whether informed or not, here is what I know so far. If you’re a Crone in Training in your forties through sixties, please consider this essay a missive from the future.

First of all, the stereotype of the Frail Old Woman is even more off target now than it was in my sixties. Granted that I have the advantage of good genes, with centenarians on both sides, I spend zero time each day in a rocking chair on the porch. I lift weights, run a writers’ organization, hike, and two of my books will launch this year. Yes, granted, writing books does involve sitting in a chair, but it is emphatically a chair without rockers.

When you are Sixty.

Having said all that, my seventies are different than my sixties, philosophically, energetically, and physically. I started my sixties as a fledgling erotic writer, a Late Bloomer intent on blooming. I had more energy than in my forties or fifties, probably because my children were mostly grown and I was leaving an overly demanding corporate career (As I’ve ranted in the past, I believe Americans work too damn hard).

I read stories onstage at the Dirty Old Women reading series, started the Elderotica writing group, and published my first book, Aphrodite’s Pen, encouraging other women past midlife to write erotic stories. I kissed a number of frogs and at age 62 found my prince (who is now my publisher as well as my life partner). All in all a terrific decade (and one you’ll hear more about in my upcoming book, What to Expect When You’re Sixty).

When you are Seventy.

Things are more settled in my seventies. I write Women’s Fiction and Seasoned Romance—still sexy but less overtly sexual than The Erotic Pandemic Ball, my 2020 story collection. I either hike or go to the gym, but no longer do both on the same day. I still have my share of ego but find myself more outwardly focused than before. I’m more interested in volunteering, including for Girls Write Now, an organization that recruits women writers as mentors for disadvantaged young women, to coach them on everything from college essays to publishing careers. I judge science fairs, I lead writing workshops for church groups, and I’m signing up to register voters this election year.

And while things are more settled, the intimations of mortality are more compelling. Starting right after my seventieth birthday, I’ve had a series of minor and recoverable health setbacks. I’m invited to more memorial services than weddings. As positive as I am about this stage of life, there is no denying that it has an expiration date.

When you’ve met one seventy-year-old, you’ve met one seventy-year-old, and I already know that divergence is even greater for eighty-year-olds. Ruth Saxton, author of The Book of Old Ladies, makes good trouble in her eighties, running groups that study books about vivid older women. I hope to be like Ruth. There are, of course, no guarantees for any of us. While our days are more bountiful, our years are more precious.

I have grown more interested in passing on what I’ve learned through nonfiction. Both of my books this year are legacy projects, designed to engage the vibrant Crones who are out there now or rising up. At the moment I’m madly editing Write & Sell a Well-Seasoned Romance, a step-by-step guide to create, publish and market a Romance with characters in their fifties and beyond. Many Romance readers want to read about people their own age, and after a point, those books are rare. If you are in your fifties, sixties, and on up, the best way to make that happen is to write our own stories and read one another’s novels.

Once Well-Seasoned Romance is in the hopper, I’ll turn to editing my second book for 2024, What to Expect When You’re Sixty. This essay collection will explore the adventures to be had in the secretly wonderful decade: everything from creativity to sexuality to movement to self-acceptance. It will also talk about how to maximize your fun by avoiding some common pitfalls of life after sixty, including internalized ageism and medical gendered ageism. I’m looking forward to launching both these books and talking about them with you readers, as well as on some of the marvelous podcasts that are springing up for and by Women of a Certain Age.

What can you expect in your seventies? Alas, my crystal ball is in the shop. But if your seventies turn out to be anything like mine so far, the forecast is for greater perspective and continued joy. I love Leonard Cohen’s line, “Ring the bells that still can ring.” At seventy, there are plenty of bells to ring. May that be true for all of us, and may it continue.

10 Responses

  1. I love your energy and wisdom. You are really inspiring. We can live our best life every day. With time away from my other ‘duties,’ I look forward to making some new choices. Thank you!

  2. I’m 75, and life has never been better. Whoever thought retirement was sitting around listening to old people complain about all their aches and pains has not taken a good look at the Boomers who are vital, walking, hiking, volunteering and trying to give back to their communities. We recently relocated from Florida to Maine, a much friendlier place for sure. People want to be outside and a day in the 40’s is like spring, with people in shorts and tshirts. Age is a mark on the calendar, not a death sentence. Yes your health needs to be watched more, because at this age it’s normal for parts to begin wearing out. After two hip replacements, I’m back to walking. Hills are still a challenge, but they don’t stop me.
    My relationship with my wife is better than ever. Having the right partner, unconditional love, and laughter make for a great intimate relationship and wanting to be with this person, even after thirty years. Go Crones! We’re still strong, vital and have a lot to offer!

    1. Thanks Louise!
      Yes, being seventy is like driving a perfectly serviceable car with 100K miles on it – Enjoy the trip!
      And Maine sounds fantastic.
      With all best wishes.

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