As women in our 60s we are entering what’s called the “third stage” of life, which is thought to be a time when we can finally let go and enjoy what we have. And what do we have? A lot! We’ve had decades of experiences to shape us into who we are, from work to relationships, children and grandchildren.
I can speak firsthand, as I’m in my mid 60s as of this writing. And yes, things have changed since my younger 50 ‘ish days! So let’s talk a little more about what to expect in your 60s from a woman’s perspective. I’m not a physician or medical professional, so these observations, although verifiable, are general changes to be aware of. I know that I can absolutely relate to most!
The third stage of life offers plenty of opportunities for growth that haven’t been available before, both positive and challenging: midlife crisis, empty nesting syndrome or changing careers. Couple these life changes with all of the adjustments our body is experiencing, and living through our 60s becomes a ‘thing’.
So, my friend, here are 10 things every woman needs to know about growing older.
- What to Expect in Your 60s: How does a woman’s body change?
- 1 | We smell different
- 2 | We don’t move as quickly
- 3 | We lose some hearing
- 4 | We tinkle more
- 5 | We look different
- 6 | We have skin tags
- 7 | We have senior moments
- 8 | We might start to shrink
- 9 | We need to protect our pearly whites
- 10 | We are susceptible to eye diseases
- Health Maintenance for Women in Their 60s
- Conclusion: What to Expect in Your 60s
What to Expect in Your 60s: How does a woman’s body change?
Things really start to get interesting for people in their 60s. Even if in good health, there are natural changes to the body that occur with the normal aging process. Although these next ten “things to know” are not all encompassing, they will give you a good idea of the physical changes that you’ll most likely notice as you are getting older.
1 | We smell different
A woman in her 60s will notice that she has a more acidic body odor and may notice what is called bromhidrosis, or excessive sweating. This change happens because of what’s happening inside the body as menopause approaches and estrogen levels drop, the skin loses some of its natural cleanliness, which actually makes a woman’s sweat smell worse than before.
My personal experience with this? I smell. And it ain’t pretty. This is something new for me, as I would always say that I ‘glow’ or ‘glisten’, making a joke about sweating, but in reality I didn’t have body odor. But I sure do now.
A switch to a more powerful deodorant has helped a lot. So, be aware of this, my friend, and check your armpits. That odor you’re noticing just might be you.
2 | We don’t move as quickly
Yes, it can be. And what’s behind this change? Muscle mass and strength actually decrease approximately 5 percent per decade. It isn’t just age that causes this to happen: sedentary lifestyles can also contribute to the body’s slower movements.
The most effective way for us to combat this is to…you guessed it…exercise regularly. If you are healthy enough to do so, regular exercise, both aerobic and strength training, is one of the best examples of self-care.
3 | We lose some hearing
What? I always pair hearing loss with being, well, old. You know, grandparent-like old, with white hair, glasses, and hearing aids. Oh, but wait. I’m a grandparent, have gray hair, and wear glasses.
So I guess I fit the statistic of 1 out of 10 Americans in their 60s having trouble with their hearing.
Hair cells in your inner ear die off naturally, and causes what’s called sensorineural hearing impairment, which makes what you hear less clear, dear.
Fortunately, if/when we find that hearing loss has affected us personally, there are hearing aids that are almost indetectable and so they won’t interfere with our stylish looks. 🙂
4 | We tinkle more
Yep, make no mistake about it – definitely on the list of what to expect in your 60s. When I have to pee, I have to pee. It was never a matter of urgency in the past, but now there are times when I literally have to drop everything and take care of business.
It’s because our bladder tissue isn’t as flexible as it used to be, so it holds less pee. Oh, okay. At least I understand why I hot foot it to the bathroom more often.
And…we have issues with incontinence.
As women age, urinary incontinence can become an issue. This is what happens when the muscles around the bladder sphincter don’t work as well as they used to and result in urine leaks. For some women it occurs when they cough, or laugh, or sneeze. For me, it’s just a small amount and only occurs right after I go to the bathroom.
Whatever the type of incontinence you deal with, as long as it is a small amount, there are plenty of products out there we can use to make sure we’re covered, whether it’s custom panties or bladder control pads.
5 | We look different
Our skin undergoes many changes as we age, and in our 60s a host of things decrease: collagen, elastin (the layer of fat under the skin), blood vessels, sweat glands, nerve endings, and pigment-producing cells. I know – it’s a long list!
As we age, our skin loses its elasticity. One of the telltale signs is what’s known as “vascularization” — tiny red and blue lines that appear on the neck, wrists and face. Loss of fat may also cause sagginess in some areas, such as the arms. Hormonal changes can mean more oily skin and enlarged pores.
What is the result of our changing skin? We might bruise more easily, our skin sags and bags, cracks and peels, and develops the inevitable age spots as well as wrinkles.
When we reach our 60s, another change in our skin is the inability to form vitamin D from sunlight exposure as in our younger years, so we need to consider supplements as well as making sure that our diet includes foods that are rich in this nutrient, including salmon, canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods like cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, instant oatmeal.
How about our nails?
Aging affects the nails in two ways: they get thinner, and their growth rate is more erratic. More than half of women over age 60 have what’s called “koilonychia”, which means spoon-shaped fingernails. The nail thickens at the center, but not along the edges.
Why? It’s a mineral deficiency — in this case, iron or Vitamin B12. “When your vitamin levels are low, nails don’t get as much nourishment,” says Dr. Shereene Idriss. Plus, if the shape of your nails is affected, it makes them more likely to chip or snag.
But what you eat matters too. Protein and foods with omega-3 fatty acids will help your nails stay strong, as well as vitamins like B-complex, iron, and magnesium.
What’s up with our body shape?
A changing body shape and the appearance of belly fat is not a new thing for me and is a part of what to expect in your 60s. What is new, however, is the dramatic visuals that I am noticing as the weeks go by. I can see the waistline disappearing, the thickening all around my body increasing, knowing that the weight is going up without ever stepping on the scale.
I do my best to eat well, exercise every day in some way, and make (mostly) wise lifestyle choices. But it’s like my body doesn’t get the message; it does whatever it wants.
So I consciously work at accepting and loving my changing body as I travel through my 60s. It’s a whole new world.
6 | We have skin tags
Skin tags are called benign pedunculated lesions. They’re fleshy smooth growths that hang from a stalk. Okay, that’s gross.
There’s another condition called acrochordons—or what some people call fish skin or fish bumps. These are tiny, fleshly flat spots that look like capillary hemangiomas, or what people call “strawberry” birthmarks.
Doctors often remove skin tags with lasers and freeze them off. For larger growths, they’re surgically removed and what’s left is then cauterized (or burned) to form a scar.
Anyway, it’s something to look forward to if you haven’t reached your 60s yet.
7 | We have senior moments
Yes, it’s a normal part of aging and what to expect in your 60s. No, it doesn’t mean that we are all developing serious, life-threatening memory problems. What is ‘it’? Becoming a little forgetful.
Our brain is changing as we age, similar to the way our body changes. It might take a little longer to learn new things, or remember information, or where we put something. I’m an expert at putting something in a ‘safe place’ for when I need it, and then having no idea what that place is.
Our friends at the National Institute on Aging have a simple chart showing the difference between normal aging and a concern about Alzheimer’s:
Sometimes there are health-related reasons why we become forgetful, and if you’re concerned, follow up with your health care provider. In general, though, some forgetfulness is normal and part of what to expect in your 60s.
8 | We might start to shrink
Yep, the shrinkage can start happening in our 60s, friends. The loss of bone density and experiencing menopause can result in the spinal column getting shorter, and new bone can’t be rebuilt as quickly as it’s breaking down.
The best gifts you can give yourself to fight the body’s propensity to get short? Strength training, which will signal the brain to add new bone cells as exercise puts stress on them, and including calcium-rich foods in your diet. Be sure to consult with your physician if you are uncertain about how much / what kind of strength training is safe for you to do.
9 | We need to protect our pearly whites
Regular visits to the dentist can help detect periodontal disease as well as gum recession, two issues we can face as we get older.
Our 6th decade of life is no time to skip the dental check ups, my friends. One common condition that is most often a side effect of the medication we might be taking is dry mouth. It affects 3 out of 10 people over the age of 65. And, it could be caused by diabetes or other health conditions. So it’s not something to ignore.
10 | We are susceptible to eye diseases
By the time we reach 65, we enjoy the 1 in 3 chance of developing cataracts, glaucoma, or dry eye. We also are at the age-related risk for macular degeneration, which destroys the central part of the vision you need to drive, or to read. The average 60 year old needs 3 times more light to read than a 20 year old.
We may also notice some physical changes to our eyes in our 60s:
- the lower lid may being to sag due to loss of muscle
- loss of fat around the eyes may make them appear to be sunken
- the whites of the eyes may begin to turn yellow
- small spots of color might begin to show up in the whites of the eyes
Most eye diseases don’t hurt, so you won’t know if they are affecting your eye health. The wisest thing you can do is get an annual eye exam.
Health Maintenance for Women in Their 60s
We all are more likely to have illnesses and injuries when we get older, increasingly at risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis.
What’s the best way to stay healthy? We all know what to do, don’t we? So I’ll keep it short and to the point.
- We need to watch what we eat, choose to reduce your sodium intake, increase your fiber intake or add more lean proteins to your diet. A moderate approach to nutrition if we are healthy overall can help to keep us in the right path for healthy living after 60
- We need to exercise, both aerobic and strength training, as long as our health allows for this type of activity.
- We need to stay active, get proper rest and sleep, and stay in tune with our overall health.
What should we look out for and follow up on with our health?
Women need to see their doctor or gynecologist for routine checkups and tests. The list that follow here is a general guideline for healthy women in their 60s. Your personal health should be discussed with your doctor.
It’s important that a woman in her 60s talk with her health care professional about any family hereditary cancers. It’s also important to be aware of any signs and symptoms of cancer, including:
- blood in the urine or stool
- a lump in an unusual place, and
- a long lasting headache, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen
It’s also important for women in their 60s to do breast self-exams and to have regular mammograms as half of breast cancers are diagnosed at age 61 or older. It should be done yearly from age 40 on, until you and your physician determine that it will no longer be done.
Every 60-year-old woman should see her health care provider about bone density testing, as a bone density scan can identify whether or not there’s indication of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Women over 60 should continue to have bone density tests every two years, even if they’re doing weight-bearing exercises, such as running or walking.
Women over 60 also should have a colonoscopy, or colon cancer screening periodically. This usually starts sometime between the ages of 50 and 75. My physician agreed to have me do the home test, Cologuard, as my first colonoscopy 10 years ago was clear and I am a low risk.
It was not the most enjoyable task I’ve completed, but collecting my sample at home and mailing it in was so much easier than the prep and procedure of having a colonoscopy.
It is recommended that women get their last Pap smear between the ages of 65 and 70. I’m all done with those because I’m over 65 and am not at risk based on my history.
A woman’s risk for heart disease increases after age 60. Be aware of your risk factors and how to prevent heart disease. Here are some general guidelines from the American Heart Association:
- Eat a healthy diet, including “lean protein” and whole grains.
- Be physically active every day, even if it’s only for a walk light strength training.
- If you smoke, please quit.
- Limit alcohol intake.
Vitamins and Supplements to consider
- Vitamin B3 or Niacin: helps to maintain blood glucose levels, and it can also be used to treat type II diabetes.
- Magnesium: is considered the “master mineral,” because it plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions.
- Calcium: a bone protective supplement. Women should get about 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium daily
- Zinc: can help to improve the body’s immune system and to reduce inflammation.
- Vitamin D: a daily supplement, and/or from food sources like tune, egg yolks, and cheese
- Vitamin B6: helps the body to convert food into energy. It promotes healthy cell growth and development, brain function and normal immune function. Vitamin B6 can also help to balance mood.
- Vitamin B12: to help reduce the risk of dementia
Conclusion: What to Expect in Your 60s
Life as a woman in my mid 60s is good, I won’t complain. But it is important to me to keep my eyes open, my ears listening, and my body, mind, and spirit in tune.
I hope that the Lord gives me many more healthy years to enjoy life, my family, friends, and warm, sunny days.
By doing my part every day, making wise choices, paying attention to what is happening inside my body as well as outward appearance, I’m giving myself the best opportunity to do just that!
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