Successful Aging: No Gender Differences in Discussing Life Transitions

By Dennis, Helen | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), April 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

Successful Aging: No Gender Differences in Discussing Life Transitions


Dennis, Helen, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


Ron Dresher, Bernice Bratter, Helen Dennis and Brian Harris at the Life Transition Group and Project Renewment meeting.

Two years ago, around this time, my column began with a confession. I believed that men in general didn't talk - at least about certain subjects.

This was based on my work presenting retirement education programs to more than 10,000 employees on nonfinancial issues such as healthy aging, attitudes, purpose, use of time, relationships and more. Since then, I have changed my mind about gender differences.

This subject is not new. Books such as "You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation" by Deborah Tannen and "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" by John Gray remind us that men and women use language differently.

Since 2000, more than 30,000 articles on sex differences have been published by scientific journals.

Clearly there are differences between the sexes, but only to a certain degree.

Recently two gender-specific groups met for a third year: men from the Life Transition Group and women from Project Renewment. Most participants were in their 60s and 70s and highly accomplished in their careers.

Here's the backstory. Several years ago Ron Dresher and Brian Harris, both longtime successful marketing and advertising professionals, went for a bike ride along the Strand in the South Bay and talked about what they would do after they were finished with their dynamic careers.

Both were passionate about their work. The question was, "What's next?" They knew there was more to life than working.

Wanting to be more knowledgeable, they decided to form a group of like-minded men called the Life Transition Group. They have been meeting in El Segundo for seven years, with scheduled speakers about every six weeks.

The group is guided by something they call "CHAIRS" - Charity; Health; Achievement; Independence; Relationships and Spirituality.

The use of this acronym is a means to an end, helping to define a new identity and establish balance in their lives.

These characteristics are shared by women of Project Renewment, a forum and movement started by Bernice Bratter and me in 1999. It started when Bernice - who was facing her second retirement as an executive director - called and asked whether there was any research on career women and retirement. My answer was, "Not to my knowledge. …

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