I am often asked what motivated me to write a book about older women. The easiest response is that I was just finishing a series of studies dealing with working poor populations. I felt that if I were to sharpen my analytical skills I needed to explore other social milieus. I was also becoming more confident in using theoretical frameworks to study the everyday use of information. Since I've been curious for some time about the applicability of social network theory to studies of information, I thought an understudied population such as a retirement environment would be an ideal research site to explore my intellectual capacities.
Less academically, I wanted to confront my own love-hate relationship with the aging process. On the one hand, maturity brings independence, some degree of financial security, and the knowledge that one can make sensible judgments regarding one's personal and professional life. However, the aging process has its downside, particularly for older women, who--unlike older men--are not viewed as attractive as they grow older. In this light, I was interested to discover how older women dealt with the aging process--perhaps even to glean some coping devices of my own for when I reach advanced age.
Researching this topic has challenged some previously held views about older women and ageism. My experiences at times showed that neither age nor motherhood gave the older women I studied (most of whom were mothers) an a priori position within a supportive social network. But I also gained insight into ways in which some older women approach advanced aging and even death. These women left an incredibly positive influence on me. I would like to acknowledge them and all the women at Garden Towers who let me intrude in their lives, who contributed their intensely interesting stories to this research, and who gave me such significant insight into their social reality. I hope that I have paid appropriate homage to all of them.