Back in the 1980s, I moved to California to work at the Orange County Register , where, at the time, the real estate beat was covered by a woman named Jane Glenn Haas. I never knew her very well, but she seemed like one of those old-fashioned newspaper reporters, the ones who'd been cultivating sources for so long that she could dig up more insights by thumbing her Rolodex than I probably could from Google today. On one of my first shifts she was kind enough to give me a few pointers about California architecture for a story about a new housing development, which saved me from looking like an East Coast rube.
Eventually, I moved back East, and pretty much lost track of Haas, except for occasionally seeing her book reviews in a magazine that I also wrote for. When she passed away on Jan. 23 at age 75, I was surprised to learn that the former ace business journalist had launched a second, and even more successful, career as a commentator and author who specialized in the challenges of aging, especially the ones faced by women. In 2000, she wrote a well-received inspirational book, Time of Your Life: Why Almost Everything Gets Better After Fifty, and after ostensibly retiring from the newspaper business in 2006, launched a twice-weekly column - mostly about aging issues - that ran in 300 newspapers across the nation.
Here's a video of Hass talking about WomanSage, an organization she founded that assists women with personal reinvention and career growth.
I went back and read some of Haas' columns from the past few years, and picked out a few of her pearls of wisdom on some important subjects:
- On the words we use for aging: "It didn't bother me to turn 70. Another odd designation, in my mind. 'Turning' a certain age sounds a bit like rotting, don't you think? As in 'the meat turned bad' or 'the beer turned flat.' Enough!"
- Extended lifespans: "Adding five or six additional years (of life) is an opportunity as well as a challenge for us. We can look at what we can add to the leisure box, yes. But if there will be a lot more healthy older people, it's important to find a productive role for them. We need to figure out how to unleash their potential."
- On women facing retirement: "I look at 'retirement' - the end of my identity - with understandable fear. And I'm not alone. For the first time in history, substantial numbers of women are viewing leaving their jobs with the same trepidation as men. We were the pioneers - the first generation to work outside the home in large numbers - and not all of us want to quit."
- Everyday priorities: "Actually, I don't want to be bothered with the everyday, like washing sheets or making macaroni and cheese or making sure all the avocados get eaten before they're over-ripe. Once, I was the queen of pot roast and mac and cheese and meatloaf. Once, I canned and jellied and froze everything from tomatoes to applesauce. I'm not necessarily older and wiser. I'm just less willing to spend my time doing 'wifey' stuff."
- Why that junk in the garage is priceless: "In two weeks, I've gone through 12 boxes of memories. ... I discovered my mother saved every letter my father sent her when he was on assignment in Germany. And every letter I sent from college. ... There is a time to go through your life this way. It's not a sad experience. It's invigorating to reflect on the past, hone it to a purpose and apply it to the future."