Women of a certain age: Local social worker starts support group on aging
Nevada County Women of a Certain Age
Support group for women about aging
Camille McSeveney, MSW
2 p.m. Wednesdays
What’s Up Coffee House, 1110 East Main St., Grass Valley
“When was the first time you knew you were invisible?”
That was the first question Camille McSeveney asked the group assembled at What’s Up Coffee House in Grass Valley.
The responses flowed easily — some with humor and some with pain. There seemed to be some collective relief in acknowledging an uncomfortable societal truth.
“As I get older, I’ve gained wisdom and experience, but our culture sometimes treats you as though you’re a nuisance,” said Cathy Stanton, 65. “My heart is still beating — I still have things to offer, but I feel as though I’ve been pushed to the back burner.”
McSeveney, 72, who has her master’s degree in social work, began noticing the small conversations that would spontaneously crop up with older women — in the grocery store, buying shoes, at the post office.
“Women who are complete strangers instantly bond and start talking about getting older and the physical changes they’re experiencing,” she said. “A cashier recently started talking to me about losing her memory. I realized that women at a certain time in their lives want to talk about this transition, about aging.”
As a result, McSeveney started a support group, dubbed “Nevada County Women of a Certain Age.” The group meets every Wednesday afternoon.
“There is no set age requirement to be part of the group,” she said. “If you’re bothered by the aging process, then this group is for you. There are so many issues around aging.”
Remember the first time someone called you “ma’am?” Your first gray hair? First wrinkle? First AARP flyer in the mail? Tired of losing your reading glasses or trolling for those persistent chin hairs?
“Needless to say, we laugh a lot,” said McSeveney. “We just want to connect with each other as human beings.”
“This group is like a class reunion, being with women my age,” echoed Joy Zuke, 68. “It’s validation that you are still part of humanity. As you age, you have to really develop a deeper sense of self. It feels good to be seen by your peers.”
It’s clear McSeveney has tapped into a key component: peer support. Across the United States there are hundreds of “Meet Up” groups posted online for women over 50, such as The Empty Nesters of Texas, Sixty Plus and Fabulous of Ohio, Fun, Feisty and Over 40 in Pleasanton, Calif., Fabulous Women over 55 in Indianapolis, Thrive@55 in Phoenix, Middle Aged Girls in Washington, Women Living Life Like It’s Golden in Las Vegas and many, many more.
McSeveney said she hopes to see her Grass Valley group expand, as each member brings something different to the group.
“It’s rewarding to see that people are making use of this, that it has value,” she said. “I like to think we can help each other evolve. The gift of years can be a real gift. I would love to bring more women into the group. We really support each other and offer resources. We recently helped a member who was sick.”
The topic of aging women tends to only be of interest to people who fall in that category, surmised Annabelle Gurwitch, author of “I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50.”
“If you tell people in their 20s about anything I’m writing about in this book, they can’t hear it,” she wrote. “It’s like a high-pitched dog whistle. Only people over 40 can hear.”
But that doesn’t make it any less important, asserts McSeveney.
“I am not who I was even 15 years ago — I’m a better person than I ever knew I could be,” she said. “This is a time when one can refine one’s self.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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