Deepa Sahay, 53, was used to being a busybody all her life, and suddenly, she had a lot of time to spare. Her son had left for the US for his new job, and her daughter was well settled in her home and work many cities away. Having spent most of her youth and adult life taking care of her husband and children and keeping busy with their schedules, Deepa did not know what to do with all the time she had now. She had never worked out of home, and was not sure what special talents she had besides the day-to-day home administration. Then, at a social gathering, a friend mentioned a new art gallery he was opening, and said that he was looking for an organised and trustworthy person to manage it. Deepa, though uncertain, thought this was up her alley, and asked if she would qualify. Thus began a new innings for her; after 30 years as a homemaker, she started using her talents in newer ways.
Like Deepa, there are many women who wonder what to do with their lives next. Some may be working and wish to explore different avenues; others may have time at hand after children have left home.
The enormity of starting something new at 50 can be quite overwhelming, especially in this youth-obsessed world. Millionaires are in their 20s, and technology is moving faster than most of us can catch up with. So what kind of work opportunities are available for those in their 50s and above?
Be it your first time into the job world or starting afresh, while there are fewer options for women over 50, there are still plenty to go around. Here are some of the fields you can explore:
- Social work
For those of you who are not looking at money as the main motivation, this would be a good option. NGOs always need volunteers, and schedules can be flexible to suit your needs. Social work is diverse and dynamic, and women can choose projects they are comfortable with–from promoting environmental issues and working with children or women to standing up for social causes. There are also courses available on social work, if you wish to study and qualify for the pay package.
Another flexible work option is tutoring. Many look at tutoring as only associated with school subjects, but it can be diverse. Sheila, 58, tutors kids in different painting techniques. “I was an avid painter in my younger years, but it was never looked at as a lucrative profession. I took up a job and then, between work and family, my painting was well forgotten. When I retired at 55, I knew I could not sit idle. So, I went back to my old passion. Today, I have reacquainted myself with old and new styles of art, and in the bargain, make good money teaching kids and adults,” she says. Besides school subjects and art, other tutoring options could be singing, different dance forms or musical instruments etc.
- Designer (Interiors / clothes / jewelery)
Always had a keen eye for clothes or jewellery, or been fascinated by people’s homes? Do you see design in everything? While others see a plain cloth, you give it shape, style and form? A few pieces of rock form a beautiful ring in your mind’s eye, or you have found the perfect corner for the shabby box on sale? Then you should try your hand at designing. There are courses available for clothes, jewellery and interior designing, if you wish to hone the skill. If starting out alone, this might require some investment from your end; you can participate in exhibitions to promote your brand, or alternatively tie up with other boutiques or professionals.
This one entails your years of talent in the kitchen being put to lucrative use. Some women are fond of cooking and enjoy feeding people. A mother-son duo in Mumbai have started a home dining experience to introduce the world to their community food. The mother is skilled in the kitchen and the son puts his marketing talents to work and promotes her expertise. Theirs is now a full-time venture. Women can also start tiffin services or take up party orders.
There is a growing need for counsellors in today’s age. Being in the counselling profession, I have noticed that people are more comfortable with women counsellors. To add to that, a woman with worldly experience is an added bonus. Women interested in counselling need to be certified. There are many courses available, and one can specialise in their field of interest, be it counselling marriages, children, substance abuse or educating people on sexual issues. While I was doing my course, there was a retired school principal in my batch; her motivation to become a counsellor was simple: She said she had guided her students all their lives, and they still came to her for advice; so why not do it professionally and channelise it better!
- Real estate agent
While women real estate agents are very popular in the West, this is not the most popular choice in India. But, if you have a flair for marketing, can be aggressive yet polite, and are quick with follow-ups, this is a good option. You can tie up with local estate agents and work flexible hours to show properties. Some would prefer working around the vicinity of their homes–this also helps in sales as they have local knowledge. Salaries for agents vary, as most work on commision of sales.
Remember those poems you wrote in college? Or those stories you made up for the children and grandchildren? It’s time to put that imagination on paper. Writing is something most take for granted and few pursue as a career choice. Short stories, life experiences, fantasy and fiction–all genres are open and up for grabs. There are courses on creative writing in most cities. If you are not sure where to get your work published, you could start a blog: it’s free and easy to operate. Many sites offer worthwhile payment options once the blog picks up.
For those in love with nature and some open space to spare, it would be ideal to open a nursery. Plants need care and nurturing, and can keep you busy for hours. Read up on plants that suit your climatic conditions and begin potting. Learn flower arrangements, and decorate for friends and family at their next few parties. If you can manage to employ, keep a few delivery men at hand once the business picks up. Being a florist is not only a lucrative business, but the interaction with plants has been scientifically proven to keep one calm and happy.
There is no dearth for work opportunities for women wanting to start over. Women I know, well into their fifties and older, contributed with many more ideas. One has a booming chocolate business which she operates from home, while another makes knitted articles like bags, tea cosies, table placements and more through the year, and then exhibits them during the festive season, making a thriving sale. An aunt of mine chanced upon a pottery class, and now has a beautiful shop selling handmade ceramic pieces. All of these women have proved time and again that it doesn’t matter how old you are; after all, age is just a number.
This article was first published on Sheroes.in.