I have a lot of karma with older, single women. Many such women find their way to Dharma centers in search of answers and a framework for rebuilding new lives. Many of these women grew up in an age when their job was to look after the men in their lives. Their husbands grew rich, successful, they grew older and less appealing, and the marriage ended (usually with the husband going off with some younger woman). Now they have few skills, very low employment prospects, no money, feel old and unattractive, face a society that is uninterested in them. Their sense of worth and value before was grounded in how they look, but since that is now gone they lack in self-confidence. They have given everything they had to raising their kids, but their kids are now largely on their own and don’t need them anymore and in fact want the mother out of their life. WHen their kids are failures, they feel like it is a reflection on them and that they have failed as a mother. Sometimes, they will interfere with the ability of their children from fully becoming adults on their own because they want to still feel useful and so they clean up all of the messes their adult children make, creating dependencies, irresponsibility in the kid, etc. THey try be strong, but feel alone and with nothing meaningful to do.
We once rented ‘It’s Complicated’ which is a movie about more or less this situation. It touched on pretty much all of these themes. The movie basically was the fulfillment of every such woman’s hopes and aspirations. She was divorced for 10 years after her husband left her for a Barbie. She had rebuilt her life, opened up a bakery business, her kids were now all off to college, her ex-husband is having a tough time with his new wife (former mistress), he comes wanting her back and falls back in love with her realizing that he was wrong and a jerk before. He charms her, wants her, she tries to keep her distance but then gives it a go. She feels new energy and vitality, her family becomes reconstituted just like old times, everyone is happy, some of his old bad habits resurface, she realizes that she has moved on and no longer needs him, she has outgrown him. She then rejects him, but now they become good friends. She then establishes something adult with a really nice guy. She is also of course a really great cook, her children have all turned out great. They wanted their parents to get back together again, she wanted to make them happy in this regard, but ultimately this wasn’t the right thing to do because she had moved on, and finally they understood. In the meantime, she was finally having built the addition to her house that she has always wanted (her new kitchen and view of the sea from her bedroom). She was of course a great cook, her children adored her, her ex-husband finally realized what a great mother she was, and she had spent a year in Paris in her 20s learning to cook really well. She had a close circle of friends who she could confide in talk to.
Another recurring theme in so-called “chick flicks” these days is the woman is with some really nice, but ultimately incompetent guy. She is bored with him, but he is a good guy. She wants him to find his balls and his backbone, be able to take charge more so that she does not have to carry all of the load (which she is doing very well, because he has no idea how to do things and she doesn’t trust him to do things right). Some crisis then happens, forcing her man to rise to the occasion, he discovers his strength, they are able to let go and have a good time, their relationship becomes revitalized. And now she has a nice, strong and capable man who respects her and appreciates her.
The other thing I have noticed recently is the life of older and retired people generally revolves around good food – buying it, preparing it and enjoying eating it. This is true for my Dad and Helen (though they also have the toys my Dad plays with), Irv and Eva (though they also have their grandkids who they support outstandingly), and that movie A Year in Provence.
While I could make lots of Dharma commentary about all of the above, I think it is valuable in and of itself to better understand different groups of people, their stuggles and their aspirations. On this basis, you can better help people. Of course all of this is not meant as a gross generalization, rather just some recurring themes I have observed, etc.