fbpx

Elizabeth White, 70: Unstoppable

Her viral essay on her struggle in the workplace led to “55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal” which shocked the world with its unvarnished look at going from highly educated high achiever to, at 55, struggling to get a job. Let's get real; it can be way harder out there than people let on. A tireless problem solver, she is now focused on housing that is inspiring and affordable... 

Elizabeth White is turning the page on aging by rewriting her story and sharing it with the world.

Her viral essay on her struggle in the workplace led to 55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal, a book that transcends personal struggle to tackle the broader economic challenges facing boomers. Far from dwelling on the negatives, the book presents practical strategies for financial stability and personal growth post-retirement. Now, Elizabeth is pioneering NuuAge CoLiving, a visionary project aimed at redefining retirement living. By emphasizing communal living, she addresses key concerns like affordability, social isolation, and community support, offering a fresh perspective on making the most of our later years. We’d be her neighbor anytime. 

Join us in exploring Elizabeth’s innovative approach to thriving in the face of aging.

Elizabeth White, Leigh Mosley
Image by Leigh Mosley.

How old are you?
I turned 70 in December.

Where do you live?
Washington, DC.

Are you married?
I’ve never been married.

Do you have children?
I have a daughter. I’m her Earth mother, not her birth mother. I adopted her in her early 20s, but I started mentoring her when she was 11.

Tell us about your path.
My career thrived until the 2008 recession hit, which felt like slipping on a banana peel. My roles included entrepreneur, C-suite executive, and consultant. I was deeply engaged in two significant consulting projects at the time, one focusing on women’s rights and diversity in the workplace and the other on aiding Big Box retailers in sourcing products from Africa.

Elizabeth White, Leigh Mosley

“My career thrived until the 2008 recession hit, which felt like slipping on a banana peel”

What challenges did the recession bring?
The recession led to a sudden halt in my work. Despite my impressive background, including a Harvard MBA and extensive experience with organizations like the World Bank, my professional network vanished overnight. This period of struggle was deeply personal and shared by many of my peers, leading me to write an essay about this experience. This essay resonated with a broad audience when published on Next Avenue and shared on the PBS Facebook page.

How did you respond to this career setback?
My reflections on the retirement income crisis, informed by my personal experiences and the stories I heard, evolved into a book. This work captured the attention of many, leading to more writing opportunities, speaking engagements, and, eventually, a book deal with Simon & Schuster. My TEDx talk further amplified my message, garnering over 2 million views.

Elizabeth White, Leigh Mosley
Image by Leigh Mosley.

What’s your latest endeavor?
At 68, I joined a startup incubator to address middle-class Americans’ challenges, particularly in retirement. Drawing on insights from my network, I’ve focused on addressing housing and age discrimination. NuuAge CoLiving, a concept of co-living for older adults that emphasizes wellbeing and community engagement, has become my primary focus.

“NuuAge CoLiving, a concept of co-living for older adults [emphasizes] wellbeing and community engagement”

How do you view aging in America?
Aging well in America often hinges on financial means. My approach to co-living emphasizes practical, wellness-oriented design over luxury, aiming to support a dignified aging process without needing expensive assisted living facilities.

What about your personal experiences with societal “isms”?
As a Black woman, I’ve navigated racism, sexism, and now ageism. These experiences have fortified my resilience, particularly as I observe friends encountering ageism for the first time.

How do you envision the future of housing for older adults?
I see a shift towards multigenerational living and a greater emphasis on community-oriented housing solutions. These changes are necessary to address the affordable housing crisis and the increasing need for supportive living environments as we age.

Do you see this as something in big cities or all over? 
I see it in both urban and suburban places. But I had an inquiry about a little hamlet in upstate New York. One of those places during the pandemic where Brooklynites moved and built the Pilates studio and a couple of little cafes. And they’re trying not to have it blow up in a way where it goes off the rails. They like the charm of it. And so, being very selective about their development, a concept like mine appeals. 

“I see a shift towards multigenerational living and a greater emphasis on community-oriented housing solutions”

Tell me about a personal struggle and how you got through it.
We’re in a world where you don’t talk about failure; you certainly wouldn’t talk about it if you went to Harvard Business School. Nobody was talking about it, and they felt shame being there. And I could put some systemic stuff around it that didn’t explain everything. There are dumb things I feel like I did, but I feel like when you have this many people landing here, something in the system is yielding this result.

Do you come from a big family?
There are three of us. My father was a career army officer. We grew up in Italy, Germany, and Libya. I was always the new girl and had to navigate that.

Elizabeth White, Leigh Mosley
Image by Leigh Mosley.

Give some thoughts on downsizing.
When I look around my house, I see stories everywhere. For example, when  I was in Côte d’Ivoire, way up the country, I had gone up on a bus with the women with chickens on their heads. I was walking around and noticed this group of girls getting bigger and bigger, and they were behind me. And they said, “You’re beautiful.” I looked at this little girl; she was the ringleader.

I was still in my early 20s, finding my way into my beauty.  These little girls had not seen a Vogue magazine or a television. And there I was in flip-flops, dusty hair, looking crazy. One of the girls was carrying a pot, and I bought that pot from her. I still have it; that moment was such a pure affirmation of what they saw when they saw me. So, my house is full of things like that. 

I have kept the things that I love and value. That little pot may look like nothing, but it matters to me. We have a lot of stuff. So, storage for this population will be necessary.

“When I look around my house, I see stories everywhere”

What music are you listening to? 
I love Christmas music, and I like Earl Klugh’s jazz guitar. I also like my father’s music, Dave Brubeck and Bill Evans. I like Indian flute music. I have my raunchy dance music, like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion.

Take us through a typical day. 
I don’t need a lot of sleep. I need about 5 hours. So, I go to bed most nights at 3:00 am.

So, you’ll likely get a text from me at 2:30 am. Everybody knows this about me. 

I get up at 8:00. My favorite breakfast is half an avocado, half a biscuit — and a boiled egg. 

My uniform is a Gap T-shirt and yoga pants. So, I have about five of these and five of those.

Then, I check my email on the work front. I do Pilates three times a week, which is nearby. I used to be a gym rat, but I started walking with friends during the pandemic. 

I might go for coffee with a friend or have a meeting. There’s Tatte’s here, and I like The Dupont Circle Hotel. There’s a lot of work related to my venture, like looking at architectural drawings, or we have a community that we can talk to who are eager and have a lot of opinions. Oh, and I have suitors. 

“I have suitors … a rotation of interesting men”

Gentlemen callers, if you will.
It’s a rotation of interesting men, which I tell women and friends of mine: what are you waiting for?

What’s it like dating now? 
We have a long list of must-haves when it comes to dating. But for me, it’s more about what gifts you bring and what I bring. So, somebody from New York is visiting me today. We are completely different. He enters the National Park and wanders off the trail into the woods. I barely walk in the grass and wear high heels. But I met him, and my spirit recognized that I would like a better relationship with the earth. That’s something he has I can learn from. I don’t need to marry him. He doesn’t need to be my one and only. Generally, I’m in the world like that. 

What are three non-negotiables for you? 
I value positivity, kindness, and honesty in my interactions. A critical or negative outlook, meanness, and dishonesty are my deal-breakers.

How has your style evolved? 
You get 10 minutes to make a first impression, especially as an African-American woman. I once read about a principal who knows there’s a summer internship, and he only has two slots. That young black mother who goes in with her camel-colored coat, that she got maybe secondhand, and her brown, they may be pleather, boots, but they match, and she looks orderly to him, her son will be more likely to get one of those two slots than the one coming in in-house shoes and whatever. That’s just the way.

So, that’s what I mean. I also see clothes as reflecting my African heritage. So, when you see me out, I’m going to have dangly earrings, or I’m going to have bangles, or I’m going to have something that says that I am in the world as a Black woman. I like having big, kinky hair. I like having gray hair that I’m not dyeing. I like some individuality and some quirkiness in what I wear. I enjoy supporting Black artists and incorporating that into what I have on.

Designers to Know

Any designers we should put on our radar?
I love Marvin Sin, who makes beautiful leather bags. Brenda Winstead of Damali Afrikan Wear does gorgeous dresses adorned with Cowrie shells and a mix of fabric you would sometimes see in a man’s suit, but then some mud cloth from Mali and raffia. I love wearing jewelry by Akosua Bandele where the two earrings complement but don’t match exactly.

Tell me about your perfect Sunday. 
I like going to the Quaker meeting. I’ve been doing that for a long time and like its spareness. From there, the biggest food market is two blocks away. I’ll wander through and get my salad fixings for the week. Then, I’ll walk along Rock Creek Park with a friend, then erase it by having grits and stuff for brunch. Then, I cook for the week and make two substantial meals like lasagna or Chicken Marbella. While doing that, I catch up with my girlfriends.

I’m a big TikTok person. The algorithm is so good. I like fashion, recipes, and slapstick humor, especially slip-and-falls. It’s terrible, but it’s just delivered to me, and I love it.

Any parting words? 
I am looking for investors to join me in building this. There’s a community out here. I’ve got a team. Do you? Let’s do this.

You’re going to change the world, by the way. 
Thank you.

Connect with Elizabeth:
Instagram
LinkedIn
Book: 55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal

All images by Leigh Mosley.

See medical disclaimer below. ↓

11 COMMENTS

  1. I turn 55 next week. I am moving to DC this summer after my son graduates. I just took a job in a completely new (but adjacent) industry- at a nonprofit, and I love, love, love the idea if communal living. I am going to read your book and I wish you’d write one about this stage in your life and how and why you have chosen (and been able to choose) your own version of freedom. I feel such a kinship from just the article. Creating multigenerational communal housing is a longtime dream of mine for when I retire (someday) to NC. There was a story on the Newshour about it a few years ago. Aging in place is so important, but most places are not designed for that- not only in the US, but around the world. But there are models. Anyway- I hope our paths cross sometime. Blessings!

  2. Have been subscribed to Ageist for a few years. This is by far my favorite profile. Thank you for inspiring me to envision a big life for myself!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

AUTHOR

Sheri Radel Rosenberghttps://unapologeticstyle.substack.com/
Sheri Radel Rosenberg is a Philly-born, Brooklyn-based writer who explores style, beauty, culture, and midlife with wit, warmth, and wisdom. Her story includes successful forays in the worlds of trend forecasting, ad agency photo production, ghostwriting, and strategic messaging development for fashion and beauty brands - all while amassing a slip dress collection that would make any Gen Xer proud. At the dawn of social media, Sheri launched her personal blog–which combines her passion for writing with her style obsession–and she hasn’t looked back. As Style Editor for the AGEIST, she’s inspired by the styles of the 70s and the 90s, along with all the beautiful people she sees daily in NYC.

 

Sign up for AGEIST today
We will never sell or give your email to others. Get special info on Diet, Exercise, Sleep and Longevity.

Recommended Articles

MORE ARTICLES

LATEST IN HEALTH SCIENCE

X