Embracing Our Age

What is so wrong with looking our age?  Why is society constantly pushing us to look younger?  Why is looking younger better than looking our true age?  These are questions that I have been pondering lately.  And frankly, it frustrates me.  I am in my early 60’s and am happier and more content than ever.  I would not choose to go back to being 20 or even 35 again.  At this stage in life, I have a more balanced perspective, I am more fulfilled and enjoy the wonders and “awe” moments that each day presents.  I have a new appreciation for my health and caring for my soul.    

Research studies about the correlation between happiness and age vary, but I am finding that the majority of studies report that people experience their highest levels of overall happiness after the age of 59.   At this point in life, people are more stable financially, less concerned with physical appearance and have a higher level of overall wellbeing.  According to a Bank of America/Merrill Lynch report on the Nielsen data, “there is scientific evidence that people get happier as they get older.”  The theory behind this is that an acceptance of ageing promotes contentedness.  Therein lies the secret to aging well.   Accepting our age.  Accepting our limitations.  Accepting that skin is susceptible to gravity. 

“To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent – that is the triumph over old age.”

Thomas Bailey Aldrich

If being in our 60’s and 70’s is such a happy, fulfilled time in our lives, why are we trying to look younger?   How can we be content and happy when we are constantly fighting our true age?   Why are we trying to look like an age when we were less content with life and ourselves?   I would blame the 26-billion-dollar plastic surgery industry, but they are just responding to a demand.   There is a steady increase in procedures and surgeries that you can have to lift, inject and fill loose skin.  Loose skin happens if you are fortunate enough to live that long.  So, what is so wrong with loose skin?  And why are we always trying to hide it?  Why should women over a certain age never wear sleeveless shirts?  

When I see older women with faces stretched into a permanent smile, exaggerated big lips and strategically arched eyebrows tattooed on their forehead, all I can think is… denial.  I honestly don’t have anything against people choosing to do any of these procedures.  I think that everyone should do what they are comfortable with and makes them feel their best, and I know that plastic surgery is a game changer for many people. What saddens me is why people, and particularly women, feel that they need to have their skin cut into or injected with fillers in order to look younger and more presentable to the world. (Unfortunately, men and women are not viewed as aging equally in our society.)

Perhaps the fight to look younger is based on fear.  Fear of no longer being desirable or wanted.  And ultimately, fear of becoming incapacitated and eventually dying.   Women over 50 complain that they become invisible with age.  There is even a name for this phenomenon, “invisible woman syndrome.”  The waitress looks right past you.  Your comment is not responded to.  The shop assistant ignores you. (I find this rather funny since the people with the deepest pockets are the older generation.) And what about the back-handed compliment, “you look great for your age.”   Most of us appreciate this compliment, and yet I wonder…what is wrong with just looking healthy and vibrant for the age we are? How do we show society that age is not something to be dreaded, and our aging bodies are not something to hide and be ashamed of? Some women fight back by being outrageously flamboyant and colorful. I prefer a more subtle, but potentially less effective, approach.

How do we respond to a society that is youth obsessed?

  • First and foremost, is our own self-image.  If we are confident and comfortable at this stage in life, it will keep the younger generations hopeful about aging.     
  • Change your attitude and self-talk.  Getting older is not something to fear.  Enjoy the greater sense of well being that comes with age and wear it.
  • Look your best for your age and then FORGET ABOUT IT and start enjoying life fully.
  • Being yourself, no matter what your age, is powerful.  And people will respond to that power and confidence.  And if they don’t, what do we care?  We are too busy having fun to worry about it.
  • Keep your spark.  This is what old looks like and it looks pretty darn good and fun to be. I am intrigued by older people that have that wonderful spark in their eyes.
  • Kill them with graciousness.  Don’t be that grumpy old person.  Be kind, gracious and appreciative.  Show people that aging gracefully is a wonderful gift and not a life sentence for being miserable and unhappy.
  • Stay current on what is happening in the world.  No one wants to hear about our creaky bones, but they can engage in a lively conversation about AI.  (Nothing says old quite like not understanding technology.)
  • Go ahead and wear the sleeveless shirt, without apology.
  • Other ideas?

I was with a group of women a few years ago and someone asked, “what is the most important beauty product that you would never leave the house without?”  Lipstick and mascara were the most common answers.  When it came my turn, I surprised myself by saying, “confidence.”  Being confident and comfortable in your own skin radiates a beauty that nothing else can replace. 

The real fountain of youth

Last week was gorgeous weather and so, on the spur of the moment, we decided to do a quick micro-trip over to Glacier National Park.   It is just a four-hour drive for us.  While I have been to Glacier Park, I had never been on the “Going-to-the-Sun Road” that is located in the park.  It is an iconic, historic road that is carved into the edge of the Northern Rocky Mountains and has stunning views.  The weather was beautiful, the convertible was gassed up and life is short, so why not make a spur of the moment trip there? 

It was up there, hiking in the mountains, breathing the fresh air with the sun on my face, I realized that this is my fountain of youth.  Hiking and being out in nature’s beauty, doing something I enjoy gives me a glow and vitality that no injections or fillers can ever accomplish.  Not only that, but it improves the quality and longevity of my life. I would much rather spend my time and money on experiences and enjoying life than in a plastic surgeon’s chair.  (Lest you think I am a total beauty sloth, I do get my nails done professionally.)  

I think most of us would like to look 20 years old again with all the energy and vitality that comes with youth.  But time marches on and that is O.K.  Our gains with age are greater than our losses, provided we are fortunate enough to still be healthy.  I think the majority of us just want to look our best for our age.  I want to live healthy, vibrant and strong and fully embrace this phase of life.  And I think we need to show the younger generations that aging has it’s advantages. If there was one beauty secret I would tell the younger generation, it would be to look your personal best and then… forget about it and go out and enjoy your life. Nothing is more attractive than a woman who is happy, confident, content, and comfortable in her own skin. Aging is a gift that we are given.  As the sayings goes, “it sure beats the alternative.”  So, let’s accept and embrace our age, while continuing to be our best selves regardless of the date on our driver’s license. Be engaged, confident, and enjoying life.  And maybe, just maybe, we can play a small part in changing society’s attitude towards age.

Wear your age well.