Beauty and Ageing

Grab a cuppa and let’s start with a few questions…..

Make a list of older women you consider to be beautiful, attractive, well- groomed or stylish?

Make a list of men you consider to be stylish, attractive, well – groomed?  (or beautiful?)

What makes these men and women appear on your list? Give a detailed response?

When the words beauty and ageing appear in the same sentence there’s a slight unease in what the next sentences might be. We talk of women of a certain age and ageing gracefully as though the demonic process of ageing needs somehow to be slowed, reined in and made to appear elegant and a state of grace. We share beauty secrets which implies we are in competition with others and having secrets in our arsenal gives us a beauty edge. Men are not exempt and the “silver fox” stereotype hovers in the ageing stratosphere. We applaud people who don’t look their age.

Thinning hair and skin, sun-spots, facial hair, greying hair, dry skin and eyes, shrinkage, a disappearing waistline, wrinkles, drooping face and body parts and gnarled feet are all natures’ gifts to the ageing. Genetics, our health and wellbeing and our actual age will determine how much drooping and greying our bodies engage in.

Context matters and most of us are ageing in a youth obsessed culture where outrunning the ageing process means that the global cosmetics industry was worth over $532 billion dollars in 2017. A woman in the 50 plus demographic is said to spend in excess of $1700 a year on cosmetics. (Reports In Cosmetics Global.)

How much would you spend on cosmetics and beauty products in a year? Are these products important to you? What do they do for you?

So is this the anti-ageing race one in which over 50’s men and women want to compete?

We are seeing a slow creeping shift in diversity entering fashion images. Different body sizes and shapes are portrayed on the catwalk and in advertising. Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren sashayed the Paris catwalk and the film industry has left a crack in the doorway to allow roles for older actors like Jackie Weaver. It’s the start of changing our conversation about what older people look like and what they can do.


Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and inner beauty is important and the clichés roll on. In the maelstrom of noise about beauty and ageing I have found my sweet spot…the place that makes sense to me. I acknowledge my changing heart, mind and body in getting older. I’m ok with that most days. I enjoy being stylish and fashion conscious most days and a garden warrior on other days. Above all I try to invest in my health and wellbeing both mental and physical. On the days of self-doubt I remind myself to be my own best friend. While the clamour for anti- ageing goes on around me, most days I’m absolutely fine with the wrinkles and sun spotted skin.

When I turned 60 I remember doing a life coaching exercise with myself. A life plan by any other name. I took a large scrapbook….you might like to do this too

What is the vision you have for your life in the next 3-5 years or 5-10 years? Detail and describe areas such as travel, health, finances, relationships, spiritual, home and wellness.

I also asked myself what do I want to look like as an older woman? Not what society says I should look like, but what is good enough for me. What’s my style? I cut out images of older women. I was free to find my own style. I didn’t need to look corporate any more. I cut out pictures of clothes I liked. A friend and I had a great day out visiting a stylist talking colour and design. I turn 70 this year and I’m working through a similar life planning process. This time I’m using a more narrative, fluid approach…tell my story… what does my life look like in the next 5-10 years? I’m using images, pictures, poetry and words to describe my next chapter. You may like to try this approach.

We all have a choice about how much we’ll engage with the societal narrative about how young, older people should look. We’ll have days when our own skin is just fine thank you and other days when we want to be Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton or Richard Gere. The task is to stop the noise about needing to portray as young. At 50 plus we have a clear choice- we’ve earned the right to decide for ourselves what we want to look like – on a night out, with our friends and families and in the bedroom. Standing straight with a strong core we know who we are and how we want to show up in the world. What matters is that we are conscious role models of positive ageing for our sons and daughters and authentic and kind to ourselves.

9 July 2019 | Living Well

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