We have a funny attitude towards ageing in this country (and the rest of the western world actually). Many cultures celebrate ageing and venerate their elders. Just look at the way the elderly are treated in China, Korea or by Native and African American cultures and you see a much healthier cultural perspective on the biological process of getting older. This is shame because in today’s ageist and youth-centric popular culture where appearing young and gorgeous has some weird intangible virtue ascribed to it there appears to be far less cultural currency in experience, wisdom and perspective. It’s no wonder that in a culture that appears to be working double time to alienate all but the youngest, the trendiest and the most technologically savvy, many of us worry about getting old before our time.
The problem is compounded when we have children whose growth and development, while joyous to behold, serves as a visual reminder of the inexorable march of time and for every inch they shoot up, we grow another wrinkle. As they get to the age where they invite friends and eventually partners round, they begin to use slang language and refer to cultural touchstones that are alien to us. There’s nothing to make you feel old like being bewildered by your kids’ taste in music and finding their attempts at counter culture nonsensical.
While there’s not a whole lot we can do to change the skewed perspective of the culture we inhabit, there’s a whole lot we can do about how we allow it to influence us. Hopefully by deconstructing some widely held beliefs and providing some insights on how you can keep yourself feeling young and energised we can chase those age related anxieties away.
Firstly, you’re not old!
Just how old are you anyway? 64? 58? 43? 30? If you’re anywhere in that widely varied spectrum you likely consider yourself ‘middle aged’ but you’re still far from needing to buy incontinence pants. The trouble is that the parameters for middle age were defined in the early twentieth century where 60 was a respectable life-expectancy. Hence, the long and bitterly held stigma against turning 30. A hundred years ago, 30 was the halfway point; an interstice at which it was widely accepted that you should probably start laying the foundation for the future. You should buy a house, get married and relax into a secure job. This logic permeated the minds of the baby boomers who passed it onto generation X who passed it onto the millennials. The trouble is, that perspective isn’t at all suited to the realities of the 21st century. Many of us probably won’t be retiring until we’re 70 and in an increasingly unstable gig economy with outlandishly escalating house prices today’s 30 year olds are far less likely to have the infrastructure of a stable job and a foot on the property ladder as easily as their parents did.
The best is probably yet to come
Sure, twentysomethings have healthy metabolisms allowing them to look slim and healthy but the fact is that age is no indicator of health or fitness. If you’re currently using your age as an excuse not to get in shape or if you’re worried about how the ageing process may compromise your health and fitness goals the good news is that you’ve nothing to worry about. While there’s no denying that muscle mass deteriorates and fat stores build when we get older these can be kept by staying active and eating right, just as at any age.
If you’re worried about your age impairing your cognitive or creative faculties then there are no worries there either. Vera Wang didn’t even start her fashion career until she was in her forties, Samuel L Jackson was pushing 50 by the time he became a big star and if Charles darwin had thrown in the towel before he reached 50 he wouldn’t have made the discoveries that changed the scientific community forever.
If you’re worried about your employability in later years then rest assured it’s never too late to retrain. In fact the breadth and diversity of your experience combined with your increased chances of reliability will make you all the more appealing to employers.
Being beautiful doesn’t mean chasing the fountain of youth
If you want to take up an anti-ageing skin regimen or even get an anti-ageing surgical procedure then that’s absolutely fine, but please don’t think that you need to chase a facade of youthfulness to look and feel beautiful. Even Hollywood (where for years only a handful of women over 50 were considered worth celebrating) has come to appreciate the stunningly beautiful older actresses like Michelle Pfeiffer, Demi Moore, Halle Berry and Tilda Swinton. Focus on making the most of the you that you are now rather than trying to recapture the you of 20 years ago.
You can help yourself to feel younger
Very often, feeling young is far more important than looking young and as the pressures of work and family build up on us, that does seem to get harder with each passing year. That doesn’t mean that you should resign yourself to a life of boredom and monotony. Education, travel and generally experiencing new things are great ways to re-engage with the world and stimulate that sense of wonderment and excitement that tend to elude us in our later years. As much as you should embrace the now, don’t be afraid to take a trip down memory lane every now and then. Catching up with old friends, visiting your hometown and looking over old photos are great ways to make the years seem to fall away.
Remember your value
A lot of people over 50 have a curious habit of just getting on with their day to day lives, keeping their heads down and leaving the world to younger generations. In so doing they denigrate the value of their insights, wisdom and experience. Never be afraid to speak your mind or bring your experience to bear on any given situation. Whatever you may think, most knowledge and insight never gets outdated.