I have a bone to pick…


“There’s a fine line between aging well, with style, and trying too hard.”

I’ve read some variation on this line several times lately. Too many times, actually. Almost all of them were in articles on websites that supposedly target women of a “certain age” – my age. Most of them mean to be “age positive” – supposedly helping to illuminate women over 40, not cast them in shadow.

But this oft-repeated line illustrates how hard it is to be an older woman today. You’re either not trying hard enough or trying too hard. Aging well seems to be primarily defined by appearance – you’re slim, fit, confident, stylish, au courant without being overly trendy or (heaven forbid) displaying poor taste. Basically, you look just like a fabulous younger woman but with just a few wrinkles and maybe gray hair. The sweet spot, where you’re doing it JUST RIGHT, is narrow and difficult to achieve.

And who decides, by the way, what “aging well” looks like? I fear that it’s really driven by the fashion and beauty industry, which has discovered the buying power of the mid-life woman. Note the huge number of midlife style bloggers who are given clothing, skin care and makeup in exchange for a photo and a review on the blog. New season, new cut, new color, new length, and if you want to be stylish without trying too hard, you’d better keep up! Is this even possible if you’re poor, or lonely, or taking care of older parents and teenaged kids along with working full-time? How does equating aging well with superficial issues like style and appearance prevent us from discussing the serious issues of aging?

I’m very interested in the concept of aging well, but not the popular definition that’s based on how I look. I’d like to see the conversation about aging well center around good health and what it takes to achieve it. How do we stay (or get) fit now to prevent falls in twenty years? How do we reduce the risk of chronic disease? How do we live well in challenging circumstances like reduced income, or living alone after divorce or death of a spouse? How do we fill our lives with meaning as we age? These are the things that will determine if we age well, and frankly I don’t believe that there is any chance of trying too hard here.

What do you think? How do YOU define aging well?

Photo: “Creative Commons TheBarbieLook Doll – City Chic Style” by Eirien is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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