What does “Aging Gracefully” mean?

how to age gracefullyMelissa Stetten is in her late twenties. She’s worried about getting old and “hitting her expiration date” as a model.

She puts herself through all kinds of facial treatments to maintain her youthful appearance. Ironically, she hasn’t even made it past her battle with chronic acne! So she goes through expensive treatments for that too.

Melissa talks about her face as her employee. She says she’s in a business obsessed with eternal youth. So she puts up with the facial treatments to keep her skin looking as young as possible.

What if your 20s are a distant memory? Does that mean you’ve lost your attractive appeal?

I understand Melissa’s perspective. She’s just being realistic about the need to plan her next career move. It’s not self-hate. It’s not her own obsession with youth. It’s “just business.”

What about you? Have you figured out how to “age gracefully?” Maybe I should back up a step. What does “age gracefully” even mean?

And how do you deal with aging when it’s not “just business” but something very personal, like putting your picture on an online dating profile?

Melissa is not a shallow person. She’s not interested in using her modeling career to land a marriage with a rich man who can keep her supplied with expensive purses. Her goal is to find a man who genuinely makes her laugh, someone she can relate to.

What do you think about this definition of “aging gracefully” by blogger, Ginger Kay? She was asked by Huffington Post, along with other women nearing or past age 50, what “aging gracefully” means to them. Here’s what she said:

“Aging brings change that is difficult to love. We sag. We bulge. We wrinkle. In our youth-worshiping culture, there is always the temptation to fight these changes.

For me, at least right now, fighting my body’s natural aging isn’t my idea of graceful. I am happy at the age I am. I don’t mind looking it. Accepting the changes life brings with good grace, and a sense of humor, will, I think, make me happier in the long run than obsessing over looking younger than I am.”

how to age gracefullyTo me, this seems to be a triumph. She triumphantly embraces life as it is. As a result, she gets to enjoy life more. She also becomes more approachable, less insecure, and (in my opinion) more capable of a genuine connection with a man. It’s a beautiful attitude that makes her more beautiful as a person.

She doesn’t see fighting reality as something graceful. D.A. Wolf took this line of reasoning a step further. She responded to the same Huffington Post inquiry with these words:

“Aging gracefully? No thank you. I prefer aging defiantly, aging tenderly, aging authentically. I also prefer turning the tables on trickster terminology to do with ‘anti-aging.’ Choose your adverbs to suit your taste, and let’s rally around verbs that serve us better: learning, launching, loving, living.”

She’s not interested in defining her life as a problem. She’s focused on where she wants to go, what she wants to learn, what new adventures await.

As you know, that is one of the themes of my relationship coaching practice. “Draw your attention away from things you fear by putting more focus on what you want.”

Whatever you do, please do not fear aging. I could say the same about any other circumstance you find in your life. Don’t define your life by the problems you find in it.

You are more than that. You are beautiful. You have infinite worth.

Just a friendly reminder from someone who cares.

James


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30 thoughts on “What does “Aging Gracefully” mean?

  1. Nancy said:

    All of what you write is true regarding a WOMAN’s attitude. I reached “a certain age” some time ago and am entirely happy with who I am and how I look. However, I have chosen not to share the number of years I have been on this earth with others. After a long happy marriage my husband died. And now I’ve done this solo thing long enough. I am looking for a soul mate. Not a husband. I know my health, genetics and life style and it is clear to me I will live well into my nineties or even beyond. When I look at actuarial tables it seems obvious that if I want to find a man to grow old with, I need someone younger that I am. The fact is people make assumptions about a person when they hear a number. And most men look for a woman their own age or younger – often considerably younger. Therefore, when a man asks my age, (and they do) my response is that however they experience me is the age I am.

    • S Wolfson said:

      Thank you for posting this. This is such an awesome response and attitude. It touched me personally. I am at a similar place in my life. Since I am just recently sojourning down this path, I wonder if younger men will or can stay the course with an older woman. So far, my experience through friends is that they often feel the tug and pull of procreation as much as women do and get bored and stray and end up with a baby momma that they feel pressured to be in a committed relationship with or later on as they age with a younger woman. Even if the fathered baby is an accepted and welcomed addition in the younger man / older woman relationship, the daddy moves to extract himself from the first relationship. This first relationship may be long standing and satisfying from a sexual perspective for both parties, but, still, the guy moves on… and the older woman is left wanting again…now much older… So, from my perspective, the questions I have are how does an older woman VET her younger suitors?; does she remain loose and free from single commitments playing the field and enjoy all comers?; OR does she look for a guy that thinks he wants to settle with an older woman and risk that he might move on if the age difference gets problematic for him?

  2. unicor said:

    I agree the problem is not that we do not accept ourselves as beautiful and with infinite worth is that this society and particularly men look and see women based on ” chronological age” I also look younger than I am and do not say my true age because often I see men rejecting me/other women based on “numbers”. The truth is that there are more women than men and men want the “younger” women, who this days go to sleep and start a relationship even if temporary just for few words or a drink. Sad!
    My ex

  3. Thank you for the sentiments. In a world where eternal youth as the standard of beauty being stuffed down our collective throat in North American culture is bad enough but the sad thing is it is sold to the men too. Men my age seem to prefer the company of women half my age. People talk about how pathetic it is for middle aged women to try to compete with 20 somethings but often my competition IS 20 something. Very discouraging. More so because alot of my female friends are in their 30s and I am tired of random dudes interrupting our conversations to hit on them and then asking me if I am their mother. I don’t know who came up with the idea that men get distinguished and women just get old. Which men are you talking about because they get saggy fat and wrinkled too. Yet they hit on women young enough to be their daughters and treat me like I am invisible. Men don’t think their game is over just because they have hit a certain age, Why should women feel that way? End of rant.

    • S Wolfson said:

      The truth that I experienced with my departed husband of 40 years is that men DO think their game is over….AND that is the main reason they go for the younger women…. to boost their egos… and feel the game ball is still playing… For my husband and I, he looked to ways to put his balls back into play so to speak, I didn’t give up on him, and we enjoyed a intimate relationship to the very end. Guys, young or old, don’t get educated about how to be or grow old gracefully and they are less accepting of their aging process than women. The market place bears this out. There are just as many or even more “Feel Good”, “Get your Youth Back”, products available for men, and most are much more expensive than those available for women.

  4. ema said:

    i could have written what nancy did. why should i age gracefully without doing anything? we have the advantage today of helping ourselves look better and /or younger. if we can afford it, go for it. we take advantage of other medical advances, so why not this? i cannot allow myself to look “natural” when i want a younger man who wants a chronologically younger woman . it is still tough out there for me, and i look amazing! but i await the younger man who does not care about the number. do you think i would have any chance at all if i did not do cosmetic procedures???? none! i am aging gracefully with the cosmetic surgery and procedures i do, and it makes me feel wonderful and graceful in my older age!

  5. Ema said:

    I should add this to what I wrote above. Why are you saying that Ginger enjoys life more? Who says that she enjoys life more than I do or others do who prefer to fix and change themselves physically?I love life -have a great time with life -I enjoy it -I am very secure and confident, i want younger men ,yes ,but I do enjoy life a lot while i am looking for one.
    everyone is in a different situation in their lives and you have to look at each individual specifically and see where they are at and if they are married, not married ,busy with a career ,searching for a man ,not searching for a man etc, happy or wallowing in self pity,….
    Each individual case has to be looked at individually not just collectively as a whole, and blanket statements should not be made.

    • James Bauer said:

      You added some valuable thoughts here, Ema. Thanks for contributing your perspective on the other side of the coin.

  6. Lisa said:

    True beauty is on the inside.Who gives a crap what anyone else thinks?If you are self confident,men will like you no matter what age you are.I’m a 51 year old person,single again after 18 year marriage.It’s ok to be alone.It’s ok to be with someone younger or older.It’s better to be like me than to be like that model.I am older,a bit overweight.Face still pretty.Now, I have to count more on my personality.Most of the time,I prefer NO makeup.I’m half Cherokee.What you see is what you get.People need to quit being so judgemental of others.That’s my point of view.Also,I’m a nurse.Beauty is a subjective thing.

    • Anne said:

      Sadly although it is OK to be alone, it doesnt feel OK.
      Just saying…
      Sometimes life sucks, no matter how hard you try:)x

  7. LB said:

    How you carry yourself is more important than how many wrinkles you have or you don’t have. Being classy and elegant is timeless. This is what my mother taught me. It is so true. As I look around, I see young women who dress up nicely but who don’t have good posture or good manners. I also see women who have beautiful face and nice figures but who don’t have good taste in choosing clothes and hairstyle that suit them.

    All in all, whether you are attractive or not shines from within. Being classy and elegant is a combination of having good taste, good manners, good posture, being kind, relaxed and confident, and knowing how to take care of yourself. I am 53 and a lot of people (men and women) told me I am attractive! Have confidence and just strive to be the best of yourself and you will attract the right kind of men.

    • James Bauer said:

      Very powerful thoughts you add here. Thanks for bringing this up. I really agree.

    • Nancy said:

      I totally agree that how you carry yourself, your manners and taste speak of class Absolutely, class and elegance ARE timeless. I, too have been told I am attractive and vibrant, even beautiful, by both men and women. I am strong and flexible, have good posture, a trim, toned figure, walk with a strong stride, have a sense of style. However, I am 25 years your senior. I have no belief that a sensitive, classy man, say 12 years older than you, which is the age range I need to have a soul mate, a lover, who lives as long as I will, would ever consider me to be anything more than a friend, if he knew my chronological age.

  8. RFV said:

    There is a VERY positive side effect of being a 3 time cancer survivor. I’ve been working hard to stay one step ahead of the disease since my early 30’s. I’m now a 62 year old who is THRILLED every single time I get another birthday. When my friends complain about their “aging issues” …I just smile at them.

  9. Sherri said:

    Another great article. I will be 54 next month. I’ve had a colorful life, and have been through so much. Now I have the energy of a young person and usually pass for early 40’s. I started traveling extensively at 49, salsa dancing at 51, and teaching salsa this past year. I have more to offer now than I ever had in my younger days. I am happy, confident, and active. I tend to attract (and be attracted to) guys who are in their 40’s. There are few guys my age who can keep up with me and who have not let themselves go, but I have also been attracted to a few older guys in my social circles. However, what I’m finding is that while these guys in their 40’s and 50’s are very attracted to me, they have so many options, and they ultimately want to settle down with someone younger. it seems so many women throw themselves at men physically, too. It feels like my options are more limited, and I can get to feeling like I’m in competition with younger women. I really try not to become discouraged, but sometimes it takes a Herculean effort to remain positive. I never had these issues in my 30’s or even in my 40’s.I have a few friends who found love in their 50’s and 60’s and they inspire me. I continue to focus on the positive. But……I can’t help the patterns I’m seeing in my dating life since I turned 50. I go to all kinds of events, classes, and shows, and I’m finding there are usually way more women then men. Sometiimes the ratios are daunting. How can I remain positive with the odds stacked against me?

  10. SF said:

    Dear James,

    You are an incredible man with one-of-a-kind wisdom. May God’s grace continue to bless you in the most boundless way possible. This world needs more encouraging people like you!

    😀

    • James Bauer said:

      Wow! Thank you!

  11. Diana said:

    I’m 49 and I’m having the luck that I look at least 10 years younger,I’m still pretty, I’m slim and my body looks firm and youthful despite two kids. I’m still wearing mini skirts and long hair and a lot of make up, although there is a certain expectation how a lady in my age should look and what she should wear. I just don’t care! I’m a rock chick and I will stay like this as long I want. If I think I need some cosmetic surgery some day, I won’t say no, but I’m not a fan of wearing plastic face without any expression which doesn’t look young actually, but odd and artificial. I also have to offer a lot of other qualities and my Ex-husband recently gave me a very sweet compliment- “your new one is a very lucky guy, I hope he is aware what a wonderful woman and person you are.”
    But- my experience after the divorce after almost 20 years of marriage, was quite frustrating. I started with online dating and when I wrote my real age, only man above 50 or 60 answered to me, or some boy’s in her early 20’s, who wanted sex with a MILF. I want a partner who is physically fit, sexually activ and young at heart. Most men about 50 or older are just not meeting my preferences, my taste and my life style, so I started to change my age in 38 on my dating profile. Immediately I’v got mails from men younger then me and now I’m 12 months together with my boyfriend, who is 42. When I recognized that I’m really into him, I told him on the telephone about my real age (before we first met) and explained why I was lying. He didn’t bother about it, because he felt very attracted to me and he doesn’t have problems to be together with an older woman. He actually looks older then me 🙂 But he admitted, if he would saw my real age on my online profile, it could be possible that he wouldn’t contact me. He thought, I’m in my late 30’s. Now he is very proud on me and my age is irrelevant for him.
    But the majority of men prefers much younger women, even if themselves look old, fat, saggy, bold, and so on. I didn’t want to start making compromises and to choose an older man, only to be with someone, or even to feel grateful that at least I’m having a partner, although I can’t give him a child anymore and I’m almost 50. For many many men a woman above 50 does’t exsist anymore, so no matter how gracefully you want to age and how thankfully you embrace your every year and wrinkle- if you a single and you want a partner, you have to look young, pretty and sexy. The physical attraction is playing the leading role in the dating life, that’s a fact.
    Of course there are also women who prefer to be with men who are much older as themselves and for such woman it would be easier to find a 60 old man, if she is 45. But many man would run away if they hear that the woman is almost 50, even if themselves are in her age. It’s not fair. Men can start a new family when they are 60, but for us women 45+ it’s too late. So I want to enjoy my life as long as possible and I just don’t have time for thinking about aging gracefully. It’s time for sex&love&rock’n’roll! 😉

  12. Allison said:

    Part of aging also means you may have to start wearing hear aids. But there’s no reason to not embrace that part of getting older. You don’t have to wear “boring” hearing aids. Instead, try out fashionable ones or hearing aid add-ons to make them more of a style statement. Take a look at this for inspiration bit.ly/Fashion_T

  13. Demitra said:

    I am 49. I am seeing (again) my ex-bf of 4 years. I broke it off with him over a year ago, but we remained friends and love each other still…very much. We’re taking it slowly, but that’s okay. He is 36.

  14. Helge said:

    Dear James, thank you one more time for your kind and encouraging words. I must admit that sometimes I do find aging scary! I am 41 and by no means “old” and I tell myself that I have so much to offer as a person and that it`s not about wrinkles but rather taking good care of myself and all of that. But sometimes I have my weak moments where I`m vulnerable and that`s why I appreciate your post so much. All the best for you too!

  15. Denise said:

    My Mother once said, ” When you get older some things just aren’t as important as they used to be.” ( She said this about cleaning the house! ) I guess that is like saying your priorities change because it sure used to be VERY important to her. It’s just that other things feel more important now. I’m 56 (sometimes I forget my age – love that part of getting older!) and I try to remind myself of that statement when I find that certain clothes don’t look the same on me, or makeup and hairstyles don’t seem to work anymore for my age. It’s frustrating. It’s always a letdown when men don’t look at me the same way as when I was young, too. I find that phrase has come to mean something to me – my priorities have changed. It’s NOW how I look at them that matters, not the other way around. I purposely and proudly say my age out loud ( if I can remember it ) just to see the reaction. If a man has any substance you can tell by how HE reacts. Thanks Mom! And thank you James, for helping us “old broads” keep up or catch up on what’s truly important – lots of love to you.

  16. Lisa said:

    Many thanks for writing this, James. You have hit a sensitive spot for many women. It can be very difficult to stay optimistic if single, trying to date and finding that indeed, the majority of men prefer younger women. I appreciate everyone who has written in to give their perspective and look forward to reading more posts about how others respond to the challenges of age prejudice.

  17. Monica said:

    It is how you carry yourself that is most important. Being elegant, graceful, confident and natural, and having good taste are much more important than having the perfect skin and body.
    I know someone who is in her early thirties, naturally beautiful and photogenic with designer brands from head to toe. I dislike her from day one as she is self conscious and pretentious and likes to show off her looks and her skills (she plays the piano). Contrast this young lady with Iris Apfel who, despite being in her 90s with lots of wrinkles, is iconic, confident, attractive and has a lot of character.
    I am not saying that we should ignore our looks or stop taking care of ourselves but cultivating what’s inside is even more important regardless of age.

  18. Angela Torres said:

    Hello there ladies ….. first I must say I have read all of your responses and concerns , are all to be taken to heart.
    We as humans at time give to much importantace to things that are so time consuming .
    TIME is the big picture here….we spend too much time worrying about what if what not . Stop …just do it ! We are all her for a short time .
    We have given as women men too much power with our lives.
    I have been divorced for 25 years and had younger mates didn’t work out because I’m too much . What’s too much ?
    I like to live life look good , feeling great and sexy for me. If I see s women in the street whom looks great I tell them I like how they keep themselves. It’s work to keep it together but worth to have a routine to make it less time consuming .
    Having great health, loving family and couple of true friend is great but having and knowing that there only one of you and there will be younger, older, skinner, poorer, richer, women in the world but You your worth this is all . In a relationship you need to know you , know what you want and ask make these men work for what you want.
    Now at my age in 50 I have more men whom are aged 40 -65 whom what a committed but I’m sitting back and enjoying watching whom I want not .
    I wished i learned this younger not to serve but to be served!
    I’m a busy women whom lives life , supports herself raised a daughter alone , works hard and plays hard.
    I have always said we as women must learn to respect each another and help to protect us women . We all we young girls, had and been mothers!
    All the best and always remember your never alone…..

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