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.


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

  1. SRT said:

    Hi. Thank you for the article, James.

    I’m having difficulty reconciling my age as a number with other factors. I’m consistently told I look nowhere near 41. I usually get 27 to 30, and that’s from people who are in that age range. (I’ll admit that it feels really good to see the shock on their faces when I tell them how old I actually am. Haha!)

    In friendship, this is fine. I’m uncertain how to navigate this in the dating world, though. This wasn’t an issue before because I wasn’t dating for the past 10 years. Now that I’m ready to be involved again, I don’t want to lead anyone on. At the same time, I don’t want to be disqualified out of the gate either by someone I believe might become a great partner.

    When and how do you suggest the topic of age be brought up in a relationship that has the potential to be the kind of partnership I want to create?

    In the past, I never had to consider such a thing. I don’t want it to be a big deal. And, yes, I realize I’m making it a big deal by even asking this question. XD

    Some men will think I’m too old for them, and that’s fine. (Some of them are definitely too young for me!) Some high-quality men in the age range I’m comfortable with (mid-30s to mid-40s), though, might not consider my age a deal-breaker after really getting to know me. Some of those same high-quality men, however, might not bother with getting to really know me if they know how old I am from the get-go.

    Just like disclosing medical issues or sharing our most vulnerable self, timing matters when it comes to most people. Even really fantastic people. Although, to be honest, it feels really awful that I feel it’s even necessary to be strategic about revealing my age.

    At present, I simply hang out and carry on conversations that anyone observant enough would be able to put together a timeline. It makes me feel somewhat deceptive and like some kind of fraud because I know it’s highly likely that they think I’m a good ten years younger than I actually am.

    I’ll appreciate any insight you offer. Thank you!

    • James Bauer said:

      Great question. And congratulations on being one of the lucky few who has been chased by the look of youth into her 40s!

      My initial thought is this. Your focus should be on figuring out the ideal age of the partner you want to end up with. That should be the primary issue. Not what he thinks, but what you think/want.

      If I understood your comment correctly, it sounds like you’re looking for someone around age 35 to 45. If that’s the case, then there’s nothing wrong with mentioning your age the first time it feels appropriate to do so. Because you’ll be a good age match for that partner based on a similar phase of life and expected lifespan.

      Generally speaking, men do (unfortunately) tend to favor a partner who is a little younger than them, but that is only because of appearance. So it’s really the best of both worlds when you are his same age but also happen to look five or ten years younger than him.

      The one age-related issue that could be a factor in their decision as to whether or not you are a good potential partner to invest in has to do with reproductive age. Not that you are outside the range where you could bear children, but it may be a consideration that influences why a man was attracted to you in the first place (if they perceived you as being of an age that would leave plenty of room for starting a family in years to come).

      So I’m thinking most people in your situation would benefit from a discussion of hopes and dreams for the future, especially in regards to the potential for having children and starting a family…and have that discussion very early in your interactions. If kids are something you are interested in yourself, then you’re at a perfect age to make that a priority discussion before you invest your own time in a relationship. It’s a legitimate reason to bring up both your age and your vision for your own life in regards to children.

  2. Jess said:

    I do not fear aging per say, I fear getting older and getting closer to the end of my time on this planet. I fear dying, I’m not afraid that I am going to die right now but I fear dying in the future when I’m older. I get panic attacks thinking about it all, my mind goes in circles and I get scared and sad about something I know I can’t avoid and I know it’s in the future and that it’s not something that is happening right now. However it still scares me and sends me into these attacks. I don’t know what to do to help my feelings about dying, I try to use mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises, I try to switch my thoughts from what scares me to something positive but it doesn’t work. This fear just started happening to me about 5 years ago. I’m 34 years old now. I wish I could push past these feelings as they can be debilitating.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hey, Jess. You’re not alone. Many people have panic attacks due to fears that have to due with illness or death. You might look up a book called “The Worry Trick” by David Carbonell. He’s a psychologist who runs an anxiety clinic up near Chicago, and while panic attacks can be hard to beat, others have mentioned his books as very helpful resources.

  3. manon said:

    Thank you ! I will turn 50 in 2 days and this article makes me feel better. I worked hard on my mindful evolution all my life. I was pampered by mother nature, she gave me a natural beauty. Of course it’s hard to see this beauty fade or change with the time..I want to keep it , I resist this change. This article help me realize there is another way to think about it.

  4. 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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