It’s all about how we view aging in America and it will be one of the hottest topics in this country on many fronts: politically, culturally, emotionally and economically. Given the fact that people over 50 represent the largest demographic in the history of the world, with more joining our ranks every day, one would think that politicians, marketers, and the media would be more respectful and pay closer attention to who we really are and what we want. They (especially the media) haven’t really been until now, preferring to see us move over. But, if we get loud enough, change can happen.
We are continuously bombarded with messages at every turn urging us to join the war against aging (at a cost). We listen to the “anti-aging sirens” sing sweet words of encouragement (and promises) in our ears whenever we turn on the television, see a movie, or read a magazine (even those allegedly aimed at “older women”). “Youth is beauty,” the sirens sing. “You don’t really want to age… do you? Who will hire you? Who will love you? Who will desire you? Come with us, and be young, young, young… forever.”
Advertisers who desperately want the baby boomer dollars often use models half our age, or those so airbrushed they make 50 truly look like it’s the new 40 (a ridiculous line invented by some marketer, no doubt) in a distasteful attempt to have us believe that we can, in fact, reverse the clock.
Plastic surgery is on the rise (for men as well as women) even in the face of massive unemployment and high debt loads among the “over 50” market. A recent Wall Street Journal article opens by announcing “More Americans are reaching their 60s with so much debt they can’t afford to retire,” and yet we, as a group, are willing to shell out mega bucks on skin cream, invasive procedures, chemical peels, Botox, and so on in an effort to erase our lines, recapture our youth, and compete head to head with the true youth of this country for jobs, love, sex and attention.
When my grandmother entered her 50s it was a level playing field. The only ones who got their faces lifted (in strict secrecy) were major Hollywood stars. Everyone else just hoped for the best and went down the aging path together. In today’s world, however, the level playing field is a distant memory. Those who can, often do. Those who can’t . . . well . . . time to become invisible, perhaps?
There’s a dearth of celebrity role models who choose to age with grace, vitality and dignity in public. Helen Mirren jumps to mind, especially since in “real life” her hair is a natural, beautiful gray, and not long ago she was voted as having the “Body of the Year.” There are many well-known women over 50, a few who are true cultural icons whom we watched grow up right along side us, but I would never refer to them as role models for aging without fear. Too many are soldiers in the anti-aging movement, marching through their 50s and 60s (and beyond) with hair impossibly blond or black, faces too smooth, bodies too taut and toned.
Isn’t it time to change how we view aging? Have we created a society of “haves” and “have nots” based not so much on how much is in our bank accounts, but on how much we spend on trying to look younger? Have we completely removed any opportunity for a level playing field? Have we fooled ourselves to the point where we actually believe we are younger just by erasing crow’s feet with Botox? And do we think we fool others?
I see more and more men and women every day talking on Facebook, websites, Twitter, and other social media in an effort to shift the discourse and create a societal sea change. To help move the paradigm shift along, I’ve come up with a few “best of everything after 50” creeds to live by. I hope these simple words inspire you to embrace your age and live your life to the fullest:
- Be fearless after 50
- Embrace your age, no matter what it is
- Don’t focus so much on what others think
- Embracing your age and wanting to feel pretty, healthy and fit are not mutually exclusive.
- Whatever you do, do it for the right reasons
- Get angry about ageism, and take action
- Know how powerful you are
- Support and encourage other people over 50, because chances are good they feel as you do
- Be a role model for the next generation by showing how to live life without fear
And lastly: “¨Love yourself, love your life, stay as healthy as you can, move your body, be informed, stay engaged, use your mind, keep a handle on your finances, be bold, be brave, walk with confidence, live with style . . . and then . . . you will know how truly wonderful life after 50 can be.
Turning 50: it’s not just an age . . . it’s a movement.
For more tips on living your best life after 50 (or 60, or 70…) check out “The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More” and www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Keep me posted on how you’re doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and “tweeting” me on Twitter at @BGrufferman.