What are you reading? I’ve been glued to a book that’s made me laugh out loud: journalist Steven Petrow’s Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old. Petrow, who’s in his mid-sixties, began writing his list not long after his 50th birthday, having observed all the things he thought his 70-year-old parents were doing wrong.
Reading it hasn’t just made me hoot with laughter, though – it’s also reminded me of some of the things we need to consider if we’re to age gracefully, instead of continually trying to turn back the clock, making ourselves unhappy in the process. After all, getting older is a privilege – and consider what the alternative might be…
There are so many fears, frustrations and stereotypes that accompany ageing. Lots of them are myths we’re continually trying to bust at Studio10. So if we take a look at the common hallmarks of ageing, what might we need to reconsider?
Petrow tells a hilarious story about dyeing his grey hair honey-blond – with disastrous results. His conclusion? “A man who dyes his hair badly looks desperate.” He’s now a silver fox – and loving it. But as he rightly points out, women are held to very different standards than men.
During the pandemic, there’s been a great deal written about the joys – and liberation – of embracing the greys, and if that’s the way you’re leaning, I salute you. But what if you’re not ready? Don’t beat yourself up. I colour my hair – and I may continue to do so for ever. I just don’t know yet. What I do know is that I do it because it makes me feel good, not because I want people to think I’m 23.
Make-up is another big issue as we age. The looks – and the products – we wore in our twenties and thirties just don’t work in our fifties and beyond, for reasons of formulation as well as fashion. But I don’t believe you should just give up and go bare-faced – unless you want to, of course. Think about swapping the products you use for something tailored to more mature skin. We might advocate embracing the wrinkles, but that doesn’t mean we want your foundation to sink into them!
The idea that beauty belongs to the youth is anathema to me. We’re no less beautiful because we’re older. Probably quite the reverse. At Studio10 we’re on a mission to help women look and feel the most beautiful and confident version of themselves – at any age. The stupid thing I won’t do when I get “old” – whatever that might be – is to believe I’m worth any less than I was when I was 35. Or 45. Or even 55, which is my next big birthday.
Our bodies slow down as we age. That’s a fact. But another thing we need to think about is whether we are actually pre-empting that. Jane E Brody, who’s 80 and a personal health columnist for The New York Times, has an interesting response to Petrow’s Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old.
She says: “I will stubbornly resist altering my habits to avert potential tragedies that others foresee. I walk my dog in the woods over slippery rocks, roots and fallen logs so I can enjoy his fearless energy and athleticism and improve my own balance and self-confidence.
“The doctor who monitors my bone health ends every consult with an order, ‘Do not fall,’ and the treacherous woods walk is part of my response. As Mr Petrow emphasised, fear of falling ‘can actually lead to more falls’ by making you unduly anxious, hesitant and focused on your feet instead of what’s in front of you.” I love that, both on a literal level and as a message for life. Why spend your time staring down at the ground when you could be looking ahead instead?
We all have issues as we get older. The secret to ageing gracefully is not to pretend they aren’t there; rather, it’s to recognise those issues and adapt accordingly. For instance, I don’t do ashtanga any more – all the jumping in and out of poses hurts my knees. That may not even be age-related. But now I prefer the kinds of yoga that focus on holding and deepening a pose, softening with the breath. In looking for physical alternatives, I’ve actually found something that serves me better in terms of body, mind and spirit.
For me, ageing gracefully isn’t just about hair and make-up, it’s coming to an acceptance of who we are – even though some days that can be a struggle in a society that values youth so highly. But if you asked me when and where I was happiest, I would tell you: right here, right now.