No, it isn’t “all downhill from here” … or it doesn’t have to be
“Ahhh, the joys of having lived more than a half a century,” said few women ever. Actually, from my informal surveys of older people, both men and women, I’d have to conclude that more women view aging in a positive light than do men. Which Iunderstood when a man friend told me that he thinks this is because men generally mourn what they can no longer do, or can’t do with the intensity that they could while, say, in their 20s. That shed a light on why so many men I know over 40 wish they were teens or twenty-somethings again … something I’ve never wish for. No. Way.
Most of my friends are older than I so we’re all in the Baby Boomer generation. How my friends are looking at getting older is a mixed bag. Some are still trying to hold onto their younger selves by dying their hair and wearing the same makeup as 20 years ago. Others are letting their hair go “natural” and approach each day with a happy can-do attitude, looking forward to the next challenge in their lives.
Though I’m still have my natural blonde hair, I like to think that if/when I start going gray I will let it be. Hopefully by then my hair will have grown at least partly down my back; I say to hell with that stereotype that some people have — that is, “women over 40 should have short hair”. I was told this when I was 46 and I said to the man who said it to me,” Where is this rule written? Can I see the book which states that rule?” He didn’t have an answer, which is no surprise. I love a meme I saw on Facebook that said, “People tell me to act my age and I can’t because I’ve never been this age before.” Besides, there are no hard-and-fast rules as to what we can do at 50, 60, 70 and beyond.
“Why are people afraid of getting older? You feel wiser. You feel more mature. You feel like you know yourself better. You would trade that for softer skin? Not me!” — Anna Kournikova, pro tennis player
I recently listened to a podcast on which the show’s host (can’t recall the show) was interviewing Terry McMillan, author of a number of wonderful books, some of which I’ve enjoyed. McMillan, in her late 60s, talked about her new book, “It’s Not All Downhill From Here,” and also made some observations on aging. One that stuck in my mind was when she said that people seem to have this idea that “old people” are no longer sexual, and/or interested in intimacy, which McMillan said she doesn’t believe is true. Okay, not generally anyway; I’ve heard that some people do lose the desire as they get older (maybe because of bad relationship/dating experiences) but I don’t know anyone like that in my life.
“Loretha is not one of those women who think her best days are behind her — and she’s determined to prove wrong her mother, her twin sister, and everyone else with that outdated view of aging wrong. It’s not all downhill from here.” — A synopsis on Amazon of “It Isn’t All Downhill from Here,” by Terry McMillan.
I’ve been over 50 for five years and am still loving life, still looking forward to more of it, with adventures, surprises, good (and bad) times and everything else that is part of life. This article is an answer to some of the women who I’ve read here on Medium about aging. Some have expressed unhappiness, even dismay, that they are now past the big 5–0. They’re like, “OhMyGod, my life is so OVER!!! My youth is gone! Oh woe is me! (cue loud uncontrollable sobbing noises).”
Well, sisters, I’m here to tell you that no, it is not. Here are a few reasons to love being past the age of 50.
- Freedom. Most women at 50 have raised their children and are now able to enjoy the “empty nest” that comes with the kids flying from the roost. (Note: yes, I’ve heard that sometimes the kids come back, and if that happens to me, which I doubt, I’ll deal with it. But I’m not going to sit around worrying about it). With our focus no longer mostly about childraising, us “older women” can find new hobbies (or re-take up some old hobbies), take a class (or go back to school for a degree) or travel as finances allow. “Empty nest” time is a new chapter in one’s life, and ideally we should be filling the pages with memories, fun activities and loving our people.
There’s also the freedom we get from having lost (or left) a less-than-happy marriage, as many women I know have done. Many of my divorced friends are on a second marriage, others are living with a partner, still others are in a LAT (living apart, together) relationship because they prefer living alone while still having a significant other. Oh, and on a related note: I’ve told some of my younger relatives who are raising small children, “Some day, dear, your kids will be gone and then you can have sex whenever and wherever you want in the house.” The young ladies laughed at that, though maybe at this point they just can’t see past their current struggles with “distance learning” that their kids are having to do for school, no thanks to the current pandemic.
2. Menopause: Women reach this point in their lives at different times: I’ve known women who have started menopause in their late 30s already, and others do it much later. Though generally many women past 50 have already gone through “the change” and so can joyfully kiss goodbye that awful monthly misery called periods. I’ve heard menopause — which can last 10 years or more — is actually hell for some women, while for others it’s pretty easy. (And another perk is we don’t have to worry about getting pregnant … thus, freedom from that worry).
3. Becoming less self-conscious: Once again I’m speaking in general here, though I believe — largely based on my own experience and having observed a lot of other women — we become a bit (a lot?) less self conscious as we accumulate the years. Yes, many women still want to look good, they just aren’t as obsessed about it as they may have been 20 or 30 years earlier. People who are less fixated on themselves may turn it around and focus on helping other people, hence the large amount of 50-plus year old women who volunteer. There is much joy in serving others; volunteering to help the less fortunate, or less able-bodied, is a true joy that I highly recommend doing so if you are able.
4. More closeness in friendships: Over the years we all have friends of varying degrees and in different situations. As we age we may find our friendships deepening as we go through the inevitable changes that life brings with it: divorce/widowhood, losing a parent, or both; moves, or “downsizing,” and other situations and losses. Some of us are both taking care of our children and aging parents. Our friends are often going through similar losses and we can strengthen our bonds as we help support others through these shared experiences. Though we may have seen other women as “competition” (for men, for jobs, etc.) when we were much younger, I’m pretty sure that most of us don’t feel that way at 50-plus. I know I’ve come to place more value on my female friendships at this stage of my life.
5. Having more wisdom: Our ability to learn may decline somewhat as we get older but generally we can still keep on learning new things and should strive toward that goal as the years go by. Plus, having lived “x” amount of years means you have the accumulated wisdom of experiences and observations of others’ lives which you can share with the younger generations. Tell stories to your grandkids, author a book or two, or share what you know on Medium! There are many avenues with which to learn, and to share what you know, and it usually just involves a click of a mouse (and a computer/phone).
So hopefully these five items might lead to my sisters “of a certain age” to change their outlook on getting older. My grandma Dean always said (and yes I know it’s a cliche) “Getting older is better than the alternative.” I’ve been lucky to have been raised in a family where age was basically a number of years we’ve walked this earth; it does not define us, nor should it define anyone. I think a large part of “aging gracefully” is having a good attitude about it, because being happy and positive is much better on one’s health than being grumpy and gloomy. Forget that garbage our western culture (so obsessed with youth as it is) society tells us, that we “lose our looks” as we get older. True beauty, after all, comes from within.
Of course as we add up the years we also want to take care of our bodies and minds, keeping them in working order and flexing the muscles of each, to try to slow down their decline (and also enhance our inner beauty through the positive outcomes of exercise and being actively engaged in the world). So Iit’s a good bet that proper nutrition, exercise and a happy outlook on life are all key that may unlock a better, more positive “golden ager” experience. Not to mention keeping an attitude of gratitude for each new day that we live, and counting the ways in which we are happy to be alive. Cheers!!
“You can’ t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” — George Burns, American comedian and actor (who lived to be 100)