The other day I was walking down the street and I noticed someone wearing a t-shirt with this slogan:
“It took me 60 years to be this good looking.”
I love it when people proudly admit to their age and don’t shy away from the natural effects of time. The shirt was being worn by a man. His hair was grey. He was tanned and weathered. He had all the normal signs of a person who had lived a reasonably long time. And, judging by his t-shirt, was happy with where he was at in life.
Of course Hollywood abounds with actors who are ageing gracefully. Helen Mirren immediately springs to mind. However, there’s also Judi Dench, Jack Nicholson, George Clooney, and Meryl Streep to name a few.
And how many big rocking bands from the 60’s and 70’s are still touring? Think The Rolling Stones and ACDC. And what about David Bowie and Tina Turner? Still rocking. Still great.
Ari Seth Cohen is a photographer who roams the streets of New York photographing the stylish and colourful older generation. Check out some of his discoveries here.
However, I don’t think ageing gracefully is about being colourful, Cohen stylish (according to his lens) or being a Hollywood actor or rock star. If it was, I’d fail dismally. What is it? These are my 10 tips:
1. Be positive.
Recently, I was at my local dog park chatting with another dog walker. He asked what I did. I said I was interested in our ageing population.
His reply? “You can ask me about that.”
I chose not to. It was early in the morning. His next comment confirmed my decision to stay quiet.
“I can tell you one thing. You see doctors a lot more.” [Delivered in a tone that indicated that this was just one of the many downsides of ageing.]
Now this may be true. Is that it though? Often, when I mention my area of interest to others their response to the concept of ageing is negative. Almost every time I speak to my Aunt, (who speaks with rounded vowels), she says “Oh ageing. It’s just awful.” Really? Is that the way it has to be? I don’t think so.
An attitude shift by everyone regarding ageing will change the collective consciousness to ageing being positive. So…
2. Eat well.
No matter what blog you read, what Google search you do, what magazine or newspaper article you find, or program you watch, one of the keys to healthy ageing is eating well. The better you eat, the better you feel, and the better you look. Eat well.
3. Physical exercise.
Whether its walking, swimming, yoga, pilates, cycling, surfing, hiking, working with a personal trainer or gardening. Just do something. Every day. Again, the internet and media abounds with stories about the merits of doing physical exercise. Don’t ignore it. Embrace it. Put the remote or tablet down, switch off the laptop and stop making excuses. Nike said it: Just do it!
4. Dress with effort. Not fancy. Just effort. Leave the track pants, t-shirts and joggers at home sometimes.
Look. I love a pair of trackie daks just as much as the next person. They’re comfy and easy. When I work from home laziness can win. Walk the dog in the morning in track pants and hang out in them for the day because I’ll probably be walking the dog at the end of the day too. And hey, I may just break into some yoga postures during the day (rarely happens btw) or decide to go for a walk to stretch my legs and get away from my desk (another rarity). So much easier if I’m in trackie daks.
Hmmmm. That’s OK. But, when getting out and about, make an effort. Guys – try a collared shirt and jeans or smart shorts for something different. Ladies get out of the trackie daks and t-shirt, put on something casually smart and whip on a bit of lippy. Give it a go and tell me if it made a difference to how you felt.
Have you noticed how older people often look like they’re frowning or unhappy because the corners of their mouth droop down? Look at people. Smile. Chat with the person at the checkout. Say something nice. Brighten their day. See what happens. You’ll feel great too.
6. Listening not lecturing. Asking questions. Sharing stories.
This is a big one. How often do you lecture vs listen? Really listen. Or, simply wait for someone to finish their sentence so that you can tell them what you’ve got to say. And so it goes. Back and forth. Try genuinely listening to the other person. Ask them questions about what they’re saying. And, if this is hard. Fake it ’til you make it. Practice makes perfect. You’ll discover the joys of genuinely listening to another person and delving into their story. When you do this you’ll be indirectly sharing your wisdom because of the questions you ask and the way in which you ask them. If you try it, write to me and tell your story.
7. Embrace change.
This has two parts. Embracing change in yourself and embracing change around you – whether that be in other people or the world in general. Lamenting that “it’s not like the old days” or critically evaluating everything (including yourself) against how things used to be is pointless. This does not mean you become a victim to all that happens in your world. No. That’s an excuse for not taking action. If you’re knees are weakening (guilty) go to a gym and find out what you can do to strengthen them (tick). If you’re increasingly unsteady on your feet, use a walking stick. At least you can still move! If your eyesight is failing, buy a Kindle and use the big font or listen to audiobooks. If technology overwhelms you, find someone to help you. Embrace the change.
You can read more about this in an earlier blog piece here. Working, whether paid or voluntary, is a great way to keep your brain active, meet new people, and have purpose and meaning in your life. And, if approached with the right attitude, not only will your work be appreciated, there’s a chance your wisdom will too.
9. Community is key.
Cutting yourself off from the world serves no one. Least of all yourself. Community can simply mean knowing your neighbours enough to nod and say ‘hello’. Community can mean being a regular at a local cafe where the barista knows your name and your order. Community can mean the librarian telling you about a new book they’ve got in that you might enjoy because they’ve come to know your preferences. Community simply means that you know people around you who you see regularly. Similarly, they know you, and see you. You’re not invisible. That’s important. When you feel invisible in your local community, life feels lonely. That’s not fun and it isn’t conducive to ageing gracefully.
10. Love and gratitude.
Love you. Be grateful for you. Love those around. Be grateful. Just these two things go along way to ageing gracefully.
And whilst this post is not about beauty, it’s about ageing gracefully, I think Celine Dion encapsulates the idea well when she says,
“There’s no such thing as aging, but maturing and knowledge. It’s beautiful, I call that beauty.”