I cannot begin to tell you what a challenge it is to find ways to shape the public's perception of aging. As a "baby boomer," I know I am accompanied by a large number of women who have successful careers, are healthy and physically fit, and who have accomplished many things in their lifetimes. The roles women of our generation have played are varied, to say the least. They have played the roles of wife, mother, professional, public servant, elected official, volunteer and artist, to name just a few, and, in some cases, these women have had more than one career. I'm a good example of that last one. I'm on career number three!
So, there I am with my 'aging gracefully' pin board, trying to find images AND content to convey how cool it really is to be older than 40 (and, it IS cooler!) and an e-mail from Wilhelmina's Model Agency lands in my mailbox touting the "30+ Model Search." I went to the web site to take a look, and decided to vote for Isa A., age 65, pictured here.
Her words got my vote as much as her looks did. However, I do have a beef with Wilhelmina's Model Agency. As I paged through the 30 "semi-finalists," it seemed that the majority of them were 30-something. So. I counted. Sixteen are 30-to-39. Seven are 40-to-49. Five are in their fifties. Two, including Isa A., are in their 60s. Isa is the oldest, although I didn't know that when I voted for her. I like her style and she spoke to my generation, which is what I thought this was all about. Clearly, I was wrong.
To put women in their thirties and forties next to women in their fifties and sixties is not a good comparison. They are in two very different life stages. I can hear you out there, asking how the heck I know this! Because .... because, I have been those other ages and I remember very clearly where I was at 34 or 45 ...
Then menopause arrived, as it is prone to do to women of a "certain age."
And, I'm thinking that this is where the rub comes in.
Hormones dictate so much in the lives of women. As adolescents entering puberty, our hormones are raging and all we can think about is how we look and what boys (and, other girls) think of us.
Around the late 20s and early 30s, we begin to stabilize and become focused on things like career and/or family. And, we pretty much stay stable until sometime in our late 40s and early 50s when we move into the menopause phase. (Which, by the way, is much like adolescence, occurring over a period of years!)
Finally, we get to what I affectionately refer to as the "Fuck You Fifties," because it is here, at this point in life, that we begin to accept ourselves and become truly comfortable in our own skin. And, it's not like we have a choice in the matter! Aging is something all of us must do.
Our mothers aged differently than we are doing. As "boomers," we have had the advantages of good nutrition and medical research, and we have reaped the benefits of multiple fitness programs. Whether you walk, swim, ride a bike, dance or hike, you've got to keep moving! Use it or lose it is really, truly true. Using our bodies is what keeps us youthful, in more ways than one!
I take issue with Wilhelmina's 30+ Model Search. Like the MORE Magazine Beauty Searches of years past, it was all about helping us to like ourselves once we moved past 40 years old. The fifties have been a mish-mash of media trying to adjust to women who won't go away, who still participate in all that life has to offer. Today, 10,000 "baby boomers" reaches 65 every day! EVERY SINGLE DAY for the next 19 years! So we are definitely a force to be reckoned with! (Marketers, pay attention!) And, I truly believe it is up to us to change the perceptions of aging we share in this culture we live in ~ to shape it so that younger women can see that there is so much to look forward to. Life is not over at 30. Or 40. Or 50! It's just beginning.
Like Isa said, "We CAN stay healthy, sexy, intelligent and confident, all with great attitude!" I don't know how to get that message to Wilhelmina's Model Agency unless I can scream it from the rooftops of New York City! Or, maybe, just here on my little blog and on my Pinterest "How To Age Gracefully" pin board. If you share my feelings on this subject, please! Chime in! Share! It's OK to age. It happens to all of us. We're not finished yet. So, don't act like we are!