Ageing is a dirty word.
So much so that at the first whiff of a wrinkle many of us are willing to spend our entire monthly pay packet on the latest anti-ageing serum.
Like it or not we’re all going to get older. But instead of embracing it, most of us dread it, misguidedly believing that for every candle added to our birthday cake we’ll sink a little lower into a joyless world of loneliness, despair and terrible style.
So desperate are we to halt the ageing process that the anti-ageing market was recently valued at a whopping $140.3 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $216.52 billion in 2021.
Part of this negative view of growing older has a lot to do with how anyone 40 plus is portrayed. Over 40? “Don’t you dare wear a short skirt” Over 50? “Make way for the millennials” Over 60? “Over the hill!”
But there’s a growing band of campaigners who want to change the narrative surrounding ageing.
Advantages of Age movement
“Like it or not, what we read about ourselves determines how we feel about ourselves and how others perceive us,” explains Suzanne Noble Co-Founder of social enterprise Advantages of Age.
“I started Advantages of Age with my co-founder Rose after we became disillusioned with the prevailing narrative around ageing that was all around sagging this or that, no sex and generally about feeling bad about being older.
“We certainly didn’t feel that way and nor did many of our friends. We decided to do something about it and created a website, curating positive articles about ageing from the web as well as writing our own. We soon discovered we weren’t alone and now we have over 3.5k members on a Facebook group.
“The positives of getting older are many, but mainly what we hear from our members is the feeling of being liberated by what others think, of having more time to devote to their passions and generally feeling more content. Being divested of the responsibility of caring for younger children is a big thing for many women who find the 50s to be the most creative period of their lives.”
As Suzanne explains the saggy, wrinkly view of ageing actually has a much more amazing counterpart.
Here’s a look at five reasons why we should be celebrating those extra candles on the birthday cake.
We might associate old age with more misery, but science says that older people are actually happier than their younger counterparts.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry of 1,546 people from ages 21 to 99 in San Diego found that though older people were physically more disabled and had more cognitive impairment than younger ones, they were reported to be the happiest.
While people in their 20s and 30s were found to have the highest levels of depression, anxiety and stress, plus the lowest levels of happiness, satisfaction and wellbeing.
2. More meaningful relationships
Age + maturity = more relationship wisdom, says relationship and matrimonial expert, Sheela Mackintosh-Stewart
“Older women who have experienced the thorny side of marriage or relationships often spend much more time on self-reflection and soul-searching,” she explains. “This journey of self-discovery is vital for healing and personal growth because many women distill not only an intimate self-knowledge of themselves, but clearly identify what they want and need from a future partner. Usually, they have learned from the mistakes of their failed relationships and vow not to repeat them.”
According to Sheela this means they find a greater mutual acceptance of their partner’s shortcomings and are more compromising, forgiving and well-practiced in conflict–resolution skills.
And they also have more realistic expectations of ‘Mr. Good Enough’, not ‘Mr. Perfect.’
“Having experienced prior relationships, older women generally have more realistic expectations of their partner, the commitment required, and how to better deal with the challenges involved,” she explains.
“As we get older and more world-aware we are often more alive to the fact that marriages are unpredictable journeys and appreciate the importance of building strong relationships that can withstand marital storms and strains. Hence, are more motivated to work harder at their marriage.”
3. Greater confidence
“Confidence naturally grows with age, which then trickles into many aspects of our daily life,” explains life coach and personal development expert, Carole Ann Rice from Real Coaching Co.
“You accept yourself – warts, waistline and all, with insecurities fading as time goes by. As we grow older, we’re no longer concerned with other people’s views or approval, learning that our feelings, thoughts and emotions are valid and important.
“We also become a lot wiser about who and what we invest our time, energy and love in – no more wasted moments or messing around! This also ties into us appreciating that life is about connection with family, friends and community – those silly superficial things we thought mattered when we were younger no longer feel as important anymore.”
4. Style savvy
Forget ‘Mutton dressed as lamb’, older women discover their style confidence as they age.
“In my experience as a stylist and body confidence coach, I find and witness people evolving and coming in to their own as they grow and mature as a person,” explains Chelle Shohet a personal stylist and body confidence coach also known as ‘The Self Love Stylist.’
“Style is not fashion and it’s not seasonal – It’s an inner confidence!”
Chelle says that as people get older they get caught in a positive spiral of style confidence.
“As a person discovers and develops their unique style their confidence grows exponentially. As their confidence grows then their style becomes stronger, more effortless and more defined.”
They also become more in tune with their own body and body shape and develop a greater understanding of the colours, styles and shapes that work for them as well as the ones that don’t.
“As they discover and develop this, they bring more of their own unique style and personality. This in turn brings a confidence to stop comparing themselves to others and have an acceptance and even a LOVE for their body, shape and beauty.”
That’s something Jane Pangbourne Body Positivity Coach agrees with.
“Many know the poem, ‘When I grow old I will wear purple’….we do start to worry less about what others think of us and start to appreciate the most authentic versions of ourselves,” she says.
5. Looking after ourselves
“Self-care is hugely important at any age but especially as we get older,” explains Alison T Smith, wellness coach and author of My Reason and ME.
“Fortunately as we reach our fifties we often get to the realisation that we must practice self-care. Many women are sandwiched between children and elderly parents so they realise they must conserve their energy and avoid burnout and stress.”
Alison says this manifests in many ways, but typically in older people appreciating the benefits of a healthy diet, exercising regularly and knowing the power of good sleep.
“After trying every diet going as we age we tend to finally know what suits our bodies and recognise that ‘real’ food is the key, rather than anything faddy,” she says.
“We also recognise the importance of good sleep, and knowing for sure what exercise works for us.”
So there we have it. Five reasons to celebrate the ageing process. This is a stage of life when we should reap the benefits of the pain and knowledge accrued over the decades. If only we’d known in our youth what we know today!