Is it possible to age gracefully?

Mixed messages

“Oh Anne Robinson, just why can’t you age gracefully?” asks one exasperated columnist of the presenter’s latest facelift, whilst another unkindly describes 63 year old Judy Finnegan as looking ‘exhausted’ and ‘puffy-eyed’.

Ok, two Daily Mail examples. Research purposes only, you understand. But mixed messages about women and ageing are ubiquitous.

We live in a world where older women in the public eye are damned if they make an effort with their looks and damned if they don’t. The only women that the media allows us to respect are those with great bone structures, who naturally look fabulous despite their years (think ex-models Helen Mirren and Joanna Lumley).

Magazine articles telling us that age is not important anymore run alongside ads for anti-ageing creams. We’re told it’s ok to be old, but only if you look young.

This leaves most of us normal women confused. We rush out and buy expensive skin creams and then feel guilty about not ‘ageing gracefully’.

The harsh truth

The truth is that ageing can be harsh, especially for women. Our age is linked to how we look, which is linked to our attractiveness, which in turn is linked to feeling noticed, loved and accepted. If we believe that we have to resemble an ex-model to be valued in life it can be very disheartening.

Yet the media insists on providing us with naturally gorgeous people patronising us about how easy it is to be beautiful. Said Joanna Lumley, "We've all got a few more wrinkles, but who cares? If you always try to be kind, you'll look like the most beautiful person on Earth - and men will just fall at your feet." Ok…

Beauty on the inside?

A more honest approach would be refreshing. I would rather see a normal woman explaining how she made the best of her looks than a celebrity trying to convince me she’s successful because of her inner beauty.

Instead of Imedeen and Dove ads pretending to buck the trend by running modeling competitions for ‘beauty on the inside’ why don’t they just come clean and admit that even they’re just looking for people with big smiles and great skin? I suspect my internal beauty is simply not that photogenic.

Ageing gracefully

It’s easy just to blame the media for perpetuating the elusive ideal of eternal youth. But we are part of the problem.

We revel in the bitching about who’s had ‘too much work’ or who looks old and haggard. Magazines and TV programmes cater to our love to bitch (think Heat or the X-Factor auditions). We buy into them and the circle continues.

No wonder older women in the spotlight are obsessed with their looks – we make them that way.

Most of us will never look like Helen Mirren or have extensive ‘work’ done. We’ll look average, a bit wrinkly, a little saggy. Rather than falling at our feet when we’re being kind, men, with great concern, will comment that we’re looking tired.

Acceptance of ageing will always be a struggle, but it might be just a little bit easier if we turn off the TV and get on with the more meaningful things in our lives. And, whilst we’re at it, stop the bitching and let everyone else get on with theirs.

If we want to grow old gracefully then, I suspect, being gracious is probably our best bet.