ELDER MUSIC: Centuries
Who Could have Stopped the FAA Sequester Exception?

Growing Old with Long Gray Hair

It was about three-and-a-half years ago that we had a terrific discussion about long hair on elder women. I went back to re-read it over the weekend because I was delighted with this comment that arrived on Saturday from a reader named Catherine.

”Just came across this and agree with the story. I have worn my hair short and 'neat' since the age of 25, was lucky to be one of those that just ran their fingers through and it was done. However, I hit 51 and broke loose.

“My hair has been growing wild for a year now and before I hit a very stressful period it was growing thick and curly as it had done when I was little, I am lucky that it still has a lot of its own colour but there is grey becoming more obvious now [and] this funnily enough bothers other people more than me.

“The stress has caused some loss and lack of lustre but it will recover. I love it, I love feeling the hair on my back and I love the way the wind makes it look wild and messy and I am longing for the day when I have a head of white curly hair.

“I don't care that it will age me. Why? Because I will be old and finally me, without needing to conform to the expectations of others. I love my hair, I am proud of my hair. It's part of me.”

Doesn't Catherine make you feel good? Her enthusiasm for her wild and messy, graying hair blowing in the wind rubs off. And her attitude toward her future elderhood is something I wish I could bestow on everyone alive.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, I.S. Kipp: Fun Baba, Funny Baba or the Green Smoothie


Mine is 95% white now and I love it; much to my husband's dismay. He says it ages me and I know he would like for me to color it blond. I have never ever wanted to be a blond and I won't color it brown again because I don't like the way it looks against faces that are obviously older. I have let it grow over the past two years, but I keep it just below the ears, since that is an easier length for me. But I dream of moving to the country and letting it grow and grow, and piling it atop my head when the weather is hot.

I have short hair, but it is pretty wild all the same. I have let it grow at various times, but I really do prefer short hair for me.

I love my long hair. I am SO fortunate that it is still pretty thick and healthy. I know that my hair will get thinner as hormones continue their wholesale abandonment of me . . .but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
I really have 0 time for hair rules. I went to my hairdresser years ago and said, "There seems to be a rule that a woman who is no longer young has to have her hair cut off. I don't want to do that. YOU make it look good. I keep it clean, professional looking and LONG.

If you wanted to discuss how there seem to be shaming rituals for women the world over that involve the cutting of hair, I'd love to read that. Do we as a society punish women for growing old by chopping off their hair? I don't think it is quite so punitive as that, but is there a flavour of it in the attitude toward older women and long hair.

In my world, no one has to conform to the expectations of others.
My choice is short hair for the ease of care it allows.
My hair is totally white, has
been for years.
What you do with your hair, the choices you make for yourself, is not my business.
My choices are my business...
Thanks for the messages Ronni.

About 10 years ago I couldn't get a good hair cut for some reason so I just let it go. I loved having long hair. I used to get compliments from strangers on the street.

But recently I've been sick and was in and out of the hospital. I was beginning to look scuzzy so I cut it. I didn't miss it at first, but I do now and I'm impatient for it to grow back.

When did it become unfashionable or "not appropriate" for older women to have long hair?

I quit dying my hair when I read that dark brown and black dyes are heavily implicated in bladder cancer, and the one woman I know who dyed her hair black - died of bladder cancer! Illogical maybe, but it provided the excuse I needed to let it go gray. It's not a glorious silver or white, it's mousey brown streaked with gray, but I'm relieved to abandon the monthly ritual of dyeing.

I don't want to take care of long hair anymore, but it's simply a matter of periodic trends whether women wear their hair long or short and I think it looks just fine either way. Blueing was abandoned some time ago too, so we're making progress!

I tried letting mine grow for a while, because I'd love the feeling of long and wild, but the in between stages - especially if you have roots that have to grow out -- were horrendous.

Maybe I'll just say the hell with it and try again. It's too expensive to keep up with the cut and color routine!

Love this post. I quit coloring my hair 20 years and it grew out streaky in about 4 shades of gray and some white that I love. Last year I started letting in grow. I like it, it is my business. Having said that though I had to find someone else to trim the ends, my former stylist would not just trim the ends she kept shortening it. I too love the way it feels, it's never been thick, but I am happy with it. It took me many years to develop my judgement and learn to trust in my decisions for myself and now I'm happy to be in that place.

I've been growing my used-to-be-very-short grey hair since last July and it's past shoulder length now. When I walk across the river (well, actually the bridge), there is always a strong breeze. Yesterday I pulled out the band holding my hair back, just so I could feel it blowing wild! Long hair is so different from when I was a girl using 20-30 bobby pins to hold every hair of a French twist in place. I want tendrils hanging loose. I want to look a little wild, like my hair.

hank you Ronni and GANG, at 72 I still have some dark hair up there, but it is mostly white and forty shades of gray..I toy with the long hair, but love my pixie from 1962....Would love to have the Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Emmy Lou Harris hair, but around forty started to like MYSELF again as I had as a 17 year old and have tried to stay with that...this column is a lifesaver, an ego saver...thanks for being out there and honest...fly that hair Women...hear us cheer,,,,

Since this post today is about both color and length, I can add something in both regards. I started going gray in my mid-20s. At that point, I was living in Germany on a research trip and went to have the usual haircut [not because of its growing color change--] -- had I even considered having it dyed, which I hadn't, I was so amused by the male haircutter that I was just happy to get the usual cut: when he saw the increasing gray, he announced that it was developing because "you read too much." So much for that. Nevertheless, I do keep it short, the reason being that I swim quite regularly, and long hair is the pits for that, especially during our overlong, icy winters in MN.

Like most people with baby-fine light brown hair, mine is not going into old age nicely, quietly and with dignity! Despite the fact that hairdressers told me that when the white hair comes in it will be coarser ... it isn't. It's still fly-away fine and kind of a light-brown grey! I so envy people who have dark brown or black hair that become such a gorgeous salt and pepper and then a beautiful, bright white ... sigh. Mine is just a very thinned out dingy brown-grey. Have often cursed my Anglo-Saxon ancestors for leaving me this kind of legacy.

Oh, well, enough of that whining! I'm thinking of instead of stopping all the standard pain and irritation of cut-and-perm and just getting it cut in a Judy Dench kind of short and straight "cap" cut and let the chips (and hair) fall where they may!

I've always worn my hair short to very short. In my working years in Oklahoma, it made sense to keep a short, tousled, windblown look because it was going to be naturally windblown anyway if you ever went outside. It's now about 60% gray and I don't color it. (Expensive when short hair is cut so often.) Wishing it would hurry up and go all gray. Still short, super casual, and windblown, air dries in minutes in this climate. It's me.

As often quoted, attitude is everything. I love Catherine's attitude toward aging and hope she continues to have that positive outlook as the years pile on.

I always had long very thick hair and about ten years ago it became too tiring to have to curl it so I had it cut short. After some very bad haircuts I finally found a stylist who does a good job. I love the freedom from taking time to style it. At my age ease of care is much more important than vanity.

I still have some of my natural brown hair in the back, but am finally all white in front. I will be glad when the brown in back joins the white in front.

I loved short hair even when I was young and my hair was all dark brown. I even periodically took a whack at cutting it myself because the feel of it longer--thick, but very fine and somewhat frizzy--made me crazy. Even though it's now over half gray, with a few promising white streaks, I still like it short.

My problem is, I want it short but contemporary. This is tougher. For some reason (perhaps, as Peggy suggests, as part of a culturally enforced shaming ritual, a thought I've often had myself) you can often only get short gray hair with short, blunt bangs. Nothing says "clueless old lady" like 1-inch frizzy bangs, at least on me. Ew-YEW!

So I'm growing it in, kind of against my will, but I am tired of those hideous mini-bangs, tired of looking for stylists, tired of the maintainence (PiedType is right; the haircuts are *very* frequent)...just DONE with the whole thing.

My new goal is a medium length--below the chin, above the shoulders--and NO bangs. In theory, at least, it seems about the easiest option. To a lot of people, this is still "short hair" but with less frequent cuts and less (I hope) margin for error. Wish me luck.

My hair is still dark, although there is some grey. In the humid Hawaiian climate it has a nice natural wave. I like to wear it a little above shoulder length, just long enough so I can put it up if I want to. No bangs.

As a child I always had shorter hair -- Mom had nine kids, four of them girls, and she didn't want to fool with our hair much. We got a shampoo every Saturday night, with pincurls to wear to bed and that was it. When I reached my teenage years my mother would always make fun of my hairdos. I have a broad, high forehead and my ears stick out, so I continued with the bangs and have always made sure that my ears are covered. I had professional jobs most of my life and kept my hair colored and cut to project a mature, professional look.

Well, I'm definitely mature now and retired and I have given up the dying and finally gave up the stylists. The expense and trouble seems silly when my face no longer looks youthful. I've grown my hair out and it's about five or six inches (I think! I can't really tell exactly)and I wear it up most of the time. Just a twist or two and a couple of large bobby pins -- I'm mostly an ash-y blonde in front with streaks of grey and brown in the back. I kinda like the blond-ish hair in the front -- and I can't see the back so I don't care about it. I still wear bangs and cover my ears, but I'm comfortable with myself this way, except that sometimes I roll over at night and get caught in my hair since I don't pin it up at night... Freedom to be myself and not to worry about what others think. Along that line, I don't wear a bra either, but then I seldom go out in public nowadays...

Part of me says that it doesn't matter how a woman wears her hair; part of me says that getting older shouldn't mean not caring how you look to others. Personal pride in appearing neat and clean is important to me - that means hair above the shoulders, cut to shape my face, kept clean and neat. I am not a fan of long gray hair - to me it often appears unclean or uncared for.

I wore my hair super-short for years--easier to take care of when I was working F/T 60+ hours/week. Now that I'm semi-retired, I've let it grow to almost collar-bone length, and there it will probably stay. I've always had fine hair and now it's very fine, so if gets much longer, it would just look straggly (I always envied women with lots of thick, wavy hair!).

I still have it colored a beigey blonde every couple of months, which blends with the gray and gives it a little more volume and body. I tried going all-gray a few years ago, but it just didn't work for me.

The bad? I inherited my dad's fine and thin blonde hair. The good? I also inherited his sense of humor.

What suits me is short and spiky. It takes 5 minutes to push my hair around in the morning with a tiny dab of water-soluble goo.

Sometimes at the hair salon, a customer will turn to me and say "I would love to have short hair like yours, but if I ever came home with that style, my husband would kill me."

Well who owns your head?

I love long hair on seniors. My mom has long hair twisted in a bun like Catherine Hepburn. At 90 mom is stylish and pretty.

I stopped streaking my hair when I retired, as the chemicals can't be good for thin, fine hair. No bald spots yet, but what if?

Maybe a Tina Turner wig?

Long and short of it is I have feathers for hair.

Maybe in a former life, I was a swan.

Hand up here. I too have long hair, used to be thick and lush but now getting thinner every week. I did switch to cleaning it with baking soda and apple cider vinegar and the health bounces off it. Shampoos are fairly lethal in their composition. Simple rule: if I won't ingest it I won't clean myself with it.
I wear it up mainly in a simple bun (I have some lovely hair gear bought in East Indian shops in Toronto) and I do believe I could be the only elder in Newfoundland with long hair. Everyone gets the same cut here once they turn 50.

Just caught this report. Elder, feminist, long hair died on her motorcycle.


I remember her from MS magazine - the early years.


I could have worn my hair long and wild when I was 51. I was also a size 6-8 when I was 51. Now that I'm almost 75 my hair, which was always fine, has thinned and it would look like a moth-eaten fur coat if I let it grow. I'm still waiting for it to turn gray. And for those who criticize those of us who wear our hair short,I'd just like to say that there's probably a good reason for it.

Every woman maintains she knows how she looks best. Yet, I sometimes see (and I am not alone in this observation), some unflattering and dated haircuts, lumpy or severe styles, the wrong cut for hair texture or body shape.

Sometimes a stylist can work wonders while still letting a woman be herself, and so I suggest, be open to advice and a new pair of eyes, regardless of age.

I am tempted at 65 with mostly white, quite thick, hair to let it grow out. Nothing I could do would be more likely to shock my friends, I think. But every time I contemplate the notion, I remember that I'm completely lazy when it comes to taking care of hair -- and I again say "no."

My hair is extremely thick and straight as a straw. It will not curl. Drying it takes hours. It has not thinned or gotten any finer with age.

Since 1996 I have sheared my increasing white locks off with the clippers, 1/2" long.

I've been thinking of getting some styling gel, letting it grow an inch long and spiking it. Get it a little wild in my old age. LOL

well I see HAIR is still our obsession...on the Doctors this morning, someone said if we fret about thinning hair, we should consider using men's hair products..who knew...loved the hair talk...

Unfortunately, I think hair that has style and color, no matter the length, gives one a polished look. This look usually commands more respect and acknowledgement in public unless you are famous or have lots of money.

Enter a hotel lobby looking like Miss Marple and you will not be seen or attended to as you might have been as a younger stronger person.

A couple of years ago I thought long and hard about the direction I should take. There is that nice grandmother look and then there is that "I am to be reckoned with look".

So I think long is great --short is great --one just needs to decide how you want to be perceived.

I grew out my gray and first I had to chop it off short and I looked like an old lady. Close friends event told me so. Now I keep it shoulder length and get tons of compliments. A lady on the subway - a total strranger - said my hair was beautiful. Men have come up and complimented me. It's shiny and healthy and looks touchable again. Dyed hair gets ugly and stiff after about 2 weeks.

I've been graying since I was 15, runs in the family. I colored my hair for years but my 29th birthday was the last time. I'm now 63, and have silver hair. I wore my hair long when I was younger, but made a mistake by cutting it short a few years ago. I decided to let it grow back and keep it long. I've always had very fine textured hair, but not especially thin, so it drys quickly and flows down my back. I've never regretted not coloring my hair, although I've had it suggested to me by others a few times. My husband doesn't mind the gray, and that's all that matters to me.

I noticed there hasn't been a post for a while here. Is this thread still alive?

I started graying about 15 yrs ago. I'm 61 now. I made a decision about 10 years ago to let my hair grow to its maximum length, whatever that may be. It got a little below my waist about two years ago, and I ended up cutting it off because I decided to have a prophylactic double mastectomy due to a family incidence of breast cancer. I had been told that post surgery, I might not be able to lift my hands over my head, so I got it cut basicaly into a pixie cut. I had the surgery in December 2013. and immediately started growing it again. It's now past my waist again and still pretty thick and wavy. It also has a lot of gray in it. My hair color is the color that is most often altered - dishwater/dirty blonde. So the white hairs just make it look lighter - more like blonde than gray. I have determined that I want to be the little old lady with long silky silver white hair that flows to her knees. :) Hope it can grow that long!

Short hair on an older gal..matronly clothes often follow..from the back looks like 2 old dudes holding hands.
That will never be me..

For 20years I worn my hair short and dyed red.One year and half I decided to let it go gray,kept cutting till I got all the color out of it,then I stopped cutting it every month and let it grow.I love my now long hair! Everyone tells me it makes me look older so what I am.I put it up in the summertime and leave it down in the winter so I wouldn't get ear aches.That is one good thing about growing long hair...ha

I wore my hair short and dyed red for twenty years and then one day I decided I was going to let it go gray.It took three haircuts but I made it ,then I decided I was going to let it grow out .It has been way over a year since then and my hair is curly and pasted my shoulders and I love it ! It is what God gave me so I'm happy with it.I have heard every commit made about it ,it doesn't matter because it belongs to me

Hi everyone, I love this site. I am 63, have never coloured my hair and am now growing it long. It is 70% grey now and past my shoulders. I have recently received compliments from total straners.

Long hair is less fuss, less expense and feels more like me. I think I will keep my longer hair.....short hair is too much trouble for me. To each their own, I say


Another Kaye here -

I had hip-length hair that I kept colored dark brown. Got tired of having to dye the roots every 3 weeks, so I let them grow out....then cut my hair to a pixie. Wasn't that a shock!

I stopped coloring and cutting nearly 4 years ago. My hair is now waist-length, with beautiful white and platinum streaks in front, and quite a bit of the original dark reddish brown still in back.

I absolutely love it - as long as it looks nice, and I can take care of it myself, I'll let it grow as long as it will go (probably about knee length, I'm thinking).

And since I moved from the SW to the Pacific NW (USA), my hair has developed a noticeable wave! Bonus!

Hair has had major significance in many cultures throughout history. For many it confers power. Maybe that is why we tend to be so aware of it. I lost a sister around age 46. My hair which had started graying in my 20's, was dyed dark brown and it was getting increasingly hard to keep the "skunk stripe" covered. After she died I was so impacted and suddenly catapulted into realizing what really mattered to me - and it wasn't trying to keep my young self alive. I let it grow out and even that process didn't bother me. (It was shoulder length). Suddenly other people's opinions of my appearance ceased to have importance. I have had so many compliments over the years (I am 64 now). Men and women both coming up and complimenting and even often asking if I dye it! It is a lovely luminous white, thick still. It tends to stay at shoulder length but might go longer at some point, who knows. These posts have been very fun to read!

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