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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Hey! I Worked Hard For This Look: No Shame In Growing Old

By L.B. Woodgate who blogs at Woodgate's View

I find it somewhat sad and disconcerting that after acquiring abundant wisdom and a sense of well-being as we age, how some want to conceal or ignore the physical markings on their bodies it has taken all those years to acquire.

Sure, I’d love to always have well-toned muscle tissue, smooth skin and thick hair, but humans are not figures in a wax museum. We needn’t be ashamed of the more rough and wrinkled countenance that comes with aging. The wear and tear that frequently starts showing up extensively as we hit our 60s and beyond are signs that we have weathered what life has thrown at us.

It’s odd how our society values the experience that comes with time but not necessarily the package it comes in. It isn’t easy for most of us to accept the slow deterioration of our once strong and youthful bodies and even in death, some of us, it seems, are still unwilling to be eulogized as an elder person.

Take, for example, the photos of those I found here on the obituary pages of my local newspapers. This seems to be the norm nowadays. We are seeing fewer pictures of the deceased as they were just a few short years before their death at 60, 70, 80 and older, replaced instead by those taken at a time in their life when they were just married, out of college or beginning their first jobs decades ago.

Do the children of the deceased do this, wanting to view their parents forever young and submitting these photos for everyone else to share in? Or is this a final request by the people themselves before passing on, wanting to be remembered in their youth as if to say the rest of their life has no value?

This isn’t an angry old man’s diatribe against today’s youth. If I could gain it all back through some concoction or time machine, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. But we haven’t been dealt such a hand, nor are we likely too.

The journey towards our “senior years” has left us with the effects our efforts have had on our bodies. Our wrinkled skin, bulging midline, slightly stooped demeanor and thinning gray hair are emblematic of our ability to survive life.

We have also survived our own foolish choices that often had physical consequences detrimental to long term health or squandering our time and resources with little consideration for the future. Somehow we always thought we had time to overcome these misguided actions.

There’s no denying that I would like to remain forever young but that is an age-old fantasy that we all share and one that snake oil salesmen keep exploiting to relieve of us of our hard-earned income.

I’m not ashamed of how time has changed my physical appearance. Looking “hot” and stylish no longer consumes my time and money and I am better for it. I worry less and my self-esteem as at an all-time high.

Longevity is not something to fear. It is an award I have earned for successfully reaching an age that often eludes many other people. On other days, those same obituary pages will also have death notices for people who died long before their time.

I may not be able to read the street sign less than 50 feet away without prescription lenses anymore but I can see the future much clearer than someone who has few life experiences and no sense of history. The package may have withered over time but the contents are still viable and can benefit those who have yet to live life as fully as I have.

The superficiality of a youthful appearance has its time and place in our lives and on occasion I find myself reflecting back on those times. But when I die I want people to see me for what I have become and that entails a veneer that exemplifies the journey of a long, experiential life that cannot be completely duplicated by any other human being.

The LookBeck

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


A wise commentary--and just look at the alternative. I've earned every one of my wrinkles.Thank you for offering some common sense--now where did I put that rejuvenating face cream?

You're still a cutie, Larry! I still get shocked when I see a fleeting image of myself in a mirror and recognize my mother!

What a great statement of acceptance, peace and enjoyment of this final stage of our lives. The other day a 35 year old gave me some advice on "how to stay young." I am afraid my response, "I don't want to be 'young,' I'm enjoying being old. If you mean it will make me more healthy, I accept that. But I have no need to be young again, unless it comes in my next lifetime."
I'm not sure she understood what I meant.
Thanks for your insight.
Michigan Grandma

At 89, to see my mother in my mirror brings a smile of gratitude.

Yes Kathleen, not only do I see facial similarities between my dad and I but mannerisms and certain speech quirks he had as well.

With all due respect, Larry, you're a man. As an older woman in our society I haven't quite attained the "peace, acceptance and enjoyment" that you and some others have. Older women are all but invisible in our society, and one way I protest this invisibility is by staying involved in the world and trying to look the best I can for my age (I'm not one of those older women who tries to hang on to her 30s or even 40s and 50s--at 75 I wouldn't fool anyone anyway). Whether my efforts help or not, I feel more confident for making the attempt.

I certainly can't speak from experience Elizabeth and I'm sure being a woman makes it more difficult, but not impossible. I suspect it was even more difficult just a few generations ago.

I liked the remark Joan Rivers made the other day when asked about her plastic surgery and how great her face looks now.

She said she uses so many different skin creams and lotions that the Avon Lady has the key to her house.

Nice observations, Larry. I enjoyed reading your essay....

I hadn't noticed a predisposition to photos in obituaries thank goodness. There may be an occasional one or two from certain cultural backgrounds only.I accept aging in preference to the alternative. Death holds no fears for me only I wish I knew where I was going to die then I wouldn't go there!!

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