Myths of Age Quiz
The Power of Music for Dementia

How Do You Feel About Your Appearance?

It doesn't take long for little kids to understand that physical appearance - whether you are beautiful or handsome or not in the eyes of others - matters a great deal in the world.

Those who win the beauty lottery have all kinds of advantages over the rest of us including, according to repeated surveys, higher income throughout their lives. Relatedly, one of the reasons old people are marginalized is that younger people think we are unsightly – you know, all those ugly wrinkles.

It doesn't seem to be true for men (I could be wrong about that), but pressure on girls and women to make themselves as attractive as possible is what keeps companies that sell cosmetics, hair care products and chemical enhancements wealthy, billions of dollars style wealthy.

That's because the entire industry is geared to make all women who are not Angelina Jolie believe they are unattractive and most of us buy into it.

In regard to my appearance, I have always been adept at selective vision – seeing only what I want to see about my hair, face, body. During the decade when I got fat, before my recent weight loss (40 pounds), I never actually looked at my body.

That was easy while I was still living in Maine; I had no full length mirror. But even in this home that came with several full length mirrors, it was as though there was a veil over my eyes that made me invisible in the reflection.

Nowadays, I'm quite happy to see myself clearly in the mirror. Even the remarkably high number of new wrinkles that come with weight loss in old age (in places where I've never had wrinkles before) doesn't bother me.

According to a new survey from Gallup of more than 85,000 adults age 18 and older, I am far from alone in being comfortable with my appearance in old age.

”Though many may pine for the physical appearance they had in their younger years, America's seniors are the most confident in their looks. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans aged 65 and older 'agreed' or 'strongly agreed' that they always feel good about their physical appearance...”

Elders even beat 18- to 34-year-olds in the survey. Sixty-one percent of them like their appearance. The middle-aged are least likely (54 percent) feel good about their appearance.

As you might suspect, throughout life men are more confident about their looks than women and they hit their peak – when the largest number are comfortable with their appearance (74 percent) - at age 80-84.

That age for women (69 percent) is 85 and older.

Now we could attribute that result to poor eyesight but it's much more fun to believe that at last, toward the very end of our lives, we finally achieve a measure of wisdom as to what is really important and what is not.

You can read the entire survey results at the Gallup website.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: The Chance of a Lifetime


I was always attracted to older women, so perhaps it is not surprising that I don't mind looking like one. :-)

Retailers exploit that need to look good... sometimes in sneaky ways.

A few days ago I visited Macy's. Glancing at one of their full length mirrors, I thought... "looking pretty good today". Then I realized that this was no ordinary mirror... it was a "skinny" mirror from a carnival. A mirror curved so that it subtracts five or ten pounds and adds a few inches of height! From the neck down, it was "looking good"... and that is what most shoppers (apparently) focus on. Faces look downright weird and that was the tip off.

I'm sure some junior executive got an atta-boy for that idea. Make shoppers happy with their appearance and they will buy more!

It became easier to accept the appearance of myself and others after attending my 40th high school reunion, where the transient nature of "good looks" became obvious.

I'm here to look back at myself in the mirror - that make me beautiful everyday!

I definitely think that it the wisdom of old age and the lack of energy/money to do anything about the part we may care about.

I make sure I am clean and respectable; hair combed, clothes in good repair. I try to choose clothing to camouflage unattractive features; sleeves that cover my elbows and no low cut necklines. I dress for comfort (no tight clothes) and safety (flat shoes with no-slip soles). If I can wear a pretty color, I do it.

Beyond that, I don't really give a damn what people think I look like. If that's called "being comfortable with my appearance," so be it.

Ronnie, you said that older men don't care about their appearance. Well, they should. You have no idea how many of my fellow male residents here at the Center haven't bought anything new since the 80's. or even worse, wear clown clothes made for kids. And since when have sweat pants become an acceptable way to dress at dinner. A message to my fellow older men: If you don't want to be stereotyped as an "old geezer", stop dressing like one.

I adored my grandmother and never thought of her age as a negative concerning her appearance. She was well-groomed, dressed with a flair and was very funny and fun to be around. I was fortunate to know both of my grandparents' brothers and sisters. They all looked wonderful to me because I loved them so very much. I accept my physical aging. Sometimes I feel a bit sad because I didn't realize how great I looked when I was younger. I like how I look at 63.

Recently I came upon two photos of myself that were taken 17 years apart. I was in an identical pose in both photos, which made it easy to compare them.

I was bothered by the later photo, not because I looked older--which of course I did--but because my eyes seemed to have lost their spark. I looked as if I was tired of living.

I think that weary look came about because of tensions I was undergoing at work at the time; I felt beaten down and miserable. I vowed then and there that I would find that spark again as I grew old.

Now that I'm retired, I'm finding joy that I missed for many years, and I can see the old spark returning. Looks aren't just about smooth skin and shiny hair; beauty has to do, in part, with how you inhabit your face. Is that gleam of vitality visible? That's what I look for in the morror.

I am in the clean, neat, and respectable group. I haven't worn make-up or colored my hair in at least 15 years. I wear mostly LLBean clothing and am pretty much pleased with myself. Not going to waste any angst over what others think of my appearance.

When I'm at the hairdresser's looking in the mirror without my glasses on I look great. My fuzzy vision takes all the wrinkles away. I'm almost 59, but I despair that it's all downhill from here. Any ideas of getting better-looking are out the window... That's life.

I am going to disagree here. I look good for my age but not that good.

Maybe our brains change and we accept different criteria for the definition of "feeling good about our appearance"

Also we have been programmed to respond happily "you are only as young as you feel" and so don't pay attention to reality?

I will admit---I FEEL younger and better than I look.

I'm wouldn't say I'm "happy" with my appearance; it's more like "resigned." I'd like to be one of those slender, silver-haired, athletic looking seniors that are so common here in Colorado, but I'm not. I'm the plump, huggable, salt-and-pepper (not blue) haired grandmotherly type. So be it. I don't have any full length mirrors. Don't know if that's part of the problem or part of the solution. When I see a full-length reflection in a shop window, I almost don't recognize myself. There's always a moment of "who is that person?" Somewhere inside I'm still the tall, well-proportioned woman I was 20 years ago.

"Clown clothes made for kids" cracked me up.

What a visual!

I enjoy physical labour. gardening, cycling, renovating, window washing.

Zumba, yoga, walking, kayaking.

In short, I like to move it.

My husband says I could punch my way out of a Montreal street riot no problem.

When I am upset about something, I clean, dance, ride my bike, rather than mope.

So no worries about staying fit.

Looks wise, I like what I see in the mirror. It am healthy, fit, no meds.

Regular hair cuts, light makeup, no jogging pants or tights for jeans.

Nothing worse than tights for jeans.

Bright colours yes.

No apologies.

No walking around with a bag on my head.

I hear this: "oh you don't look like 71."

"This is what cool 71 looks like."

"Got a problem with that?"

(Pull out my taser)

"What's that for?"

"No need to get exited, I'm just polishing it."

That should be I instead of it am healthy.

Moving too fast on the virtual keyboard.

I was never happy with the way I looked. I never had a good figure and my sway back created a big bum and a tummy. I was never overweight, but the pounds shifted to my waist and it used to be small. So I learned to dress to try to minimize my faults but it doesn't seem to matter to me as much now.

I dress for comfort, but try to not sacrifice looks in doing so. I am vain enough that I still want to look good and try to achieve that as best I can with the compromises I make in stylish vs. comfort.

I miss being good-looking, but thanks to the genetic luck-of-the draw, have held up pretty well. I was never a classical beauty, but my vaguely ethnic look and great hair served me well. My grandmother, a very stylish gal who exercised back in the 50's and early 60's (in the privacy of her home) gave me helpful advice for maintaining one's appearance as long as possible. I was unprepared for eventually becoming invisible, however, and have wondered - is it biological rather than aesthetic?
I gave up coloring my hair when I was around 50, which was quite unconventional at that time - many other teachers expressed their admiration, but said they just couldn't do it themselves.

I concentrate on staying physically fit and then loving the athletic body that results. I dress with my own style of fashion, don't worry about hair coloring, use just a touch of make up and feel good about myself. I'm not concerned what others think of me as long as I'm satisfied. It's great to have this freedom as an elder.

I never was a "Great Beauty"--growing older and losing one's looks must be extraordinarily difficult for women who were. I think I identify with PiedType in being "resigned". After all is said and done, high-level maintenance takes a lot of time and tons of money. I didn't do it when I was younger and I'm not about to start now.

I do the best I can with what I have. My style is simple, uncluttered and classic. I have a slight build so wear both jeans and tights (not at the same time, of course) but make certain that I'm also wearing an appropriate tunic-type top. I haven't worn shorts, sleeveless tops or a swimsuit in public for years.

I also agree that remaining involved in the world to whatever degree possible contributes to a vital appearance--not necessarily more "youthful" but more alive. IMO, there's a difference!

I might as well put in my two cents worth.
Younger yeara always considered attractive. Now
still good weight, exercise, yoga,
garden,casual clothes, and jeans still look good since they are a small size.
I do believe I have aged more in the last 5 years because of health issues and use a cane a lot. It is time. Still going strong and do not like that I can no longer do as much as in the past, but still do a lot. Notice so many sharing are what I would call young
and this one is 79...

I REALLY wish there were a way to "like" comments on your blog, Ronnie! I love so many of today's comments!

As for me, let's put it this way: I don't mind the way I look with all my clothes and daily light make-up on. But staggering out of bed before my shower, yikes, who IS that?

Ronnie, when I shared today's blog entry with my high school alum group - our 50th HS Reunion is next week- a very odd picture of a blonde woman (?) popped up as the icon and there were no better choices to select from. Anything you can do about that? Maybe include some sort of photo/chart with each blog entry so it doesn't get crazy?

I actually like the way I look at 70. I hear from others that I was cute/adorable/pretty when I was in my teens and 20s, but my personality didn't match it, and I didn't know what I looked like until I was much older. I now look in the mirror and like what I see. I stopped coloring my hair about 10 years ago, and it's now almost white, but still with a blondish glow, and is once again curly - - both color and texture are now the same as they were when I was a toddler. My skin has held up very well, and I'll never dislike my plumpish body because it has given me so much pleasure for so many years.

I'm okay with myself at 72. No hair color, no makeup, slacks & tees, and birks ever since I retired. Do paint my toenails. The 30 pounds I lost left me with wrinkles even in my armpits, LOL. But it was worth it, I feel so much better. Health first.

As I grew older, I had a really good self image and did my best to enhance it with clothes that hid the flaws, but were always comfortable. So I congratulated myself that over the years---ten, twenty---post retirement, I just kept looking great. Then, a few months ago, I finally had that over-cooked cataract removed and lo and behold, there she was: that elderly person I thought I would somehow avoid forever. Horrors!

The good news is that I somehow managed to train my vision to once again see the photo-shopped version of myself. Since there's not a damned thing I can do about it anyway, I'm feeling fine about my appearance again.

I am 65 years old and a middle child which comes in handy in the invisible department. I learned to be content with being invisible as a child between older high achieving brother, and cute, dimpled baby sister. I grew up and turned into a very attractive woman. (Or so people said....I never quite believed it) Now, as my looks fade and my age grows, I can feel the return to invisible. Must say, being noticed isn't all its cracked up to be. When one is invisible, one is able to move freely around without much input. I like it! I like it alot!

It seems appropriate on this post to raise our glasses to Elaine Stritch performing "I'm Still Here" at 88. R.I.P.


Yes, Meg, a toast to Elaine Stritch, not for her slim figure and good make up but for her elan and sense of humor.

I had a horrid adolescent growing spell and hated my looks, then I grew up and looked good. Now I'm mid-70s and have a belly I don't like but I'm unwilling to do the necessary dieting to lose ten or fifteen pounds so I wear clothes to deemphasize my middle. There are flabby arms, crinkly neck, liver spots,and white hair, those I don't mind...much. Yes, I put a thin layer of foundation on to even out the tone of my face, add eye shadow and lipstick and feel okay about my appearance. Always loved clothes so I have my own style and that helps a lot. And that sparkle in the eye someone wrote about -- that is essential! (Elaine Stritch always had it.) I enjoy life and wish that for all older people, that's the source of the sparkle.

I just had a cashier at the grocery store tell me I was "the picture of health."

That will do for me!

The trouble with being told I look good for my age is the obligation I feel to keep trying, I really don't know how I am suppose to look at 86.
I am the most proud of being able to care for my horses and still ride, probably what keeps me going!

This has been the week of no makeup because I had no time for myself.

We took care of our two tiny grandchildren all week, leaving the house by 9 each morning and not returning until after 3.

The heat has been oppressive so I knew my face would only melt as I sat outdoors at my granddaughter's swim lessons.

However, I was always startled in the late afternoon when I would catch sight of my unmade face. I looked at least 10 years older. Next week I'm going back to my makeup. I really prefer to look younger and less haggard.

The dialect quiz was fun! I was raised in Los Angeles by a New Englander dialect mom and Los Angeles 3rd generation father-two very different dialects that merged mostly into the laid back L.A. dialect. The map placed me in Fresno..a hundred miles north of where I was born.
I've spent over half of my life in the more laid back Northwest.
My Facebook friends enjoy this kind of quiz and I'm going to pass it on to them!

15 years ago I lost a great deal of weight-half my weight (150#) left me with a mid 50 year old body that sagged. No amount of exercise will reduce this sagging flesh-I sure tried, believe me! I had an 'apron' of belly flesh that caused me to get infections where skin rubbed. My doctor suggested I check out plastic surgery for that part of my body at least..frankly I lost weight for health reasons and to look better too..and I didn't really look better.
I checked out local cosmetic surgeons and couldn't afford their prices. I looked into doctors abroad and chose Costa Rica for my surgery. Took me a couple of years (I was still working then) to save the money but finally I went on a vacation to Costa Rica and after the 2 week vacation I went for surgery. I had a tummy tuck, had my breasts, which looked like golf balls in a tube sock, raised and a silicone implant placed and had a minimal face tuck, took the chin wattles away etc. I'd had an eye lift already. I was very happy with the results of my surgery, and remain happy to this day. Though I no longer loo as young as I did the first few years post surgery I still have a younger face. Getting the surgery was encouragement for me to continue eating healthy-I didn't want to gain that weight, and saggy flesh, back.
As a result, at 71 I'm healthy, look good and I dress comfortably but stylishly.
I volunteer a lot and it's important to put on a good front when you're greeting people at an auditorium or hospital.
I don't have any plans for further surgery and can understand why people are tempted to have continuous surgeries to make every wrinkle go away. I don't much care any more about wrinkles..but I do enjoy looking good.
I'm a widow-have been one for 10 years, and I do date occasionally. My appearance is important to me, but not overly.

Within my family, looks have never been all that important - not something on which anyone commented, good or bad. However, if one were not scrubbed clean before sitting down to a meal, that was a really big deal.

I would suggest that our very invisibility in the beauty marketing sweepstakes allows us to feel beautiful precisely because we don't see so many airbrushed versions of who we are supposed to be.

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