I was watching Oprah last week when she interviewed 69-year old actress Raquel Welch. If you look at Raquel’s book cover on the left you’ll see she looks nothing like a 69-year old. She looks like she is in her 40s or maybe 50s at best. Healthy eating and living can help people look younger but there is no denying Raquel has undergone plastic surgery. Raquel argues that you have to take care of your body just like you maintain your car or house. But there’s a difference between faithfully using moisturizer and undergoing potentially dangerous surgery purely for cosmetic reasons.
What kind of message do women like Raquel send? On one hand, I’m happy she is showing people that life is far from over after 60 and you can continue to be active. But on the other hand, she is setting unrealistic expectations. Why should seniors have to have surgery to look younger than their age?
One commentor on the Oprah site mentioned that at 52 she was unable to get a job until after she had a face lift. Unfortunately, age discrimination is a sad reality. But until we let women age naturally we will continue to perpetuate the myth that older women are not valuable in the workplace and as members of society.
This issue of aging for women is addressed in a new book called Face It: Looking and Feeling Great Matters at Any Age. The authors are psychologists in their late 50s who used to be models. They wrestle themselves with the complex question women face as they age:
“Should women simply grow old naturally, since their looks don’t define them, or should they fight the signs of aging, since beauty and youth are their currency and power?”
Women struggle with knowing that intellectually their looks don’t matter but emotionally wanting to feel beautiful. However, women have been conditioned to only see the young as beautiful and can have a hard time accepting their own changing beauty.
Research shows that most seniors perceive themselves as only 75% of their biological age so many seniors see a discrepancy in the age they look and the age they feel. Hair coloring, anti-aging creams and laser treatments are all used to help women look as young as they feel. This again leads women to have unrealistic expectations of what normal aging looks like and is a costly and time-consuming process.
The Face It authors are not opposed to women taking preventative measures or even having surgery but advise women to make the choice themselves and not be pressured by society. This is easier said than done.
While this is a complex issue with no easy answers I’m encouraged by sites like Gran Paparazzi and Advanced Style where photographers post pictures of well-dressed seniors they see on the street. Here seniors look their age while still looking current and stylish. And not all senior celebrities are turning to plastic surgery. I hope that as we see more people aging naturally like Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren we’ll learn to recognize aging as a normal process not something that needs to be fixed.
What are your thoughts? How far should seniors go to look younger? Have you felt pressure to look younger than your biological age?
About the Author Kelly Neufeld is the Editor and Marketing Coordinator for Impowerage as well as a regular contributor. When not reading about inspiring seniors and the latest technological advances, you’ll find her writing, tweeting and connecting with people who share the Impowerage Mission. She enjoys working out and playing with her two toddlers.