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How To Grow Old

It's high time we put down our readers and put on our perspectacles, Plums. 

Because there are so few TV shows and movies focusing on actual aging women rather than Housewives Franchises, we've got some goofy ideas about what “aging” even looks like. I was shocked to look up the ages of the Golden Girls characters when the show started:

Blanche was supposed to be 53 (Rue McClanahan was 51), 

Dorothy and Rose were 55, and Sophia - the constant butt of nursing home jokes - was 79. (And the actress playing her? Estelle Getty was 62.)

In addition to being just plain confused, we’ve been conditioned to think that aging equals bad. Billions are spent globally each year on cosmetic products and surgeries, all in a quest to turn back the clock. I had a *procedure* on the calendar for several months before a conversation with my niece zapped me back into the present. “I like your face,” she said.

I am a vibrant 53-year-old woman, and this is the face I’ve earned.

Negative portrayals of aging are everywhere, dominating our screens and digital spaces. For every positive image of an older person, there are six negative ones in media, according to a 2021 study.(1) These ageist views have fueled our collective anxieties about growing older, but these fears are not certainties. They're possibilities, and it's up to us to reframe them.

With the available research on neuroplasticity and nutrition, many of us will enjoy pain-free, active years well into our seventies and beyond. Modern medicine and improved treatments for illnesses have made this possible. Managing pain has also seen great strides. Joint replacements, physical therapy, and a focus on fitness mean we're staying active longer. Older people tend to be less angry, less worried, and less stressed than younger adults. Our brains continue to create new brain cells, and they have a remarkable ability to heal themselves. 

It’s a great time to be aging, so let's embrace this new reality, my friends. These are the years for growth and development. Check out the “reframing aging” links in our Mind and Body section, and remember the words of Betty Friedan: 

“Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”

  1. Laura Carstensen at Stanford University’s Center for Longevity seminal research on happiness found an increase in happiness as it correlates to age. Specifically, she found that people in their seventies are happier than people in their sixties, and people in their eighties are happier than people in their seventies.