“I want to age gracefully” is a phrase I have seen or heard countless times, I even chose it as my web address but what does Ageing Gracefully really mean? Does it involve using cosmetic or surgical intervention or does it mean that someone is vehemently against intervention when they say this? Let’s dissect this further.
From the dictionary we can break down the two words:
Ageing (noun) is the process of growing old.
Gracefully (adverb) to do something in an attractively elegant way, or in a respectful and dignified way.
So essentially Ageing Gracefully is the process of growing old in an attractively elegant or dignified way.
Nowhere does it specify if this requires or warrants help in any form.
The question we need to ask then is; do we have control over how we age?
Yes to a degree. There are 2 types of factors that affect ageing.
Primary ageing is gradual and at present inevitable. It is the process of bodily deterioration that takes place throughout life (ask me about the conveyor belt theory). It’s the slowed movements, changes in vision and hearing, decreased resistance to infection, greying of hair and changes in skin and fatty tissue.
Secondary ageing is the process that results from disease and poor health practices (smoking, drinking, stress, not exercising etc) and is often preventable.
So yes we can control ageing to a degree when we avoid all the bad stuff and try our best to care for our skin and bodies by doing all the good stuff like in this article by HealthLine. But even then we don’t really have control of it, we can only hope that our actions or inactions will help us to naturally age gracefully. And largely we have to accept that we are ageing and that slowing and wrinkles are inevitable.
Secondary ageing is when someone says ‘you can see they’ve had a rough life’ or ‘they look weathered’. It is the ageing that is beyond what we expect for that person's age. And this is what we are trying to avoid!
Ageing gracefully isn’t about trying to look like a 20-year-old, it’s about living your best life and having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. I remember at 20 thinking that 40 was old - when everyone has a ‘midlife crisis’. Now that I’m approaching 40, I am thinking about how I would like to look when I’m over 60. I would love to age as gracefully as Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep because let's face it 50-60 is the new middle age. The kids have headed out of the house and you still have your life ahead of you.
Especially now that people are living well into their nineties.
Her Majesty The Queen was a prime example of ageing gracefully!
Somewhere along the way the term ageing gracefully and pro-age has become synonymous with being against intervention. I don’t think they should be. If you are ageing gracefully without help and you are happy with how it’s progressing, then count your blessings and enjoy the journey. If however, you are not happy about how you look or feel as you age then take action. It doesn’t have to mean surgery or injectables, take action on your skincare, nutrition and exercise. The extent of the actions you take will depend solely on you and no one should judge you for them. It’s the same with taking action on menopause symptoms, don’t suffer in silence!
So what does it mean to age gracefully? It means to grow old in a way that is acceptable to you. It’s not about preserving youth but accepting that we are ageing and doing what it takes to be the best version of ourselves.