Women Aging Gracefully
I spent my early twenties preoccupied with the shape and size of my body. During my thirties, I was busy with raising children and finding balance between family and career. And despite the inevitable changes that come with 3 pregnancies and aging, by my early forties I had reached a happy acceptance of my body.
But already that “happy acceptance” is changing. The woman staring back at me from the mirror and photos is not someone I recognize. My mind and spirit are still young, but my body is aging. How strange to feel so disconnected from the physical changes and the body I inhabit!
Will it always be this way, my mind feeling one way, while my body takes on a new shape? And now I wonder, what does aging gracefully mean?
Grace is often defined as: Smoothness and elegance of movement. Dignity. Refinement and style.
So then, if we are to age gracefully, are we to slide into old age with dignity, refinement and style? Perhaps.
But what about those of us who still carry a youthful mind and free spirit, and the words “dignity, refinement, and style” feel stuffy and confining? Hiking muddy trails, acting silly, and getting sweaty in the garden don’t seem particularly “dignified”, but certainly are part of my image of aging gracefully.
The older women I find most inspiring are those who continue to act with joyful vigor and aren’t afraid to define for themselves what aging gracefully means.
If you Google “women aging gracefully”, almost all of what you find is related to physical appearance and fashion. The youthful looking older woman is held up as our role model, as well as the fashionable older woman.
Is our appearance all that defines us as women? Where are the role models for aging women that emphasize the deeper values of personal integrity, strength of character, authenticity, self-awareness, and simple confidence?
Loving Our Body
Can we learn to love our older bodies despite the effects of aging?
I am striving to embrace my body and honor it for how it has served me. I remind myself of how this body has given me three beautiful children, and carried me well through my 48 years on this earth. It has handled the abuse I have given it and yet continues on.
I want to care for my body – with good food, vigorous exercise, and fresh air. But there is a fine line between caring for our bodies and the battle we so often wage against ourselves.
Does my expanding waist line and wider hips mean I am not trying hard enough, or is it an inevitable result of aging and shifting hormones? Shall I exercise harder, be stricter with my nutrition, and watch my weight?
Should I accept things as they are and learn to “age gracefully“? Or does accepting these changes mean I am simply letting myself go?
Do I cling to the previous version of me, or do I embrace my new self with all the outer and inner changes that come with getting older?
Living with Authenticity
For women, we may struggle between taking care of ourselves – and becoming overly preoccupied and dissatisfied with the changes that come with getting older. Sagging boobs, weight gains and a changing body shape, hair loss (and hair in new places!), wrinkles, loose skin, age spots – there is a billion-dollar market ready to help us fix what’s wrong with us.
Ultimately, I believe to look good, we need to feel good. Feeling good requires us to take care of ourselves. No magic lotions or creams can fix poor habits of nutrition and physical activity. For us to enjoy our aging bodies, we must make self-care a priority.
We have a difficult relationship with ourselves – there is the conflict between want we should be doing, and what we are doing. Too often we become unhappy with the shape of our bodies, we lack motivation, and we fear becoming fat, dull, old women.
Can we accept our changing bodies with unconditional love, despite the negative messages our culture sends? I believe we can.
I believe that no matter what, we can carry ourselves with confidence, and dare I say, grace. We can embrace the changes that come with aging, and make them our own. We can love our bodies, care for ourselves, support each other, enjoy our strengths, and be proud of who we are becoming.
And most importantly – we can choose to live with authenticity.
I believe we must each define for ourselves what Aging Gracefully means, and there is no one-size-fits-all definition.
My approach to aging gracefully includes:
- Finding a healthy balance between striving to be my best and accepting the reality of living in an older body
- Choosing not to focus on my limitations, but instead to appreciate my strengths
- Instead of striving for weight loss, I am staying fit
- Instead of dieting, I am focusing on nourishing foods
- I will not forget the value of good sleep
- I am finding healthy ways to manage my stress
- I am embracing my age, not hiding it
- I am living with authenticity – with courage and joy in the woman I am today
There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. ~ Sophia Loren
My question for you is this – How Do YOU Define Aging Gracefully? How will you take care of your changing body? Will you offer yourself compassion and acceptance?
With much affection,
You might also enjoy this article by Suzanne Braun Levine – Learning to Appreciate the Body You Have