Old Age Ain't No Place for Sissies*. And the Quest for a More Youthful Appearance


Specializes in Author, Psych, Palliative, Wound Care.

During a phone conversation with a friend who’s also in his 60s, I mentioned how I now used a magnifying mirror when applying my makeup. His response was, “My God, why would you care at our age?”


Well, I care. Because I’m not dead yet!  And because I’m still very much alive, taking care of myself, which includes wearing makeup, though not as heavily as in my youth (I’ve found as I age, “less is more”) gives me a better body self-image. When I feel I’m the best version of myself I’m more positive about life and it lifts my spirits, even if I’m home alone all day. Being in your 60s and beyond is never an excuse for devaluing yourself!


I’m not advocating any medical cosmetic procedures (I’ve had none) but if this is what it takes to feel better about yourself and the face you present to the world, then go for it if you’re physically sound enough to withstand the procedure.


The fact is, we’re all aging, even the young-ish people we see on the internet. The aging process typically begins in the 40s and 50s, but can covertly begin as early as the mid-30s and continue more brazenly after that. Even if your muscles are toned, repetitive expressions will etch lines in your skin. (Remember how your mom said if you keep making that face it’d get stuck that way? Well, she had something there!)


Psychological Benefits of Caring for Your Aging Self


In my nursing career, which has encompassed hospice, geriatric, home care, oncology, psychiatric, and wound care, I’ve had the opportunity to observe the changes that take place among the mentally depressed, the older, sicker patients I’ve had. It was astonishing how even a dying woman would perk up when given a “make-over”, usually by her daughter or friend (or a 2-bit shave and a haircut for men). Psychiatric patients responded by becoming less depressed, more optimistic, and social. Many rated themselves more highly on many psychological assessments.


It is worth noting that many nursing homes, hospices (yes, hospices!), psychiatric facilities, and oncology programs have small salons stationed within their units for women who wish to have their hair styled and/or makeup applied (usually by volunteers who come in once a week).


One study found that those who look older than their chronological age died earlier and were less physically healthy. (Kligman AM, Graham JA. The psychology of appearance in the elderly. Clin Geriatr Med. 1989 Feb;5(1):213-22. PMID: 2645998.) It was concluded that “cosmetics can help the elderly attain some of the benefits enjoyed by the physically attractive.”


An investigative article by the BBC stated, “Most people felt about eight years younger than their actual chronological age. But some felt they had aged – and the consequences were serious. Feeling between 8 and 13 years older than your actual age resulted in an 18-25% greater risk of death over the study periods, and greater disease burden – even when you control for other demographic factors such as education, race or marital status.”


I’m not saying we need to try to try to give the illusion of turning back the clock such as Cher, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and John Travolta have and who all admit to repeated plastic surgeries. Their faces, after all, are their fortunes. And that, after all, is Hollywood. What I am suggesting is that we still care for our skin, our bodies and appearance to become the best version of our present selves that we possibly can.


Celebrate Our Bodies 


We need to celebrate our bodies and faces regardless of where we are in life. Was a time when I had this image in my head of my being forever 24. Then I’d pass by a mirror and think, “Who the hell is that old bag?" Then the self-examination, self-deprecation would begin.


Ruby Woo and Me


Until one day, the light bulb went off and I realized no matter how my face and body had aged, it was like my 25 year old Ford pickup truck (which no one seems to understand why I still drive it!). It’s older, true. Dents and dings, more than 150,000  miles, faded paint, shocks going out, manual transmission, dome light doesn’t work. But that little truck is mechanically sound, turns over in sub-zero-temperatures when other, newer, bells and whistles cars have dead batteries. A few years ago, a brand new Lincoln turned into me at an intersection. The Lincoln had to be towed away on a flatbed truck while I drove off in my little truck, head lights still working and with the mechanical parts still intact. I call her Ruby Woo (after the Mac lipstick) and she’s reliable, takes me where I want to go and is very low maintenance, her appearance be damned.


I’m like Ruby Woo. After all I’ve put my body through, it’s always come through for me after 60+ years! All the traumas, physical and mental, passage of time, physical punishments (like being on my feet for 12-18 hours a day, lifting heavy loads, going on 4 hours of sleep at times, broken bones), serious illnesses and accidents, I am still here. Maybe a little slower and some aches and pains, but still reliable and continue to function to a degree that surprises even me. I realized how remarkable and awesome my body is for all I’ve put it through!


My Epiphany 


So instead of denigrating my body and its appearance to myself, I realized, with gratitude, the debt I owed it to treat it well, and yes, that includes using cosmetics just as I’d use touch-up paint and body work on Ruby Woo. You don’t stop caring for something because it’s old.  So instead of denigrating my body and its appearance to myself, I realized, with gratitude, the debt I owed it to treat it well, and yes, that includes using cosmetics just as I’d use touch-up paint and body work on Ruby Woo. You don’t stop caring for something because it’s old.


It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now**


I’d suggest you begin watching on Youtube other women close in age to you that are still having a love affair with life and have a positive take on living your best life after 60. My favorite is Polished After 60. I’m sure you can find others. Start putting on your lipstick. Comb your hair. Get it styled (in my case, I’ve learned how to cut my own; not as difficult as you might think with the plethora of Youtube tutorials). Experiment with some makeup (wasn’t that one of the most fun things to do as a girl?) Take your vitamins. Try to maintain the social relationships you already have and whenever possible, develop some new, even if the person is younger than yourself. 


Always remember 


You are awesome and your body, which includes your face, are a miracle. Treat it well!

From my blog: https://nursingouttakes.com/blog

*Bette Davis quote **Author Barbara Sher

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