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Sunday, November 28, 2021

A Certain Age

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A Certain Age

When I assembled my girlfriends, all over 40, to discuss aging and beauty over a glass (or two) of wine, they had plenty to say. While some welcomed the changes—“I don’t care what anyone thinks of me anymore”—others struggled. “I say I want to age gracefully, but the reality is that I still want to be hot,” said one, somewhere into our second bottle. Added another, “We’re not fooling anyone anymore.” >>

It’s true; ingenues we’re not. Nearing 50 can be our “second act,” redefining our relationships, careers, and health. We’re living better than ever, and we want to look as good as we feel.

And medicine has paid attention. Traditional plastic surgery is now eclipsed by more affordable and socially acceptable treatments: injectables, laser treatments, and lunchtime peels. “Getting work done” is nearly as common as a hair appointment for beauty-conscious consumers.

I’m not immune to these promises of eternal youth, though it’s ultimately as futile as holding back the tides. For real wisdom on beauty and aging, I spoke to women in their fifties and sixties with the energy and vitality of midlife.

Taking control and being engaged

Natalie Dakers, 59, had “a moment of reckoning” at age 50. “I had this idea that the best part of my life was over,” she says. She soon changed her attitude. “I realized, if I kept feeling this way, I’d be doomed by 60. I decided to take control, to make an effort, to get strong and healthy and engaged in the world.”

Good genetics have kept her looking younger than her age, and she admits, “If that goes away, it might get to me. I look in the mirror and think, holy cow, I’m getting older! I remind myself that it’s more important to feel younger, not look younger.” 

Moving into her sixties is another decade milestone—“You’re a ma’am now,” she quips—but one Dakers is approaching with equanimity. “Time is on my mind,” she says. “Every decision: about travel, about health … time is running out to cover all the bases.” Considering that she recently got her motorcycle licence, her time isn’t running out any time soon.

Staying active and vital

Terry Bayuk, 68, credits workouts at Restore Human in Vancouver with helping her maintain her active lifestyle. Her focus is on mobility and injury prevention for kayaking and other outdoor pursuits. “Being in nature, taking in the beauty of my surroundings, appreciating all the shades of green: that’s spirituality to me.”

Her loving, supportive family, including two adult daughters, is part of what keeps Terry ageless, along with her pragmatic attitude. “I have to do a bit more work to keep up, more than when I was 50,” she says about her physique, but prefers to let her face age naturally. “I have girlfriends who do Botox and the lifts, but it’s not for me. No judgement, but I think that vitality and energy come from the spirit you’re giving out. From happiness.” 

To women anxious about getting older, Bayuk advises, “Fall in love with who you are. I still have to remind myself of this. Don’t be so hard on yourself!”

Supplements for lifelong beauty 

Getting nutrients from food is always the best route to radiant skin and hair, but these supplements can offer support where needed. 

Vitamins C and E

Antioxidant vitamins such as C and E can support the skin, enabling it to maintain collagen and helping reduce sun damage.

Vitamin D

Because you’re protecting your skin from sun damage (right?), it’s essential to maintain your vitamin D levels.

Collagen

Collagen peptides promise to plump the skin from the inside out, supporting elasticity and preserving the “bounce” of healthy skin.

Omega 3s

Essential omega-3 fats, such as those in fish oils, can improve the health of skin as well as combatting dry, tired-looking eyes.

Making the most of midlife

Our interview subjects had many suggestions for aging well, and research backs them up. Activity and nutrition are the cornerstones of health, but what other factors can help us thrive?

Get social

Enjoy a group dinner, join a walking club, take a class, and meet new people.

Nurture relationships

Whether it’s date night, family fun day, or reminiscing with old friends, spend time with people you love. 

Go outside

Forest bathing, beach walks—even gardening—connect us to the earth and reduce our stress levels.

Cultivate hobbies

Music, dance, languages, and art enrich our lives, and learning new things maintains cognitive health. 

Let it go

Surround yourself with positive people. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. 

Take pride

Express yourself through fashion if you enjoy it. A manicure and a great haircut can help you feel your best. 

Assemble a team

Hire someone to help you with workouts or healthy eating. Get professional help for issues or injuries and recognize that recovery may take longer.

Being connected and grateful

Leslie Harris, 64, is a personal trainer and musician who’s always been “obsessed with longevity.”

Like many women, Harris was swayed by media images of beauty when she was younger. Now she cares less about societal expectations, and consequently, her idea of beauty has changed: “I don’t see age … beauty is in the attitude a lot; smiling is beautiful.” 

Beyond her consistency in exercise and nutrition, Harris makes time every morning to reflect on three things she’s grateful for. Her active social life and work in the music industry keep her connected. “Music is such a healing thing, both for myself and the audience,” she says. She’s worked with people of all ages and says that aging is more about lifestyle than the calendar. “Genetics is a big part of it, but (many people) allow themselves to get old. You have to go out, socialize, take care of yourself, and learn new things.”

These women have taught me it’s better to get ready for healthier aging now, rather than playing catch-up later. Looks aside, we can’t enjoy life if our health and spirits suffer. And while society might minimize the visibility and attractiveness of the older woman, only we can decide to show up and be seen. 

Time is on your side

For more info on why life gets better after 50, visit
alive.com/webexclusive

This article was originally published in the May 2020 issue of alive Canada, under the title “A Certain Age.”

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