They say that age is just a number, but the act of growing old and the many changes it brings with it is often viewed in a negative light. One thing for sure is that cosmetic surgery aside, there is literally nothing we can do about it. As each second ticks by every single one of us is getting older and so it is time for us to embrace this fact and stop worrying about something we cannot change.
I’m 40, so hardly of an age considered ‘old’ (although having said that if you asked a teenager I’m sure I’d be considered positively prehistoric!), but now that I’m in these midlife years I find myself reflecting back on how I looked and how I felt when I was younger. I see photos of myself looking slimmer, fresher, crease free and without any scraggly white hairs and I sometimes wish that I could have just a teeny tiny bit of that body back. And yet at the same time I look at that gangly teenager, with her crop top, pierced belly button and toned tight skin and think do you know what, there’s nothing in this world that would see me trading places. Because with age comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom. And quite frankly I’d take both those things over a toned midriff any day.
With the help of some of the members of The Art of Healthy Living Facebook group, I’ve put together some of the best and worst things about getting older and combined it with some cold hard facts.
Let’s start by looking at the worst, simply because the best is yet to come 😉
The Worst Things About Getting Older
Of course there are downsides to getting older, but lets try and put a positive spin on them. And so to kick us off, let’s address what most of us think of first when it comes to the downsides of ageing…
Wrinkles; saggy skin; age spots; dry, dull, thinning hair; turkey neck; the list is about as long as the hairs growing out of my moles. As we get older gravity takes hold and everything heads south. And it really gets us down:
“Physically things are changing, and I’m not happy about that! Grey hair for example sucks.” (Claire Waller)
“Turkey neck.” (Helen Manuel)
“Skin, especially my knees!” (Cathy Searle)
“Stubborn Grey Hairs.” (Anupreet Attridge)
“I notice my skin losing elasticity, my nether regions are in need of surgical intervention and I have struggled with perimenopause symptoms.” (Caroline Elen Cannons)
“Random aches and random hairs!” (Karen Gadd)
It’s such a tough one to get our heads around, because we look in the mirror and spot these so called ‘flaws’, and yet inside we feel exactly the same as we did when we were younger. And this is precisely the reason why some people resort to cosmetic procedures to try and cling onto their looks for as long as possible, in a vain attempt to feel good about themselves. When ultimately that isn’t really the problem. The problem is that we have become programmed to believe that looking old is wrong. That it means we’re past it, we’re no longer desirable, we’re spoiled goods. And that’s bollocks. Just because I’ve got a few lines on my face does not make me a lesser person.
However, it’s all well and good me saying this, because of course I still dye my hair to get rid of the white hairs, I still pull and stretch my skin when I look in the mirror and I 100% still look at my hands in disbelief to check whether these aging Cocoon-esque mitts can actually be a part of my body. There is no getting away from it and so we must learn to embrace every single white hair, every wrinkle, every new fold of skin and consider ourselves to be sophisticated and mature like a fine red wine, rather than some manky old chunk of mouldy, ripened cheese!
There Are No More Firsts
If I sit and think about this one too much it makes me feel really sad. Because at some point in your life, probably at that midlife crisis point, it dawns on you that you’ve had all your firsts. First word, first step, first crush, first kiss, first time having sex, first baby, first time on a plane, first holiday without your parents, first husband ( 😉 ), first job, first house etc. etc. You’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt… what’s left!?! And life suddenly starts to lose that shiny, glittery coating that our childlike eyes looked out with, because nothing’s new, we’ve seen it all before.
But it needn’t be like that. What’s stopping us from appreciating the simple things in life? Why should we be any less amazed by puddles, shooting stars and ladybirds than we were when we were five? And as for all this business about never having any more firsts… poppycock! You’re telling me you’ve literally done and seen everything the world has to offer? I don’t think so missy! The only thing that’s changed is our outlook. We just need to keep a hold of that zest for life and do the things that take us out of our comfort zones, the things we’ve secretly always wanted to do but not quite had the courage to do before. To explore every inch of the globe while our health still allows it and to keep creating those first moments until we take our very last breath. One shot people, one shot.
Our Metabolism Slows Right Down
This one’s a right bitch and is especially hard for women. As we get older our bodies change both in terms of appearance as well as the inner workings. Our metabolism slows down and so we have to work harder at staying fit and keeping the weight off. We can no longer get away with eating all the junk without the risk of it heading straight to our trunk. It’s got a one way ticket and it plans on sticking around!
As we age, our muscle mass decreases and the amount of fat we store increases and it is this that slows down the metabolic rate. We’re no longer growing at the accelerated rate we were when we were young and we definitely don’t have or need as much energy. So whereas we could easily scoff ALL the ice cream when we were teenagers and burn it off almost as quickly as we consumed it, when we eat all the ice cream now our body hangs onto it as back up fuel.
A slower metabolism is an inevitable component of the aging process, however it’s not all doom and gloom and you won’t be expected to survive on salad leaves alone in order to keep yourself feeling fit and trim. There are some steps you can take to help your metabolism from slowing down even further:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat a balanced diet
- Get your hormones checked out
These four factors, either on their own or in combination with one another, are enough to throw your metabolism out of whack and so it is important as we age to try and keep them in check.
We Become Emotional Wrecks
Periods, pregnancy the peri-menopause, the menopause… hormones have got a LOT to answer for! And aside from all the other stuff that comes with each of these things, emotionally it just gets worse and worse the older we get. You find yourself crying at EVERYTHING, shouting at EVERYTHING, moaning about EVERYTHING and fearing EVERYTHING. Remember when you were younger and you’d go on every fairground ride going? Ha, good luck with that when you’re older! Talking from personal experience, where once I loved a good rollercoaster I now have an irrational fear of anything fast, anything that involves flying, heights, and basically anything that could possibly result in death. I feel way more anxious these days and really the only thing that prevents me from becoming a jittery nervous wreck is the fact I have to hold it together in front of the kids!
But when you stop and have a good think about it, of course we’re more emotional when we’re older – we’ve got more emotional experience, we care about stuff more, we feel more, and we’re very aware of the clock ticking away in the background. It goes without saying we’re going to cry more, we’ve got way more to cry about!
Stress, loneliness, disturbed sleep, hormone imbalances, depression are just a few of the factors influencing our emotions. And so as the years go by you can fully expect to break down at children singing, X Factor sob stories, abandoned dogs, and pretty much any film you watch… OK, so maybe that’s just me.
4 Funerals And A Wedding
I love a good wedding. When else do you get to dress up, get everyone together at someone else’s expense, drink free flowing champagne and have a good old knees up? I remember a time in my late twenties when it felt as though we had a wedding to go to more or less every weekend – it was amazing. And then all of a sudden there was no one left, every one we knew had got married and suddenly the wedding invites started to dry up. Then there’s a dry spell and before you know it your kids are getting married and suddenly you’re in the spotlight again, performing your role marvellously as the mother of the bride.
But then what….?
Well, I’m sorry to get all morbid on your asses, but it’s bloody funerals ain’t it. And, well, somehow they just ain’t the same!
As you get older, the people around you start to die off. Grandparents, parents, friends, partners and a big burst of reality comes rushing in and smacks you round the chops with a big reminder that no one is invincible. We are ALL going to die. And knowing that at some point you or your partner will be left on your own without the other one, well it’s just fucking depressing isn’t it? But we mustn’t dwell on the inevitable shit that happens,we must focus on the here, the now, the today and relish every waking moment we have with one another.
Not Quite Sure Where You Fit In
Talking from personal experience, I feel as though I know myself more than I ever have and this feeling of being comfortable with who I am strengthens with each passing year. However, there can be moments (and I’m totally blaming it on those mid-life crisis vibes) where I start to question my purpose and what I have, or more likely what I have not, achieved in my life. What if I had studied something different at university? What if I hadn’t moved in with my first proper boyfriend? What if I had been more assertive in my first jobs? What if I’d gone back to work after having kids instead of being a stay at home mum? Seriously, those ‘what ifs’ are enough to drive a woman crazy.
And then there’s that sense of no longer feeling desirable, of almost feeling invisible in society, and as someone (who wishes to remain anonymous) in my Facebook group said:
“I don’t know what to wear! I feel like the clothes I like are too young for me. What I do wear is ‘safe’ and boring.”
I totally get this. Sure there’s no age limit on being allowed into Top Shop and Miss Selfridge, but a pair of hot pants and a bardot crop top just ain’t the way forward for me any more. Equally, I don’t feel anywhere near ready to start shopping for twinsets and comfortable shoes! So what the hell do we wear and where on earth do we shop when we’re in these middle years?
The Best Things About Getting Older
Rightio, let’s move onto much more positive matters and explore some of the best things about growing old (dis)gracefully. Despite the niggly health problems and slowly deteriorating looks that come with age, I like to think of myself like a fine wine – expensive, full-bodied, mature, yet still has a lot of life in me yet. The best things come to those who wait and so here I present to you the very best things about getting older – no honestly, there really are some perks…. just maybe not in the boob department!
We Have No More Fucks To Give
Seriously, hunt all you like, there’s none left. We’ve used up all our fucks and now we literally have no more to give and that feels pretty damn epic let me tell you. And my Facebook groupies agree with me:
“Really not caring about what people think and the invention of HRT patches.” (Sonia Poulter)
“No longer giving a flying fuck.” (Helen Manuel)
“No longer giving a flying fuck where once I would have cared far more.” (Cathy Searle)
“Mentally I feel no different a little wiser and less fucks given.” (Claire Waller)
It seems we’re not only older but far wiser too. We care less about what other people think of us, about what we weigh, about actions we may have considered embarrassing when we were younger, we say what we think, we embrace our weirdness, and we positively own that shit.
We Want Less
Youngsters want it all don’t they? The latest bit of tech, the flyest kicks (pretty sure they don’t say that any more but heck that’s another sign of my age!), designer handbags, etc. and not only that but they want it NOW! But as we get older it suddenly dawns on us that we don’t need all of that materialistic crap to make us happy and instead we are actively advised to decrease our possessions in a whirlwind of Kondoistic hedonism.
The logic is simple really – what use are possessions when we’re 6 feet under!?!
We Are Thankful For The Small Things
“Really appreciating the small things.” (Karen Gadd)
As you and the people around you get older and as health starts to deteriorate you start to become much more grateful for being alive. It becomes a privilege to be granted more time on this earth, to be able to spend more precious time with your loved ones. And we truly appreciate that not everyone gets the chance to grow old; many die way before their time, which makes us thankful for the smallest of things.
Knowing Me, Knowing You
By far the greatest thing about getting older is that feeling of truly knowing yourself. We’ve touched briefly on it already, but I think my Facebook group have summed it up beautifully!
“Confidence. I may look older, but I feel like I fit better in my (flabby) skin now.” (Kathleen Vanoppen)
“The feeling of totally winging it doesn’t change but I am more comfortable with that and the realisation that I am most definitely not the only one! Definitely more comfortable in my body and in myself as I get older, even though it’s the most ‘unkempt’ body I have ever had!” (Michelle Richardson)
“Experience and Wisdom.” (Anupreet Attridge)
“I LOVE getting older!! After hitting 50 and perimenopause earlier this year, I’m feeling free!! I am no longer bound so tightly by other people’s expectations of me. I refuse to conform, I refuse to age gracefully, I refuse to dull my sparkle, dim my light or be bullied any more. I have a new found confidence and have very much turned inward to be really true to myself. My children are grown and I have time for me. I’m so much more me than I have ever been and I’m loving it.” (Caroline Elen Cannons)
“On some things, I feel like I care a whole lot less what ‘other people’, whoever they might be, think. I also feel like I can take up my rightful amount of space in the world more easily. Both of these realisations help me be far more tolerant of others’ inadequacies, as I see them. I also realise that I’m much more confident than I used to be, and freer about my general existence, sort of a ‘what you see is what is here’ kind of thing, much less shame about myself in essence. Yep my body is getting older, but with the new confidence that is emerging, that makes a lot less difference. Yes, I’m slower than I used to be, but I can keep running for very long periods – just finished my first ultramarathon three weeks ago. I never would have allowed myself even to attempt that even 5 years ago because I would have scuppered my chances by telling myself before I’d even tried that I wasn’t able to do it. Passing 50 feels like I sort of grew up and let go of the death grip I had on trying to control myself all the time. I feel like this will be read as an evangelistic plug for getting older, and maybe it is. But it really has been like this for me.” (Caroline Nairn)
What an awesome bunch you are!
So yeah, growing old can really suck, but my goodness there are so many lovely things that come as part of the package. At the risk of sounding disgustingly clichéd and sickeningly self-help quotey – life is a journey and this is part of it. Enjoy every bump in that road, every sight that passes you, every passenger that hitches a ride, because you’ve got a one way ticket for the best ride EVER!
How do you feel about getting old?
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