Growing old gracefully is not easy - GulfToday

Growing old gracefully is not easy

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.


The photo has been used for illustrative purpose.

Age may be just a number but in many ways how you feel about yourself is not only determined by how you physically and emotionally feel but by how others see you. In the 19th century, and before, in the West, people in their 40s and 50s were considered elderly. That’s understandable since, in those days, lifespans were a lot shorter given the conditions in which people lived. So it’s no wonder that those advancing into their 40s and 50s were thought to be old.

But as living conditions improved over the years, people began to live longer. Now, in the West, someone in their 50s, man or woman, is considered still young and vibrant. But in other cultures someone in that same age group is considered old and past their sell-by date. In Korea, for example, even a 40 plus year old lady is considered ready for the heap. I watch a fair number of Korean dramas and a character in their 50s is always the grandparent, or at the very least has children in their late 20s or 30, especially if that character is a female. I agree that if you marry young and have children young your children will most likely be in their 20s and 30s but the point is that most cultures outside of the West never consider alternatives.

Aging is also a sexist experience. Men and women are treated very differently when it comes to their appearances as they age. Generally speaking, a man in his 40s and 50s with grey hair is never really considered old but distinguished. Even his grey hair is considered classy. I remember Richard Gere was always grey? No one ever batted an eyelid when it came to his whiting hair and everyone thought he was one of the most attractive men in Hollywood.

But have you ever seen a grey haired lady get the same label? In fact, not many years ago a lady in the same age range was often referred to as an old maid and people often wondered why she didn’t bother to colour her hair. They thought she looked scruffy, unkempt and slightly crazy as she didn’t seem to be too bothered about her appearance, especially in public. That’s why so many older ladies reached for those off-the-shelf hair colours. But increasingly, especially in the past 2 to 3 years, prominent ladies in their 40s and 50s have decided to publicly embrace their silvery locks. After the COVID lockdowns and the inability to visit salons, many people were unable to go out for touch ups or even buy hair colour easily so they started to let the grey grow out. I suppose they liked what they saw and didn’t give two hoots what other people thought since they weren’t going to see many of them for a while anyway. This has now become a trend in the west where ladies with grey hair are not considered old and grey but trendy and chic.

As the hair grows grey, they begin to think about growing old gracefully. That in itself is an art, you understand. Makeup and clothing styles change in accordance with age as clearly what looks good on a 20 or 30 year old almost certainly will not on a 50 or 60 year old.

That being said, this is really only a western thing. In some cultures growing old gracefully is not the done thing. It is a big no, no. Almost everywhere else in the world, ladies have it especially bad. If they don’t marry by their late 20s maximum, they are too old as parents want teens for their boy who might actually be in his 30s! If she’s in her 40s, there is no hope for her ever marrying or having children easily if she does marry. The man, however, is good to go right up until he’s around 70! He can look as old as he wants because every year that is added to his age means he is established with a house and money, or at least one would think so. For her, she either has to hide her age or risk being left behind with her parents lamenting that they have an old maid on their hands.

She can’t let herself grow old gracefully because, if she does, someone out there, even in a supermarket, will call her aunty or mother as is the custom in many countries outside of the west. No one will call her sister; it will always be aunty or mum. Everyone, especially a lady, should be allowed to grow old with grace and dignity and without being made to feel embarrassed about her appearance because it’s nothing to be embarrassed about but that can only happen in the west.

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