What’s your definition of “old”?

Last week, Mom’s cleaning lady told us about a 90-year-old woman whose daughter’s house she also cleans.

This spunky senior, despite not being able to scrub her back in the tub, manages quite well on her own.

She even puts on her lipstick every day.

“You’re kidding,” I said. “You mean we still have to wear makeup at 90?”

That got me to thinking.

What’s wrong with getting gussied-up as we age? What’s wrong with wanting to present our best self to the world?

It seems to me that designers and manufacturers should capitalize on an aging population, rather than ignore them and hope they’ll go quietly away.

Take clothing, for example.

My mom is tiny. Under five feet tall.

But even “Petite” sizes engulf her. The arms are too long; so are the pant legs.

“Junior” sizes might fit, but she’s NOT a junior and doesn’t want to show as much skin as young girls do.

She refuses to wear “old lady” clothes — you know, knit pants with elastic waistbands and sweatshirts emblazoned with “Grandma” on the chest.

Sewing gives her a headache.

She’s gotten smaller, and she’s not alone. People typically lose 0.4 inches every 10 years after age 40; shrinkage is faster (1 to 3 inches) after age 70.

What are their options for looking fashionable without looking silly?

Another area of concern is graying hair.

I’ve read that going gray depends on your genetic makeup. Fully half of us are 50% gray by age 50!

Some women prefer going gray naturally. Others, like Mom and her sisters, refuse.

No silver. No white.

No “blue” or “pink,” either.

Mom used to buy the home hair color systems at Wal-Mart or the drugstore. She’d mix them up, apply, wait, then shampoo and rinse. And she’d be good to go for the next six weeks.

But she’s been having shoulder issues lately, so she’s taken her hair to the salon professionals.

Who should know what they’re doing.

Yet they can’t get the color right. Really dark hair looks freakish on an older person; likewise, reddish highlights don’t flatter Mom’s Italian skin tones.

I’ve heard it said that aging isn’t for the faint of heart. But couldn’t we do more to make it easier?

After all, we’ll all be “old” one day, if we’re lucky.

As for that spunky 90-year-old woman, my hat’s off to her.

I don’t call it vanity for her to put on lipstick every day.

Perhaps she simply wants to look and feel her best.

Or maybe it’s just a habit.

I hope that when I reach 90, if my lips don’t prune up and I can see my mouth, I’ll still want to put on lipstick!

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28 thoughts on “What’s your definition of “old”?

  1. I heard a reporter on the radio refer to someone as “elderly” the other day. Her age? Sixty-four.

    Really. Find me my walker, darlin’. I’m sixty-six, still working full time, living a perfectly fine life and I (mostly) still have my wits about me. I’ve got plenty of friends in their seventies, and they’re busy with life. As one of my older friends says, “The bad news about being old is that you disappear – people simply ignore you. The good news is that people ignore you and let you live your life.” ;-)

    • As the Boomer generation ages, I think that “invisibility” issue is becoming the new “leaning in” issue.

      Despite what some (very smart, witty, insightful) blogger Boomers say (repeatedly, I might add, as if it’s on their minds quite a bit), the fact that we become “invisible” is a fact. It’s our reaction to it that matters. If lipstick helps, I say go for it.

    • I remember having that discussion in one of the newsrooms where I worked, Linda — just how old is “elderly”? It seems the younger one is, the easier it becomes to think of “anything over 30” as “elderly”! I know people who are old at 35 and people who are young, vibrant, and contributing at 80. As for “old” people disappearing, sometimes that’s not such a bad thing, is it? I mean, who wants to live in a 24.7 spotlight — other than the truly egotistical!!

  2. I’ve been saying this for years, but I *just* said it again the other day: it’s so frustrating to have my choices be the “streetwalker” look or the “grandma” look.

    I know there’s a middle ground out there, but it’s so much hard work to find it.

    • Absolutely! It’s a fine line we walk, trying to be true to ourselves without completely ignoring fashion. You’d think somebody would have figured out by now that “mature” women don’t want to look like their daughters — OR their mothers, ha!

  3. My friend who turns 101 in a few weeks still colors her hair herself…and she even does her eyebrows as well!
    I feel much that way about clothes I find in the stores for my age…many are much too youngish designs or oldish…where’s middle ground for the middle aged as well? I think each fashion industry should have people of the appropriate age target actually help design the trends!

    • What a wonderful example your 101-year-odl friend is setting! I love that she’s still trying to put her best foot forward — whether she cares about impressing anybody else or just wants to do it for herself!

  4. Debbie, I love, love, love this post!

    “What’s wrong with getting gussied-up as we age? What’s wrong with wanting to present our best self to the world?”

    Amen. And I totally agree! I actually read a fashion blog, where the author posts photos of ONLY women who are up there in age; who dress up, put on makeup, love fashion, and celebrate that even being older is BEAUTIFUL. Some of these women are well over 90 and they still look absolutely vibrant and alive – in fact, they look more alive and vibrant than most 20 year old girls.

    I have always been someone who appreciates and respects age. Even when I was younger, I loved hanging out with the elderly because to me age is WISDOM.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post, dear lady. Thoroughly enjoyed!

    Happy Sunday…..X

    • “To me age is Wisdom.” Ah, Ron, you’ve hit the nail on the head! Why can’t we be more like Asian countries when it comes to respecting our older treasures? For that’s what old people can be — treasures!
      We spend so much time celebrating youth, yet we do our darnedest to grow children up fast, turn them into mini-adults, and expect them not to act like children.
      And when adults reach a certain age, we shove them off into a hole-in-the-wall and expect them to be neither seen nor heard. Something’s wrong with that, don’t you agree?

  5. Debbie, I always enjoy your posts but this one I really love. And, I hope you take this as a compliment because it is: this one feels like a Bella post. Written in a similar style that’s simple, clear and from the heart. Like two women, who are good friends, chatting over coffee. That’s how you made me feel. Right on, girl!

    • Monica, you couldn’t have given me a nicer compliment than to say my post sounds like something Bella wrote — thank you, my friend!
      I’m so glad it resonated with you and came across as clear and heart-felt. Actually, I was a tad worried over this one because I had to re-write it a dozen times or so, ha!

  6. Love this, Debbie! I want to be like that too – still caring what i look like and taking time to spruce up a bit. My mother, who is 80 and has crippled hands from rheumatoid arthritis, went to get a manicure with me recently – and the little Asian girl who did her manicure was so sweet – treated my mother and her feeble arms and paper thin skin like she was a beauty – well – she is – as an 80 year old woman full of spirit and fun still. We should see age as beautiful – and lucky. Your mom sounds fun and wise too!

    • Barb, I love your mom’s spirit! Wise of you to put her in the hands of an Asian manicurist — they just know how to treat our older folks with gentleness! It’s great that she still wants her hands and fingernails looking their best!!

  7. I rarely wear lipstick, but I can’t imagine a day when I don’t apply some eyeliner, blush and mascara. I’m kind of hoping there will soon be a way to get them permanently applied though. I can get my eyeliner tattooed if I’m brave enough, but I’m not sure there’s yet a permanent solution for the others.

    Actually, I often hope there comes a time when I’m ready to accept age with grace and stop coloring my hair. It will save me a lot of money at least!

    • We blondes are more fortunate than our dark-haired sisters, in that we can often merely highlight while they have to dye their entire heads! I’m not brave enough to get my eyeliner tattooed on — besides, I kind of like the freedom of changing colors. Thanks for stopping by, Terri!

  8. Great post and spot on. What a marketing opportunity. Chico’s although the quality
    isn’t what it once was seems to have a nice mix of attractive “older” clothes. When Cole was little I noticed that many hair dressers, and even kids salon gave terrible kids hair cuts, as though it didn’t matter. Oh boy, it matteres, on both age spectrums. Time for your mom to insist on being heard. Lipstick, make-up I think of as ageless. Another marketing opportunity–salons that specialize in seniors–makeup and hair.

    • Katybeth, you are sooo right — what excellent marketing opportunities, both for the hair salons and the makeup. It seems pretty easy to manufacture and sell makeup for naturally beautiful people (the young and many celebs); more challenging — and potentially rewarding — to market to a population segment who’s long been ignored. Thanks for your thoughts!

  9. I love this post because When I turned 60 last summer something clicked in my brain and said ” Girlfriend…you’re not going down like that…fix yourself up everyday…get your style on!” Well I’ve done that and I get dressed up almost everyday…and I do it for me. My husband thinks I look great as do my kids. I feel good about myself. I am not going to let this mustache grow or my eyebrow meet in the middle! I’m going to proudly wear my spanx and shape up my sagging flesh. I went make up shopping and got some great stuff for this old face. I bought every anti wrinkle cream in the store….and I feel great!

    I told my mom that this aging thing is scary and she told me to grow old gracefully and I’m gonna do just that. Great post Deb!!!!

    • Ah, Tanya, what an inspiration you are! I love how you took the bull by the horns and did this for yourself. Doesn’t hurt to remember that our bodies are temples of the Lord, and He doesn’t want to live in junk, either, ha!

  10. As soon as I read your title, I thought, “the definition of ‘old’ is on a sliding scale.” When I was twenty, I thought fifty was old. Now that I’m nearing forty, fifty doesn’t seem old at all :) I feel better when I put some effort into the way I look. I hope that will still be the case when I’m even older.

    • Thanks, Janna, and I think you’re right — age is a sliding scale. I know I feel better when I try — I might not be model-perfect, but we all can do something to enhance what we have. “Letting oneself go” isn’t an option for me right now. Others might do that, but I don’t want to look like the People of Wal-Mart, ha!

  11. What a delightful post, Debbie. Near and dear to my heart as I am blessed to still have my Mom who is 90. She is visiting and currently outside raking our lawn because ” I can’t just sit around” When she is home, she goes to the gym-Zumba classes-mind you; visits the elderly in her neighborhood and volunteers at the local food bank. She is vibrant and beautiful and makes “old age” look good, wrinkles, arthritis et al. Age is a number. Bravo to your sweet Mom for taking good care of herself. Aren’t we so blessed to still have them in our lives?

    • Kathy, what a beautiful description of your sweet mom! You know, I think one of the best things a mom can give her children is being a good role model — how to stay healthy and active and interested (and interesting!) however long they’re alive. You’re so right — age is a number! Give your mom a big hug and enjoy her visit (as I know you will!)

  12. As a “man of a certain age” (68 in my case) I thank you for this post. One of the advantages of a man getting older is that women no longer have to be under 30 to be beautiful. A short while back I saw a woman at our local supermarket, dressed in an immaculate white pants suit, her hair perfectly done, who made me feel compelled to go up to her and compliment her appearance. I’m sure she was at least ten years older than me, but I’ll bet she never looked lovelier in her life. Fortunately, she took my compliment in the spirit it was intended and didn’t call the cops on me. Bless you for encouraging beauty, maybe I’ll at least comb what’s left of my hair before my next trip to town. :)

    • Hi Axiesdad and Welcome! I appreciate your stopping by and weighing in on this one. What a lovely gesture you made to that well-dressed woman in the grocery store! It takes a woman of “a certain age” (and class!) to fully appreciate and acknowledge a well-intentioned compliment, rather than recoiling in horror and assuming someone is trying to hit on her!! I’m a big believer in doing one’s level best with what one has for as long as one has it. I’m off to visit your blog now.

    • Hi Tricia and thanks for your kind words. Isn’t it wonderful to see our older saints cheerfully continuing to live life to the fullest, no matter their aches and difficulties?

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