“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety. Other women cloy the appetites they feed but she makes hungry where most she satisfies.” Anthony & Cleopatra, William Shakespeare
Now, while we aren’t all famous beauties or able to carry the mantle of immense power, we can learn one lesson from Cleopatra. Age is not necessarily the foe we all think it is.
In much more recent times, our own legendary actor, Helen Mirren has remarked that there are only two options in life, growing old or dying young. Her thespian colleague, Julianne Moore, has also observed that phrase growing old gracefully is potentially sexist since it is never applied to men and a little patronising.
Both actors are over 60 and still at the height of their careers which suggests that they can tread the boards and command the spotlight as easily – if not more easily – than when they were decades younger. If we look at their approach we can perhaps see how they have also managed to survive in careers notoriously fixated on the age of women. They recognise that age simply doesn’t matter if you don’t let it. They know their age, they don’t mind talking about it and they recognise that style, character and charisma mean you can often view ageing – while inevitable – simply as a process that makes you more attractive, not less.
Women often complain about becoming invisible. But the truth is we often make ourselves less visible by giving up on all the things that make us stand up and stand out.
We sometimes think getting old means automatically retiring into the wings instead of walking to centre stage; that one or two grey hairs and a few lines means the show is over when, in fact, the most meaningful act is yet to come.
Of course, this doesn’t happen without a little effort but by far the biggest challenge is not a big budget for clothes or a hefty outlay on skincare – it is in how we build a mindset which says, I am not done yet.
We need to see very clearly the advantages of accumulated wisdom and the kind of ambient knowledge that compels attention from those around us. We should prize the ability to see the world with equanimity and without judgement. Those are the pillars upon which we can create a landscape which will not be conquered by a culture which dismisses women as they age.
There are some practical issues in developing this outlook. Staying calm and clear-headed with mindfulness, meditation and, for me, yoga. In this we are not focusing just on the physical, we are building a vision for our future and an inspiration for the next generation.
Finally, and by no means unimportantly, we should not be afraid of cutting a dash. Style and elegance in older women are signs of confidence, joy and above all courage. Those are the qualities which radiate from within and transform how we engage with others – and that is why ageing doesn’t matter.
Photo Credit: Peter Lindbergh for L’oreal
“Helen Mirren, 100% untouched and unretouched. That’s how beautiful this woman truly is.” Peter Lindbergh.