Health & Fitness

Life improves with age — and so can appearance

You're as old as you feel? Please. You're as old as you look. Women know that other people judge them by how they look. If you look tired, haggard and worn, you also look old, and you feel older, too. Women 50 and older are definitely facing a battle with the aging process. They are often more socially and psychologically satisfied, but their bodies are beginning to show the outward signs of age.

However, Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a noted Yale professor of psychology, concludes from studies on older women that women's lives get better with age, not worse. So why not make your appearance better than ever as well?

Today's older woman

If you are allowing your mental perception of the "older woman" to dictate how you look and dress, then maybe you need to think again. The grandmothers of today are very different from our grandmothers. Instead of a plump little woman dressed in a calico apron with cropped gray hair, today's grandmothers and older women fit a different mold.

With more education, greater access to beauty services and a desire to lead an active, vigorous life, today's older woman can be more beautiful and vibrant than ever. How? It's really simple. It's all about taking care of yourself and allowing yourself to be beautiful.

Don't hide behind your age; allow your beauty to shine. Many women approach the age of 50 with apprehension, thinking they must cut their hair shorter, wear longer skirts and higher shirts, and hide their body. After all, is it appropriate for a grandmother to take the grandkids to the park looking youthful? Absolutely.

Remember, how a woman looks is a self-fulfilling prophecy, allowing her to act and feel better because she looks better.

Make it happen

So, how do you make it happen? Conversations with three women who have overcome the age barrier give us great insights.

* Susan's highlights: Susan is 58 years old, and she says it's all about hair. "Hair is your crowning glory at any age, so make it work for you as you get older. No longer do women have to cut their hair as they age." With hair slightly below shoulder length and vibrantly highlighted, Susan has found a style that works for her. "The ritual of cutting your hair off when you get older is now outdated," she explains. Instead, she recommends trying several different hair lengths to find what works for you. Longer hair can be easier to manage and style. It can even spark more intimacy with your husband or partner.

"And by all means, do not shy away from color, highlights and other color-enhancing processes. With today's hair products, you don't have to worry about damaging your hair when you consult a qualified professional stylist. Hair has always been a mark of beauty, and a longer style may be just what you need to look and feel younger," she says.

* Marlene's vision: At 53, Marlene believes that "eyes are the window to the soul," as the saying goes. "Eyes are also an indication of how old you are — or how old people perceive you are!" she explains.

"It's important to treat the eyes carefully and use a good quality moisturizer designed especially for use around the eyes. And if you're looking for a real eye lift that erases years from your face, try gold eye shadow." Consult with a make-up professional at a local department store or day spa to get tips on how to brighten your eyes and look younger.

* Victoria's way: Victoria admits that age usually causes some changes in body shape and form, and that was her primary concern as she approached her 50th birthday. She decided to shed an unwanted 22 pounds before she turned 50 and succeeded.

Victoria warns, "Unfortunately, many women 'allow' themselves to add extra pounds as they get older because they believe it is OK. But don't fall into this trap. Even women 50 and older can have a beautiful body, and the secret is to take better care of yourself. I don't have the body I had at 18 years of age, but I am happy with the body I do have and I think I look younger because I manage my weight well." Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and get exercise at least five days each week to have a healthier mind and body.

Victoria also recommends that women highlight their assets and play down those not-so-great-features. For example, long legs can be shown off with shorter skirts, or a long neck can be highlighted with a v-neck shirt.

She laughs as she says, "There is nothing wrong with showing legs or cleavage after 50!" She recommends "Dressing Nifty After Fifty" (Willcott & Corn Books, $15.95) as a great resource to help women dress better for a particular body type and highlight a woman's most beautiful assets. "This book helped me realize that wearing long skirts and pants was not playing up my most beautiful and youthful assets — my legs!"

It takes more than one

All three of these women agree that you must focus on every aspect of your body to look and feel younger. You can't focus on one area and neglect another. It takes a little more effort to look younger, but it's worth it when it comes to relationships, intimacy, energy and self-confidence.

Once you start taking better care of yourself, highlighting your assets and positively breaking through the age barrier, you will look and feel better. Grandmothers and women over the age of 50 no longer have to look their age — they can look, feel and act younger than ever before.