It’s not uncommon for women, once they reach middle age, to notice that they no longer receive the attention they once elicited and to feel invisible in society. The disappearing act that older adults face later in life is not limited to women however; older men also experience the sense that their community no longer views them as vital, relevant or sexually attractive.
Women often complain that if they allow their hair to grey naturally, they are considered old and no longer alluring but men can rock the salt and pepper while remaining appealing to women, sometimes much younger than themselves. Despite a double standard about appearances, men as they age can also feel marginalized or excluded from experiences. No wonder so many older men make classic “mid-life crisis” purchases of a sports car or motorcycle. Cliche´ as it may be, a bold gesture like taking up an extreme sport or wearing a sleeve of tattoos at 60 is a tangible effort for older adults to stay in the conversation.
Men and woman may approach aging differently; with hair dye and lash lifts or by training for a Tough Mudder challenge, but the goal to fight disappearing into the background is similar. The good news is that slowly the media is starting to embrace the idea that getting older does not equate to becoming asexual. Runways are becoming more inclusive, ad campaigns are increasingly diverse and older actors are taking leading roles that do not follow the stereotypes we are accustomed to seeing.
But changing society’s perspectives about older adults starts with the individual. And it’s hard to get older and not buy into the preconceived notions about how aging adults should look, behave or think. With greater longevity and health, mature adults have more time to enjoy the benefits of wisdom and experience that are the hard-earned rewards of a long life. Instead of thinking to ourselves, “She’s too old to be wearing that!” or “Doesn’t he look ridiculous in those bike shorts?”, we should be cheering each other on for being brave and stepping forward from the fringes and attracting a little attention.
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