Per­haps ag­ing is an in­side job. So get older with at­ti­tude

Northern Rivers Style - - LIFECOACH - HE­LEN HAWKES

Re­cently an older woman told me she was afraid to let go of her health in­sur­ance in case she needed it when

“every­thing fell apart”. Another con­fided she was su­per-con­scious of be­ing old enough to be some­one’s mother at a re­cent mu­sic fes­ti­val.

Yes, the cage of age is in full force here, de­spite our al­ter­na­tive cul­ture. Per­haps it’s all the nu­bile young things, on bikes or in biki­nis, that makes us more con­scious of the decades.

Age con­di­tion­ing starts at birth but, once you hit 50, it goes into over­drive, with ad­ver­tise­ments for over-55s re­tire­ment homes, cheaper in­sur­ance for over-50s and even tour groups where you can hang out with the “mid­dle aged”.

At the same time, gov­ern­ment ad­ver­tis­ing pro­motes screen­ing of all those bits that are now, sud­denly, a risk, while the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try backs up age para­noia with pre­scrip­tion drugs.

If you had any doubt about the fact that you are a fos­sil, you just need to switch on the TV.

But isn’t it time we re­jected the misog­y­nis­tic idea that women of a cer­tain age are no longer sen­sual, vi­tal mem­bers of so­ci­ety?

Af­ter all, if you’re Mick Jag­ger or Har­ri­son Ford, you’re still con­sid­ered a sex sym­bol and able to com­mand big money.

Don’t dress “ap­pro­pri­ately”. Wear what you want, even if that’s a bikini. Don’t cut your hair into a sen­si­ble bob. Buy a mo­tor­bike. Ride a bike. Eat ice-cream from the cone while it drips down to your el­bow. Play your mu­sic loud. Pur­sue your dream ca­reer.

Wage a per­sonal re­bel­lion against ageism and, re­mem­ber, ag­ing is a mind job. If you think young, and act young, get­ting older will be in­evitable but ag­ing will be a choice.

When Ellen Langer, the long­est-serv­ing pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at Har­vard, put eight men in their 70s into a time warp apart­ment that trans­ported them back phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally to when they were in their 20s, she was bet­ting that liv­ing as if they were in their prime would turn back the clock. At the end of the ex­per­i­ment, it had.

Sci­en­tific tests showed the men were sup­pler, had greater man­ual dex­ter­ity, sat taller and, most im­prob­a­bly, their eye­sight had im­proved.

He­len Hawkes and Shirley Hughes run Life Makeovers, a psy­chother­apy and coach­ing ser­vice that helps women of all ages un­leash their po­ten­tial for hap­pi­ness. Tel: 0403 805 001.

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