I really dislike the stereotype you see in the media about ‘successful’ ageing: you know, all those wrinkle-free, glossy looking botoxed people bouncing around like 30 year olds, swallowing bottles of vitamins and perpetually planning to conquer Everest or start a relationship with someone half their age.

What that is really saying is that we should deny our age and the life experiences it’s brought us, that we should act and look young forever if we want to belong in our society. I’ve spoken to people who have been asked to dye their grey hair to keep their jobs, or who don’t want a birthday cake at work because it begs the question. That’s just wrong. It leaves an impression that there is one way to age successfully and if that’s not you, well you have ‘failed’ Ageing 101.

And that will leave you as part of that alternative ageing stereotype – little old ladies, frail people on zimmer frames, dribbling down their dressing gowns and babbling incoherently about the past. Gullible oldies being scammed by online shysters or unscrupulous retirement home operators. Lonely people watching endless daytime soaps interspersed  with ads for incontinence pads and funeral homes. A very unattractive picture.

if you are in the second half of your life, please know that you do not have to be a victim to changing times or other peoples’ expectations about older Australians.  Whatever your life circumstances, with some flexibility, support and persistence, you can find a way to flourish.  You do have choices in creating a life that works for you.

And there is no ‘one size fits all’ here.

If you want to colour your hair or wear bright clothes go for it. If you want to start an empire or save the whales, that’s great. And if you want to downsize your life so you can sit in a sunny corner and read books all day, then that should be fine too.

So challenge the stereotypes, suit yourself, celebrate your true age – and make sure you have lots of (your kind of) adventures!

Joanna Maxwell

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