StarSilver: Grit and grace of older women


Don’t lose your love of trying on beautiful clothes and matching accessories. ‘More is more, and less is a bore,’ as fashion icon Apfel says. Photo:

As soon as I felt the first stirrings of ageing more than 20 years ago, I prepared myself with an armoury of bold optimism and a gritty dose of humour.

Aye, that’s how I navigate the attrition of ageing and personal awakenings – with a smidge of daring and combativeness.

To anyone who is getting into the later years, or hoping to get old, let’s brave this gut-wrenching time of our lives with grit and wit, and a bit of razzle-dazzle.

Old age needs to be experienced to gauge the dimensions properly because age etches each of us differently.

Some amazing elders may look young and spry at 80, while there are those who feel old and spent at 60. Thus one’s biological age is not a reliable marker for who a person actually is because sometimes coming-of-age happens on our own time.

But how do you know when the onslaught of ageing has caught up with you? We always feel about the same inside – hovering between 30 and 40, if you ask me. And when it comes to my looks, I am both forgiving and self-effacing. Therein lies the mystique of older women.

Wrinkles and pesky grey hairs are not the only age markers although they tend to be the obvious ones. To begin with, you don’t swing out of bed but instead slowly move yourself up to a sitting position to audible snaps and crackles. And you won’t feel like running up the stairs but climb each step with a slow gait and poignant grace.

Your once excellent memory starts unravelling and you would need Post-it notes to remind you of the doctor’s appointments and other important dates. I usually mark them into the big squares of my calendar with a fine, red marker pen.

You may even get an epiphany that the whole rigmarole of faithful feminine maintenance can seem to be undermined by a greater force called time. You finally figured out why your face looks distorted when you tilt your head towards your shoulder. With mounting certainty and dread, you realise it is the work of gravity cashing in on the quiet loss of collagen. And that you have left middle age behind.

Then ageing comes in torrents, pummelling you in the face and body until your self-esteem falls like helpless blocks clattering down the stairs.

But those moments come and go. You push yourself up again, dust those self-doubts away, and just keep showing up. Our tribe is indefatigable.

Life’s fulfillment does not depend on chronological age, but the state of our mind. The saying, “You’re as old as you think”, is not far from the truth. According to health experts, our thoughts can indeed influence our body cells to rejuvenate or regress. The Book of Proverbs spells out the truth: “A joyful heart does good, like medicine. But a broken spirit dries the bones.”

So learn to snap out of a gloomy mood and look for the good in ageing. Surely the gift of years comes with perks and pleasures.

We should let go of perfection and embrace the positive with rationality. Maintain a happy circle of friends whom you meet regularly to let off steam, and boost one another’s moxie.

I am a relentless optimist disguised as a gentle grandmother of four. My way has always been to move forward rather than dwell on the past or what could have been. Whining and fretting will simply put a shroud of dismay over your day – an admission that you cannot cope with the changes.

I look for the silver lining in ageing. When you are an elderly person, you won’t need excuses to behave in ways inexplicable to those younger than yourself. Why, you’re free to unleash a little madness into your day, and it will be seen as an adorable and sprightly quirk.

You can even pretend to have gone amusingly off-kilter whenever it suits you. I have tried this to a chorus of giggles and laughter. I told my bosom friends: “Inform next of kin when you see I’m ‘up to no good’!”

As the years ratchet up, I will indulge in some vintage glamour as my interest in grooming has never faltered nor waned. If anything, a desire for refined taste just grows keener with age. I’m not letting go of how I look; in fact, I’m doing the opposite.

I have never lost my love of trying on beautiful clothes and matching accessories. As the fashion icon Iris Apfel asserts, “More is more, and less is a bore.” This centenarian is an inspiration!

Style is innate in you. You can look beautiful at any age. It helps being able to wear dresses with confidence, and dare I say, panache? It is not narcissistic to want to look good, but rather it’s appreciating the gifts we are blessed with. Call it self-care and living passionately when you wear clothes that make you feel at ease, feel all of you and elegantly chic.

It is a wonderful time in our senior years, to truly emerge with a solid sense of self, ready for the next adventure. I will not let age wither me. I have my arsenal of anti-ageing skincare and it has kept me looking bright and dishy.

Life springs surprises. Pain and struggles come to all. But from struggles, you become mentally and emotionally strong. Without the blips and slip-ups in life, you wouldn’t be tough and mature enough to navigate the valleys, and experience the gruelling and the glorious.

Like everyone else, I don’t know how boomers’ third act will play out – super-duper or a total wreck. But I do know that life is much more fun if you keep that sense of adventure and playfulness.

Right on, ladies, glam it up. Be gloriously bold, enjoy being a woman who dares to do what you love, and just be comfortable with who you are, at whatever age.

With strength and vulnerability on display, we will brace the marching years unflinchingly.

Mary Eu is a retiree who has a passion for writing. When she is not prowling the shopping mall looking for a dress to scream into, she can be seen reading, writing or home decorating.

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Seniors , ageing , optimism , humour , style , Iris Apfel


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