This guest post is by Shannon West, a 68-year-old fitness professional working to empower older women to see their potential, and a music blogger who believes older musicians are often the ones on the cutting edge. This is her spin on a viral social media post that struck her as suggesting that older women should resign themselves to the fact that their best days were over, so she “took a shot.” Shannon lives in Jacksonville, FL, and can be reached at ShannonWest0201 [at] gmail [dot] com.
To all my female friends who have passed our cultural expiration date which by now I think is…like…25. (see Amy Schumer’s brilliant “Last F***able Day” video). We get told we are at that age where we see wrinkles and are destined to have saggy muscles and put on extra body fat. We read it in a women’s magazine see it on TV so it must be true. Right? We see cute 25-year-olds, especially in movies, TV shows, and other media, because there are so few multidimensional roles for older women. So we reminisce, because we have been told that our 20s are the last decade in our lives where we can be attractive, fashionable, and adventurous. We have been told that the synonym for vibrant, engaged, forward thinking, healthy, adventurous, empowered, and creative is “young” even though those qualities are actually available to everybody. We hear that we should consider qualities like wisdom and experience the lesser cards we are dealt as we drift into invisibility, even though both are valuable and some of us are still a long way from getting the “wisdom” part down, although our life experiences have definitely given us a sense of accomplishment, perspective, and confidence in our ability to navigate the messy unpredictability that life brings.
Many of us see ourselves as warriors in the quiet and survivors. It’s time to let go of the quiet and engage our warrior spirit in the act of questioning everything our youth-obsessed culture has told us about growing older and actively seeking change on both a personal and political level. It is time to ask why we feel bad about getting older and why we see our growth and years of experience as a process of decline and increasing limitations. Who made these rules? Who said we had to live under them? Should we honor the wishes of advertising agencies and the “anti-aging” industry that create and exploit our fear of aging into a multibillion dollar industry? Should we take as truth research that says we must become sedentary and rapidly decline at a specific birthday when it was conducted in a previous century on older adults whose life experiences were so different from ours today?
We need to actively combat ageism and age stereotyping, first by looking inward and seeing how we are affected personally. Is what we are being told really our personal truth? Are we being pressured to limit our vision of who we are? Then we have to actively challenge ageism everywhere—in the workplace, in our relationships, in what we are told about how we dress and how we “should” wear our hair, in how we take care of our bodies, in how we move through the world. We may choose to ease into elderhood in the traditional way or we may choose to run an Ultra at 65. The path you choose is the path that is fine for you. It is the ability to create and walk our own path instead of being forced onto someone else’s idea of what our path should be that matters. We have the skills to do this. We were the ones who grew up with “girls don’t”. We didn’t listen to that. “At your age” is the new “Girls don’t.” We don’t have to listen to that either. Start on Ashton Applewhite’s groundbreaking This Chair Rocks website, and be sure to check out the Resources area.