“YOU LOOK GREAT FOR YOUR AGE.” HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF A STATEMENT LIKE THIS? WE’VE ALL GOTTEN USED TO HEARING THIS COMMON “COMPLIMENT.” THE TRUTH IS THAT YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AT ANY AGE.
I recently saw a video on Facebook that stuck with me. It was posted on comedian Amy Poehler’s page and was produced by AARP. The video showed a group of women gathered around a table talking about how they look at their age and how it can lead to others making generalizations about them. One woman with gray hair noted that at age 40, people often mistook her for someone much older. Another mentioned that when her mother was told, “You look great for your age,” she replied, “No matter what, I look good for my age. Whether I am skinny (or) I am fat. Whether I’m wrinkled, whether I’m gray!”
Saying “You look great for your age” usually means you look younger than you are and can be taken as a compliment. However, statements like, “You may be getting a bit too old to be able to handle a job like that” can be hurtful.
I remember asking my parents questions and being told, “We’ll tell you when you’re older.” That made me feel like I wasn’t worthy of knowing something. These comments usually conceal discomfort about or unwillingness to delve into a heavy topic. They may even mask unfounded prejudices.
Some comments are sexist, harassing or inappropriate and others undervalue someone’s skills. One local woman who graduated early from high school says, “My grades were never enough to speak for my competency. There is a constant state of having to prove myself.” Another woman says, “Co-workers and clients grossly underestimate my experience because I appear younger than my age.”
UNIQUE WOMEN, UNIQUE NEEDS
The truth is that we are different at different ages, and we all have unique experiences. A teenager has a completely different set of concerns than an 80-year-old. But neither one is better or worse than the other. Yes, the 80-year-old has had more years to experience things, but that doesn’t mean that she necessarily has had a wider variety of experience than an 18-year-old. For example, a teenager in a war-torn country who may have seen friends and family die at the hands of a rebel group, will have a different understanding of life than an 80-year-old who has lived a sheltered life and never traveled outside of her state.
Instead of focusing just on age, let’s work on providing women with things that will help them in their current situation at their current age. For example, housing and medical care are serious issues that need our attention. There is a wide range of financial capability within and across age groups. Additionally, we have different needs when it comes to nutrition, exercise and skincare as we age.
In future issues, Rochester Women magazine will delve deeper into topics that affect women of different ages in different ways. Topics will range from careers and financial concerns to makeup and shopping.
In the meantime, let’s get social! AARP has a hashtag that they use to help people rethink aging. Share what’s ageless about you on our Facebook page. Let’s focus on being grateful for all the things that we have, whatever our age.
Emily Watkins is a writer and editor.