Last week my gorgeous friend Anthea Turner celebrated her 60th birthday. And she’s not alone – Nigella Lawson, Julianne Moore, Tilda Swinton, Kirsten Scott Thomas – all sixty this year, all accomplished women with ongoing success and whose chronological age, like our own and in the grand scheme of things, should be irrelevant to who we are and what we do. It is a landmark birthday – as is any birthday with a zero on the end! Of course we want to mark the occasion, but should that number start to define us as we grow older? And do we actually really feel any different as each one comes along?
In an interview for this week's edition of Hello magazine, Anthea says: “I think 60 is more of a milestone birthday than 50. We’d like to think it’s not as we live in an ageless society, but it truly is. But do I feel any different? No, I don’t feel any different to when I was 50, not at all.”
When I think about this and my own birthday on the horizon – 54 in August – Anthea is absolutely right. In all honesty I don’t actually feel much different to when I was in my 30s and 40s. A few more achievements under my belt, a little wiser hopefully, and definitely a greater sense of confidence than I had ploughing through my 20s – but on the whole, still the same me. And that’s the point. The number changes, but the core of who we are, our values and needs and planning our future goals continue through the years much the same. It’s just the next step and, if anything, I’m stronger now to do this than I have ever been. My age most definitely doesn’t define me. It’s who I am that does.
Of course, you can argue that there is also just a hint of the Peter Pan syndrome at play somewhere along the line. It’s all too easy to look at our children and the next generation – now in their teens or at university or even out there in the working world on the exciting threshold of early adulthood that was exactly the same for us and, quite frankly, still seems like only yesterday to me! There might be just a tiny slice of envy at their carefree attitudes with so much out there, unmapped, lying ahead of them. Small wonder there’s always going to be a slight reluctance to wholly let go of our youth – which is probably why many of us never quite do. And it does seem so much easier to sit happily and confidently alongside today’s generation than it ever was in our parent’s day.
I’d like to think that we are very gradually beginning to see the signs of an ageless society. As life expectancy increases, the perception of age boundaries is starting to shift, chipping away at the notion that we have to adopt some sort of middle-age persona that is ‘age-appropriate’. And we are so much more vocal now in challenging any outdated misconceptions of middle age. The development of social media has given us a great platform to be seen and heard and we’re definitely using it to rise above the pockets of ageism that seem to linger on. Of course, there are areas that still need a little more than a hefty nudge. The workplace for one – we have a way to go there. But there is change, and I think largely this is because as we all go into mid-life and beyond we are refusing to see our age as anything other than just a number. I know I am.