“Age is no barrier, it’s a limitation you put on your mind.” I came across this quote at the weekend. It’s such a simple statement – actually common sense if you think about it. We talk a lot about ageism – society’s prejudices, workplace inequality, a youth orientated culture and the need to push back against negative stereotype messaging, but we seldom consider the barriers we subconsciously put in place when we reach a ‘certain age’. Is there an element to ageism that is also about the limitations we impose on ourselves? Our own unconscious bias and something that needs to be challenged as much as the ageist attitudes that surround us?

Officially, according to my age as purely a number, I am now sitting firmly in my middle years and, frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier or more comfortable in my own skin, but the narrative surrounding these years isn’t great. Words like ‘middle-aged’ and ‘mature’ – labels you could argue are necessary to place us on society’s timeline, but that carry with them the notion we must now cast aside our youthful bounce, adopt billowing cardigans, surround ourselves with cats and spend the rest of our days knitting. When you consider the word ‘youth’ has such a punchy and energetic ring to it, ‘middle-age’ is hardly one to put a spring in our step – but it does seep into our unconscious and affect us.

Our own biases are far harder to recognise. As a generation who grew up with more traditional values than today’s generation, it’s small wonder we carry in us an idea of what growing older should look like. That we have to adopt some sort of middle-age persona that is ‘age-appropriate’. For many of us, a generational example has been handed down and this hangover from our upbringing is deep seated. It’s made all the more difficult to fight against alongside a media bombardment of stereotypical images and attitude, discrimination in the workplace and a narrative within the beauty industry that still uses words like ‘anti-ageing’ and ‘age-defying’ – the implication that ageing is to be hidden.

It’s definitely a quiet voice, but we need to recognise the unconscious bias in ourselves – a conventional conditioning that, if we’re honest, can sometimes alter our own perception of what ageing should look like. There should be no limitations simply because we reach an age where, potentially, we have more years behind us than ahead of us. A notion that perhaps we should be slowing down, just a little. In an age where we – and significantly today’s emerging generation – are pushing for equality and diversity across all areas of society, we cannot allow our age to hold us back. We are the strong, independent and resilient women we are today because of those years behind us. In reality we have more to offer now than ever before.

I know so many women who have embraced the experience of their years and brought to realisation all of the positive opportunities that this age brings with it. What is possible depends on who we choose to be, what we choose to do, and how we choose to look. Our choice and our attitude. Ultimately it’s entirely up to us how we age. Of course we are still going to come up against entrenched societal ageist barriers, but if we recognise and remove our own, in doing so we automatically challenge society’s misconceptions surrounding age and that’s when we begin to see change.  And if we do still need to validate our age, as far as I’m concerned we should hold it up as a fine example of the best is yet to come.

 

Grace Fodor – PRO AGE warrior, Beauty Expert & Founder of Studio10. Passionate about challenging outdated stereotypes, anti-ageing and ageism to celebrate age. Providing education on how to apply makeup for older women.

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