Here's What Women Over 60 Should Do for Themselves
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6 Things Women Over 60 Are Told They Shouldn’t Do — But They Should

The key messages you should feel free to ignore.

illustration of woman with multiple hands holding different items
Ana Cuna

They’re everywhere. Those pesky messages bombarding us about how we women over 60 are supposed to dress, act and live our lives. But who, exactly, made these rules, and why should they apply to every — or even any — woman? Can’t we be the person who makes that decision for ourselves? I say we can. Let’s look at some of the misguided things dictated to us that we should ignore.

Hair stories

If you go gray, you’ll add 10 years to your age. If you don’t go gray, you’re not being natural. If you color your hair, you’ll look younger. Every woman should cut her hair to look like an adult.

Can’t we somehow cure the coiffure battles?

Take my older sister, who had black hair that she let go white, growing it to her waist. She looks ethereal now, and people stop her on the street to tell her so. She practically bounces with confidence. Then take Cher, who, while totally supportive of any woman who wants to stop coloring her hair, has said that going gray isn’t for her, that she feels best with the same hair she had in her teens.

Want a gorgeous long fall of white hair? Go for it. Want to cut it an inch all over your head? Great. Want to dye your hair pink or blue or black? My mother-in-law, who died at 101, kept her bright orange beehive and dressed up every day in the loud silky prints she loved. Who was anyone to tell her not to when she got such joy out of it?

Do what makes you feel good. Even if you are the only woman doing it.

Sports

Be careful! Don’t strain muscles or break bones or give yourself a heart attack. Bah humbug, says Alicia I. Arbaje, assistant professor of geriatrics and gerontology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. You can still build muscle and strength no matter what your age. Decline isn’t inevitable. Want to know why? There are women in their 80s and even 90s running marathons or becoming bodybuilders. Things older women worry about, like loss of balance and falls, are actually — and often — caused by inactivity and not age at all.   

Exercise boosts memory and helps prevent dementia. Being inactive is also worse for both your heart and your joints. Yes, check with your doctor. Yep, start slow. But if you think you can’t be the odd woman out in a gym full of gorgeous young people in spandex, think again. You can be the inspiring older person, an example for them to follow. Don’t want to go to the gym? Bring the gym home. I have both a rebounder and a stationary bike at home, and every time I use them, I feel stronger, calmer, and I know I’m doing something good for both my body and my mind.

Hiding any sort of aging or disability to appear younger

Disability and infirmity equal aging. Or do they? My friend had terrible diabetes that impaired her ability to walk. At first, depression hit. Then she got a cherry-red scooter decorated with glitter that could motor all over town. She was delighted at the mobility, stopped to talk to anyone and made new friends. Everyone knows the tired stereotype that hearing impairments are the hallmark of aging — and something to mock. But people of all ages lose hearing. I lost some hearing after giving birth at 42. Of course, I was secretive about it, until this new company, ReSound, began a revolution by changing the story, encouraging people to consider hearing aids the same way we do glasses. What can make you feel younger more than being able to experience the whole world around you with ease and style? I refuse to let anyone pigeonhole me into their idea of the older person mishearing words and barking, “What? What?” Instead, thanks to my cutting-edge technology, my hearing is often better than that of most people.

Enjoyable sex, coming right up

We all know that sex changes as we get older, but does that mean we should give it up? Hell, no. Not when there are zillions of lubricants around and sex toys. Sex isn’t just intimacy; it revs up the hormones we need, boosts health and happiness too. Yes, orgasms might take longer, but what’s wrong with prolonging the pleasure? “I’m done with that,” one of my friends told me, adding: “Who the hell wants to date a woman in her 70s?” Well, a lot of people do. And the ones that don’t, well, do we really want someone who cannot see beyond the wrinkles to the dazzling person beneath? My mom, by the way, fell in true love for the first time at 93 and stayed in love — and intimate — until she died. Love can happen at any age.

Clothing and makeup dos and don’ts

Often, in my social media feed, I get these annoying ads for “10 Outfits No One Over 50 Should Ever Wear.” No more blue eyeshadow. No short skirts. No dowdy long skirts. Lighter foundation. You know what? Every time I wear a favorite pair of bell-bottoms I saved from the ’70s, I feel great. I strut in them and, yes, people notice. But then I smile, and they smile back.

Thinking you are old

Age is a number. Ask yourself instead, how old do I feel? And then be that person. Want to know the only real shouldn’t for women over 60? People shouldn’t tell other people what they should or shouldn’t do. Period. So who are you? The person you really want to be.

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