Why do we think aging is ugly?

Years ago, I read an article about a group of social scientists who went around the world asking different cultures what attributes they value most. (Be forewarned – I have long since forgotten where I read about the study and can’t provide the evidence. I don’t remember much else about it other than the three shared human attributes/values they presented ahve always stuck with me.)

They are: Health. Education. Youth.

NOw, Health and Education make sense. Our physical and mental health impact everything we do, how we are in the world as well as how we see the world.

Youth was an interesting one to me.

Yet, if I drill down into the idea that Youth is extolled by cultures around the world, I can see where it outranks things like Beauty.

Beauty can be subjective. Take piercings. There was a time where in North American culture, piercings were beautiful if in the ears. Now, they can appear anywhere on the body because for some, it looks beautiful.

Same as tattoos.

But Youth. Ah yes. No matter the cultural/social environment in which you live, youth is cherished, and nurtured. It is full of possibilities, full of opportunity, full of LIFE! – if only by the fact it is so far away from the known cause of leaving this world, death.

And here’s the thing. I do miss some of the attributes of my younger body. The way my knees and back and feet could move with ease. Heck, I’m seeing a physio right now so that I can heal some of the damage dislocating my left should 3 times has caused. I really, really want to be able to sleep on my left side again! Know what I mean?

Bottomline though, we have this unconscious/implicit bias that says – Youth is Beautiful. Age… especially when it is so visible through wrinkles and crepey skin appearing on our faces and bodies, well that’s just plain old ugly.

To be clear, I don’t consciously hold those thoughts in my head — implicit bias isn’t a ‘conscious’ thought. It lies stealthily buried beneath centuries of conditioning and social assumptions that undermine our worth, value and ability to celebrate ALL of what it means to be on this human journey – at every age.

Today’s video talks about this issue through the lens of what recently transpired here in Canada with Lisa LaFlamme, a Canadian icon in the broadcasting news arena. Bell/CTV ended her contract abruptly, cutting off her access to millions of loyal followers of her nightly National News.

The uproar has been loud, angry and at times, bitter. Lisa LaFlamme has risen above the fracas and demonstrated what it means to ‘age with grace’. And while 58 doesn’t seem that old to me, to her employers, it apparently was. Especially when combined with her decision to not continue dying her hair and go ‘au naturel’ on millions of TV screens. For Ms LaFlamme it was a beautiful and impactful gesture of solidarity with the millions of women who chose to stop dying their hair through Covid’s advances,

One unnamed source leaked a CTV executive asked, “Who told her she could let her hair go grey?”

Seriously?

I don’t think Mother Nature gives us a choice. It just does.

For some of us, like me, hiding it takes too much work. I can’t be bothered to dye it.

For others, the choice is to colour it.

Either way — it is our personal choice how we deal with Mother Nature’s flow.

Underlying all of this is a question I keep returning to. It’s one of the questions I ask in my video today and I do hope you share your thoughts and wisdom and experiences. Because… I still don’t have an answer: Why do we think aging is ugly?

19 thoughts on “Why do we think aging is ugly?

  1. I’m very much enjoying your posts on aging❤️
    I too am struggling with aging . My hair turning grey , my weight gain and most of all who I am !!
    My mother never seemed old when she passed in her 80’s She always dressed and looked beautiful and she was just WHO she was.
    For me I’m not sure who I am or how I should be
    Maybe I’m missing the point of just enjoying who I am and where I am at this time .
    I’ve not been here before so how would I know🤷‍♀️
    Barb

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh Barb — I can relate — and I wonder… perhaps it isn’t about Who am I? as much as I CHOOSE to be ME — exactly as I am — which for me, is about acknowledging I have mixed emotions around this thing called ‘aging’ — even though I’ve been doing it all my life! 🙂 And…. being me means I get to be vulnerable without worrying about what others think of me or even if they are judging me.Their judgements of me are simply that – theirs. That my voice matters, because it’s My Voice. That my worth is never in question because it is MY Worth. That my ‘appearance’ doesn’t matter because it is simply that, “My Appearance” — it is how I look, grey hair and all and I have grown comfortably into my look.

      I so appreciate your comment and the opportunity to explore deeper into all of it, all of me, all of what makes us magnificent human beings – no matter our age!

      Many hugs ❤

      Like

  2. The opportunity for Lisa to be celebrated and CTV to be vilified – is gaining lots of traction, but I wonder if – while drawing attention, rightly so, to this miscarriage of justice…there is the risk that we as a society don’t recognize this event as a one-off situation, but rather an everyday bias that exists throughout our society. The reality is that any labour lawyer you talk to will confirm that most efforts of constructive dismissal are successful because employers/decision-makers keep their mouths shut and have their lawyers vet their statements and documents.

    So, given I feel that way and am also a working/not-retiring person of 71, what can you or I do about this? I think we shine light, as you are, on the subject. But don’t we all need to up our game, to speak with people regardless of their age or hair colour, in terms of respect and interest in what they do, and support them to keep on doing it – instead of questioning when they are retiring, why aren’t they retiring, or how long they’ve been retiring. Retirement and/or being marginalized because of age is something we need to realize is a circumstance created by ‘everyone,’ and we are all a subset of ‘everyone’. We need to treat others as we wish to be treated and celebrate each other for who we are and what we are doing rather than for what we aren’t doing or for what we used to do before being put out to pasture …

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree Mark. Silence is unhealthy and it allows the ‘ism’ to continue to rage and rampage through our lives.

      We all have a role to play — which is why these types of conversations are so important.

      Thank you for being part of the conversation and the change!

      Like

  3. Louise,
    What an interesting reflection.
    I can’t control how others see me but I can control how I see myself. As I age I continue to ask myself, “How can I nurture my vitality?” I have been focusing more on that than looks. Yet, I do care how I present myself and admit that I don’t want to look old. That isn’t how I want to feel.
    I wish our culture valued older generations for their wisdom and saw more beauty in the changing body but all I can do is be a role model for those younger women coming up behind me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Youth is a stage of one’s very existence, defined by numbers usually which vary depending on one’s ethnicity, culture or even a country’s laws. Whereas beauty is “in the eye of the beholder” and that too varies on one’s ethnicity, culture and upbringing, There are so many “role models” for “beauty” such as physical appearance, skin, make-up, body shapes etc. (Methinks the advertising world would collapse if there were no beauty products to promote!) This “unconscious bias” that YOUTH equates with BEAUTY is a phenomena that gets stronger as we grow older, as we age. Is this what the folks at CTV were using as the basis for their thinking when they manipulated Lisa Laflamme into “resigning”, “retiring”? I would like to see an employment contract today that explicitly states a woman MUST colour her hair to hide the natural aging process as a condition of employment. Guaranteed such a case would be fast-tracked to a Supreme Court somewhere. I salute Lisa Laflamme for taking the high road as she took her exit from CTV.
    BTW – why are many successful female managers/ executives described as being aggressive when men in similar positions are described as assertive?
    Why are men with gray -hair or balding with gray fringe described as distinguished, yet women with gray or salt ‘n pepper hair are described as aging,
    I am not aging gracefully, I am maturing with grace! My life’s experiences including professional, give me the confidence to debate, advise, speak my mind with some authority and knowledge. My now-ash gray hair with streaks of white are proof of my age, my experiences. Yet, today I bought a pair of coral coloured sandals, just because I can. 70 does not mean I have to wear black sensible footwear to go with my ash gray hair.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love you dear friend! Your ability to cut through disorder and create orderly thinking is phenomal. And your insights are always interesting, exciting and provocative/inspiring

      I love this frame — I am not aging gracefully, I am maturing with grace!

      And then…. here’s the thing… I wonder if we don’t share an unconscious bias around the word ‘aging’. If we have incapsulated it internally, deep inside, to be synonymous with the idea that ‘to age’ is not good. Therefore ‘aging’ is bad and the more socially acceptable term is ‘to mature’.

      That’s the thing about unconscious bias — we take on these notions of a certain thing being black or white, good or bad, and then create systems to circumvent the unconscious bias — rather than face it with elan and say — JUST AIN’T TRUE. Aging ( is a beautiful, envigorating, inspiring and freedom-giving stage of life aat every age. And… every age gifts us opportunities, challenges, insights and obstacles to accept, fight against, decry, reject, embrace…

      I don’t know. It’s just the thinking that came to my mind when I realized how much I like ‘maturing’ with grace versus aging with grace — when, the fact is undeniable, irrefutable — I am aging.

      Maybe, the opportunity is to celebrate truth with grace?

      Thank you for the thought provoking framing — it is fascinating — being a wordsmith, I know the power of words — and I’m sitting with aging and maturing, letting them simmer and percolate and shake-up my status quo.

      NOw that’s a gift of aging I think — I’m much more comfortable sitting in the uncomfortable, letting it take shape without my trying to run away from it! 🙂

      Have a wonderful day my friend. ❤

      Like

  5. I’ll tell you what, the word aging, used for humans, refers to time we have been breathing on earth. In that time there is continual transformation of the chemical set of our body. It sets up for reproduction and care. We have hands and thumbs. And minds that are pretty amazing. But the time frame is limited. And it is a bugger to be so aware of the deterioration lying ahead.
    We each have our own situations, but as human beings we can relate to some extent if we reach our age when we get into the radio flyer at the top of the hill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “And minds that are pretty amazing. But the time frame is limited. And it is a bugger to be so aware of the deterioration lying ahead.:
      You say it so well Nance! The time frame is limited — and no matter what my time frame is, I want to live it fully to the best of my whole body’s abilities. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. There are so many levels of this post I could comment on, Louise. I look in the mirror and find it hard to believe that the outer matches the inner…and yet it is there. How about the way the elderly can be tossed aside…made to feel as though they no longer have anything worthwhile to contribute to the world? I witness it time…and time again. People would do well to listen…to acknowledge…heck to HONOR those who have earned every single line in their face!!
    Ok…I will stop my soap box and say that I hope all is well in your world!! 😊💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you my friend!

      The fact is, older adults and aging are underrepresented and misrepresented in our mass media.

      Older adults are victims of ‘symbolic annihilation’ a term used to describe the absence of representation of a group and the impact that has – in this case, on all ages. Because older adults have little representation in mass media (film, TV, internet), we (including all society) the underlying bias “the older you get, the more you don’t matter” begins to become a lived experience for older adults, or in many cases, a ‘belief’. This is exacerbated by the fact that what media is out there, is fraught with negative stereotyping and the medicalization of aging; leading audiences to believe that aging is nothing but decline and frailty.

      Thank you for joining in the conversation Lorrie. We are well — got through COVID in our house. whew! I was surprised how powerful a relief it was to know we could!

      Like

      • Amen, Louise! So happy you made it through Covid!!! And I can understand what a relief it must be. So far…so good without it here!
        It’s a good conversation…an important one! As each and every one of most probably will experience some form of it…it deserves some attention.
        Have a great week, Louise 😊💜

        Liked by 1 person

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