I wrote in my editor’s letter of Top Santé this month (Spring 2016), that there is a sea change going on. It's been swelling for some time, and now it’s finally mainstream. What is it? Older women/models/actresses in advertising campaigns.
It all began with Helen Mirren for L’Oreal, showing that we’re still worth it whatever age we are. And a few weeks ago, I saw a TV ad for online buying and selling site Gumtree. It was, as far as I can recall, the first positive representation of age on TV, or certainly in an advert. The commercial showed a couple in their 50s or 60s, dreaming about buying a sporty convertible and racing off for adventures to the coast without telling their grown-up children. They looked happy, healthy and youthful.
At first I was slightly stunned, as well as pleased, because until then the only adverts I’d seen featuring anyone over 50 were for stair lifts, life insurance or incontinence pads. But people over 50 aren’t the same as the 50+ year olds from previous generations. We’re all living longer and extending youth.
Women especially want to feel beautiful, relevant and just as valued no matter what birthday milestone they might have passed. And as we also wrote in Top Santé this month, age can be manipulated with your mind. The words you use about yourself can affect how you act and what you believe to be possible, just as engaging with fashion and beauty trends and looking after your health and fitness keeps you younger on the inside and out too. It’s all about mindset. And at last, this has spread into the world of media and advertising.
A gradual change in attitudes
But things didn't change over night. The ‘positive age movement’ as I’ll call it, has been building for a few years, helped by the fact that lots of prominent, respected film and TV actresses are now past 40, which used to be the death knell of Hollywood careers for women. Now, there’s Charlize Theron (40), Angelina Jolie (40), Cameron Diaz (43), Jennifer Aniston (47), Julia Roberts (48) Nicole Kidman (48), Robin Wright (50), Sandra Bullock (51), Courtney Cox (51), Demi Moore (53) and Julianne Moore (55). All of them look incredible and are still sought after actresses. L’Oreal pushed its age bracket up gradually, at first with Andi McDowel, now 57, then the aforementioned Julianne Moore, and now Helen Mirren, who at 70 has to be their most mature ambassador to date. And three cheers for that!
It certainly makes me optimistic that by the time I reach my 70s, the Western world will be much more appreciative of older women and perhaps it will even open up new career opportunities for me. After all, I certainly don’t plan on retiring ever. Especially after I heard respected women’s health guru Christianne Northrup, author of Goddesses Never Age declare that we start to hit our stride at 65 and that "ageing is optional".
Charlize Theron says a similar thing in her interview in Psychologies this month (May 2016): “Women find their strength and power in their sexuality, in their sensuality within, through getting older and being secure within that,” going on to add that women come into their prime in their 40s. I know I definitely feel more confident in myself and my abilities now than I did at 22, for example. Back then I wasn’t at all sure of myself, and didn’t think I could do half the things I now know I could.
I certainly didn’t have one per cent of the confidence of Iris Apfel, the most glorious, gregarious nonagenarian around – at least with a media profile – whose documentary last year, Iris, catapulted her out of the high-brow fashion lexicon and into the mainstream.
So it isn’t a total surprise to see Iris now appearing in a commercial, for the new DS car. She, along with the likes of Baddiewinkle, the 87-year-old fashion sensation on Instagram, are changing views of age.
One day I hope I’ll be posting pics of myself at 92 with bright pink hair, doing yoga poses in a multicoloured lycra onesie on an Ibiza beach, not giving two hoots what anyone thinks (although I’m sure by then there’ll be a whole new medium, as Instagram and Twitter get relegated to the halls of social media past). That’ll be the culmination of my own internal sea change – one that means I (hopefully!) get fitter, wiser and better all round with age.