The end of anti-ageing? The benefits of growing older

SARAH Jane Adams is just like any in-demand model - jetting from Sydney to New York, Paris or India is all in a day's work. And like many of her peers, Adams' modelling career started via social media, when she began posting selfies and quickly amassed tens of thousands of fans of her quirky style.

Within a year she'd bagged herself a modelling contract with international agency IMG, and now her Instagram followers have catapulted to more than 155,000.

Pretty impressive for a woman who spent more than 30 years as an antique jewellery dealer and only became a model at 60.

For Adams, her recent success boils down to the fact that she doesn't "give a damn about ageing".

By refusing to let age define her, she has been able to kick-start a whole new career and travel the world, having a blast doing it.

Ms Adams has a huge social media following.
Ms Adams has a huge social media following. Richard Dobson

And why not? Gone are the days when growing older meant slowing down. Last year, a survey found Aussies over the age of 50 rated themselves healthier and fitter than most 25-year-olds, while Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 50- to 54-year-olds make up the greatest proportion of travellers.

So, with so much to embrace about getting older, why are we constantly being told to antiage?

"The term 'anti-ageing' is based on older people's fears and insecurities," Adams says.

"Inside, we still feel exactly the same, we need to age with dignity and acceptance and be proud of what we've achieved and what we're continuing to achieve."


WHILE there's no denying that growing older can bring with it a series of discomforts (or that products designed to ease those can be helpful), there's one thing we seem to be forgetting: ageing - despite all the stereotypes - isn't a dirty word.

When you really think about it, the very idea of preventing ageing is counter-intuitive, something 72-year-old Hollywood star Helen Mirren spoke out about in a recent interview.

"You only have two options in life: die young, or get old. There is nothing else," she said.

Aussie media legend Ita Buttrose, 75, agrees, arguing that it's time we stopped using the term 'anti-ageing' altogether.

"'Anti-ageing' is vile. People aren't old, they're older, and I don't like the word 'mature' either, because it sounds like a piece of brie on a plate," she says.

"I know it's a cliche, but age is just a number. I prefer the word 'sophisticated', because I think we're just sophisticated women."

Seemingly insignificant phrases such as "anti-ageing" or the familiar, "she looks good for her age", aren't only outdated, they're also whittling away at our self-worth.

"The language we use around ageing is very important," Dr Emma Johnston, psychologist at ThinkWise Clinical Psychology in Adelaide, explains.

Young and old. Model Sarah Jane Adams (left) on the catwalk with a younger model.
Young and old. Model Sarah Jane Adams (left) on the catwalk with a younger model. Toby Zerna

"To say 'anti-ageing' is to say that ageing is clearly a bad thing, and those negative connotations can have a detrimental effect on self-esteem."

Whether it's the prefix "anti" or the qualifying statement "for her age", these terms can undermine someone's sense of self and make them feel invisible, when, as Buttrose explains, older people are anything but.

"Nobody's past it at 50 years old. That's out-of-date thinking and this attitude needs to be discouraged. Everyone has a contribution to make - it doesn't matter how old you are," she says.


IF THE way we feel about ageing can have a significant impact on our wellbeing, it stands to reason that getting older should be cause for celebration. Buttrose believes it's also a privilege.

"You're lucky to get older, because not everybody gets there. Some people die along the way, and that's what you've got to think about. I think if you keep yourself fit, do some exercise and stay engaged in the community, you can enjoy your older years with as much zest as you enjoyed your younger ones," she says.

"Age is no barrier. You're getting older? So what!"

While it might be common to think of older age as a downward slope, it's much more accurate to view our later years as an opportunity for reinvention something Adams knows all about. "Now that I'm older, I have more freedom. I can do whatever I want to do. I came into modelling very late in life and it's because I don't give a damn about ageing," she says.

"If you have the courage to not be sucked into the fear of anti-ageing, the world is your oyster."

These benefits of ageing are seldom talked about, but if we can work together to erase the negative connotations of "wrinkles" and being "old", these advantages deserve to and will receive more attention.

"If you focus more on the positives - like having more time to spend on your wellbeing, to see your family and engage with what you love - it will allow you to embrace ageing rather than escape it," Johnston explains.

And although it's true that your body might ache or wrinkle a little more with age, to Adams, it's a fair trade.

"I recently started another Instagram page, called @mywrinklesaremystripes, to show the real me and because I'm proud of my old, saggy face," she says.

"In the military, stripes are an accolade, a mark of commendation as you go up the ranks, so for my wrinkles are my pride. I'll always exfoliate my skin and moisturise, but that's just for my own health and vitality. I am the way I am, and I'm not going to get hung up on it, because all that's going to do is hold me back."

We couldn't agree more.


Changing the rhetoric around anti-ageing is the first step to embracing agelessness. Try these simple swaps


If the word "elderly" conjures up negative emotions, use "elder" instead, as it's associated with leadership, intelligence and influence.


Hate the stereotype of a senior citizen? Be wise instead. It draws attention to your wisdom and perception rather than the things you lack.


According to Johnston, the term "geriatric" can be an insult. Use "older adult", and you'll evoke notions of experience and competence instead.

Originally published as Is the era of anti-ageing over?

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