The Beauty of Aging

It's no secret that our society has an almost crippling fear of aging and any visual indication of such. The amount of money we spend to avoid getting or looking old is outrageous. Wrinkle creams, botox, facelifts, liposuction. We fight so hard against getting older, and then once we've lost the fight, we become marginalized by the rest of society, the younger generation. Beauty is talked about as if it is something reserved for young people. This is so false! Beauty is something that is ageless.

Lately I've been poring through Advanced Style, which is an amazing street style blog featuring only stylish older men and women. The outlook on life and style that the ladies share is one of the most inspiring things I've ever heard. It's also pretty heartbreaking to hear how these beautiful and stylish ladies don't feel like they should have their photos taken because they're "just an old lady." It's such a shame that we make the older members of our society to feel lesser, just because of their age. Ari Seth Cohen, the man behind Advanced style has said
"But I'm an old Lady." This is a response I hear all the time, when I approach people and ask if I can take their photograph. I always reassure them that they look wonderful and are exactly what I'm looking for. It saddens me to think that these gorgeous,vital, and creative women are made to feel less important and less beautiful as they age. The woman above started off by questioning why I would want to photograph her. After I was finished she thanked me with a big smile on her face and told me that I had made her day. There is no question in my mind, why I would be inspired by this elegant woman. I don't want my photos to be spectacular and original, in fact I want them to get so familiar and boring that we all get used to looking at age in a new light. Maybe if we shift our attitudes towards getting older a little, the ladies I meet will start replying "But of course, I'm an Old Lady" instead.
Many people ask me if the people I photograph are looking for attention-if they are dressing up because they want people to notice them. Anyone of these marvelous ladies and gentleman will tell you that they are dressing up for themselves, because it makes them feel good. As they have gotten older their message has changed. They are no longer saying "Look At Me", but rather "I am Here".

Interestingly, most of the women on Advanced Style share that now that they are older, they feel more free to express their personal style more freely than when they were younger. For them, there's no one they need to impress anymore so they are free to just be themselves and wear whatever they want to wear or what makes them feel good! It's so sad that our culture sends the message to older people that they are no longer needed, that they can fade into the background now, because they've served their purpose and now are just a burden on society. These beautiful ladies (and gents!) featured on Advanced Style have so much life and their vivacious spirits seem to leap off the screen in a way I've almost never seen from a street style photo of a young woman.

We need to change the way we view age and aging. I think about what my grandma said, about how in her mind, her spirit, she feels the same as she did when she was 25. Now what if tomorrow I woke up feeling the exact same as I do right now, but when I look in the mirror I realize I'm 80! Of course, this would be a complete shock, but how terrible would it feel to have people dismiss me, or tell me I'm not allowed to dress the way I want to because of my age? I feel the same, I'm the same person with the same spirit and life, and yet because of my age I'm supposed to fade away. In a sense we're removing person-hood from the aging members of our society. We're telling them, "don't bother, you're old now. We don't need you, and we don't want to see you."

Cohen says of one of the women he shoots, "[she] lives by the mantra, "Look Good, Feel Good. Feel Good, Look Good." The fashion she and the other advanced style ladies display is merely a reflection of the care and thought they put into every aspect of their lives. The energy they expend towards dressing is manifested in their passion for living life to the fullest...The Healing power of style is a reciprocal process that can benefit each one of us. Let's all try a little harder to dress up, feel good, and appreciate beauty in others." I seriously want to quote so many more posts from Advanced Style, because the women he interacts with are so full of wisdom!

Okay, well, I can't not quote Ari one last time...
It is the opinion of some that as we age, we should become more conservative and not express ourselves in the same ways. I once had a woman email me to say that her grandchildren didn't want her to dress colorfully any more. They thought that she was too old to wear clothing that would make her stand out in anyway. The problem with this is that the longing for personal expression, and the need to be creative don't end at a certain age. 91 year old Ilona Royce Smithkin will tell you that she still feels young inside. It is only when she feels a slight pain, that she is reminded of her age.

The streets of New York are a wonderful place to look for inspiration. I love to walk around and scan crowds of people passing by, looking for something that catches my eye. Whether its a woman with neon dyed hair, or another with a great pair of purple glasses or still another with arms full of handmade accessories. There is something glorious to see on every corner.

What I love about the ladies I photograph is that age has allowed them a renewed sense of freedom.Their rule, is that there are no rules.They dress for themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin.That's not to say that they would all dye their hair pink or don eccentric accessories. They do what is right for them and wear what makes them feel good. As 80 year old Joyce says," To age is a privilege". I hope that the images I present are a reminder that we should never stop living life to the fullest and never stop having fun.
I invite you to scroll through Advanced Style and drink in the amazing beauty of these older women. It has seriously been one of the most encouraging things I've experienced. I personally have always looked forward to getting older and going grey! I'm sure the aches and pains that come from getting older are no fun, but like Joyce said, it's a privilege!

Share your thoughts on aging and the view of older people over at the forum.