Whenever I’m invited to talk or write about healthy aging — which also for personal reasons has become a specialty of mine — I’m usually expected to address issues of physical and mental fitness. These are certainly more pressing as we grow older, but they should not be the only concerns to consider.
Life in our senior years is as complex as at any other time. We continue to have goals to pursue and routines to maintain, although they may seem different now, and perhaps unfold at a slower pace. And while loss of abilities is a natural part of aging, we don’t have to hasten the process by being negligent. This includes every part of our existence, not the least the way we look and present ourselves to the outside world. Yes, I’m talking about such ‘frivolous’ things as fashion and style.
One of the unfortunate but inevitable effects of aging — for both men and women — is that personal care like grooming and makeup seems to require longer and greater efforts. But it remains as important as ever, and so does getting properly and tastefully dressed.
Granted, most fashion designers don’t have a mature clientele in mind when they create their collections, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep looking for new ideas and trends. Much of what you find in stores today is not that unheard of and is routinely inspired by periods we went through years or even decades ago. And then, who cares, as long as it makes us look and feel good.
But here is the thing: For many people, the ability to critically judge their appearance does indeed diminish with age. There are no obvious reasons for that. Perhaps they just stop caring or get too comfortable with what they have.
For instance, many seniors have a tendency to hold on to the things they own, including their clothing. It can be hard to toss out an overcoat or suit that once may have cost a lot of money and is still in perfect condition, but is now hopelessly out of style. Or, due to age-related loss of muscle mass and spine compaction, it no longer fits properly.
Especially older men tend to wear their clothes for too long. Eventually, their wardrobe becomes almost demeaning to them, with ill-fitting, rumpled and sagging jackets and pants.
Women make the same mistake if they keep dresses and costumes forever in their closets for those special occasions that rarely ever happen anymore. No ladies, those nineteen-eighties oversized shoulder pads won’t make you look as powerful as they used to. In any case, you don’t do yourself a favor by hanging on to that beloved old thing. Get rid of it.
Finding good color combinations is another issue. Lessening eyesight can be a problem when picking out fabrics both in coloring and texture. Of course, what goes with what is never written in stone, and arrangements that were once looked upon as no-nos have turned into must-haves later on.
But some rules usually apply one way or another. What they are at any given time is not always easily discernible, especially for those of us who don’t stay up-to-date. So, it’s worthwhile to look around stores every so often, even if you can’t find anything right away that calls your name.
There is also no shame in asking for advice. If sales personnel are not helpful, you can bring along a (perhaps younger) friend or family member who has some knowledge and interest to make you look your best.
There is also myriad information available on the Internet, and not only for seniors. After all, we are not that much different from the rest of the population, just because we have been around the block a few more times.
TIMI GUSTAFSON, a registered dietitian and health counselor, is the author of “The Healthy Diner — How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun.