In a world that's often intensely focused on youth and outward appearance, we decided to ask six local women—all over 50—their philosophy on aging gracefully. Turns out, it has nothing to do with Botox or fillers and everything to do with self-care and accepting yourself. Read on for more.
Margie Nellum Lee, 85
Retired Social Security administrator
"What I have found most useful in the aging process is remembering not to sweat the small stuff—and most things are small. It is also important to surround yourself with active young people and to continuing participating in meaningful and worthwhile organizations and causes.
“Keep God first in your life because faith will help you weather life’s storms. And keep your loved ones close because the love of friends and family is food for the soul.
“Sleep and rest at least eight hours per night but keep your mind and body active during the other hours and exercise. Eat mainly fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water. Avoid negativity. Keep a sense of humor and don't take yourself too seriously. And remember that laughter is the best medicine."
Claudia Swan, 77
Retired Partner at Kaufman and Swan
“I’ve always been a low- to no-drama person, and my adult life has mainly been one of relative comfort. I’ve been with the love of my life for nearly 50 years and have dear and fascinating friends. Getting here wasn’t always a smooth ride—there was a health scare and some career hiccups along the way—but I’ve always managed my expectations and been very grateful for what I have.
“My diet and exercise regimen have been moderately disciplined, not extremely good or bad, and I don’t eat as many carbs as I’d like! I exercise three to four times per week at a moderate level, and I play lots of word games to balance out my health. And I will say that my attitude has dramatically improved with the new presidential administration.”
Betsy Kane-Hartnett, 67
Partner with New Roc Management
“Aging gracefully is a concept that I haven’t quite mastered yet, but I’m definitely making headway. It helps that I have a genuine appreciation for authenticity and tend to like things in their natural form. While I can admire a beautifully made-up face on someone else, I just don’t like a lot of makeup on me. That’s not to say that I don’t wish I was prettier and thinner and less wrinkly, but I’m only willing to go so far. A little lipstick and a high collar to hide my neck will do!
“Mostly, I want to be strong, healthy, happy, and self-reliant. Those are goals I’m willing to work toward.
“In the end, it helps to know that very few people are even looking at me. The invisibility of older women—as infuriating as it is—is convincing. It’s not my turn anymore.”
Carolina Murphy, 63
Retired IMG Academies Director of Parent Relations
“Age has always just been a number for me. For most of my life, I have had to stop and do the math to remember my age.
“In 2015, a month shy of my 58th birthday, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). I was working full-time and although my husband was retired and our kids were already living independently, I had not given much thought to retirement, aging or plans for life after work. These all seemed to be in the very distant future.
“It took about a year after God threw me what I call the 'PD curveball' that I began to focus on me, my future and my plans to age gracefully. The reality of PD was a wake-up call. My first lesson was to accept that I had a life-altering diagnosis, not a life threatening one. Whew! Lesson one: you must look for the silver lining in every situation because it’s there somewhere.
“After living a life of always putting the needs of others ahead of mine, I began to focus on putting my needs first and learning not to feel guilty about it. I still find time to volunteer and help others, but I do it without compromising my needs.
“Exercising and moving daily is a must for people with PD—but guess what? It’s important for all of us. Committing to a daily regimen of some form of movement, workout or sport is key to aging gracefully. It is not only good for the body but for our mental state of mind as well. And I believe that finding time to be quiet every day and feel a connection with whatever spiritual being you believe in is necessary and non-negotiable.
“It’s not too late to try new things, make new friends, read more, take naps, start a new hobby, take up a new sport--I could go on and on. Above all, I know in my heart that I always gave 100 percent to my family and job, but now it’s my turn—and it feels glorious!”
Kat Schuetz, 51
Author, The Gypspirit
“Nature is our most powerful teacher in aging gracefully. There is an unmatched joy, beauty and strength in nature’s selfless ways of embodying and expressing change and aging. I try to be very conscious of the cycles around me. For instance, I know the moon’s phases and the sun’s positions throughout the year. I take walks on the beach and connect with the water’s tides. I plant flowers, plants and herbs, witnessing their growing and withering. I meditate in nature to get in sync with her flow and her ever-changing energies. And I eat the seasonal foods that nature provides.
“If I have a melancholy moment while being confronted by my face’s age, I honor it. I feel it with compassion. I don’t deny it until I suddenly smile. And with this smile, I gracefully return to the endless flow of life I belong to.”
Victoria Kasdan, 61
CEO, Mission Made Possible, LLC
“I found myself chuckling as I remembered the old adage, 'Black don’t crack.' Some say the phrase refers to the resilience and perseverance of Black people, who continue to prevail despite the atrocities and subtleties of racism. However, most attribute it to the fact that many people with Black skin don’t seem to age as quickly , often giving us a more youthful appearance.
“I spend a few more dollars on products that emphasize my good features and diminish those that seem to be aging more quickly than the rest. Although my parents professed that Black is beautiful, today—as a Black woman in her 60s—I feel much more comfortable in the skin I’m in, inside and out, and I think it shows.
"These days I’m often steeped in community service helping others, but some days, I’m just doing me. I love nothing better than a day at the spa or a mental health day at home full of self-love. I’ve gotten better at leveraging the slower aging process heredity gave me, along with the physical and psychological aspects that are within my control. While I don’t always get it right, I am in surprisingly good health, and most days I feel good and look good."