America is aging. We know it. We must face it.
Forty may be the new 30 in some people's minds and 59 the new 50 -- or in nip-and-tuck Hollywood, they imagine it to be 40. Your body, though, sometimes tells you that the new 59 is 60. A reality is that every day more than 7,000 Americans turn 65. By 2030, 18 percent of Americans will be senior citizens, up from 12 percent today. That trend is true for the majority of nations.
I am often asked to share my tips on "aging gracefully," an expression I don't like. "Aging with attitude" is what I believe in. "Dying gracefully" is a different and perhaps apt phrase, though only if it is "noble and brave" in Hemingway's words. But who wants to talk about dying? Approaching the inevitable is as much a mental exercise as a physical reality, and I want to talk about living with style, perhaps some elegance and certainly with pleasure.
So, it's good to have a plan -- a strategy based on "knowing thyself," common sense and a zest for life. For me, it is about being bien dans sa peau through all episodes and stages in life. You and I don't have the same genetics, we don't live in the same places, we don't have the same resources, but we can have the same basic attitude: being comfortable in our skin. Your own skin. We are all unique, so no plan fits all sizes. Creating your own plan is vital, so you'll have to do some homework that nobody else can do for you. And having a plan is a mental approach to aging; it's an attitude.
The images and plans touted in today's media (often by celebrities) and then globalized, have made things worse. Yes, we live longer, but the cult of youth has made women more and more self-conscious and obsessed with looking younger than they actually are. Too often giving up seems like the easy way out. Too many women 40 and up se laissent aller, let themselves go. Look around: fat is becoming scarily acceptable and so is dressing down, poorly and distastefully. Then there are the quick fixes promoted on talk shows, in women's magazines and blogs, and with celebrities' recipes, tricks and tips, invented by all sorts of "experts."
Every week a new recipe, diet or product is born to keep you young, skinny or beautiful. Believable? For the most part, no. Develop a system with some healthy rituals, some fun and spontaneity, some fine tuning and reinvention as years go by -- nothing drastic or painful. The earlier you start the better, but let age 40 be your latest start date. It's nature's start signal, for sure.
Here are a few tips to get you cogitating and (hopefully) taking action:
Mireille Guiliano is the best-selling author of French Women Don't Get Fat and three other books. For more than 20 years, she was the spokesperson for Champagne Veuve Clicquot and a senior executive at LVMH. Guiliano was also CEO of Clicquot, Inc., the U.S. firm she helped found in 1984. Read her blog on Red Room.