Before moving to the New York City area, I lived in London for seven years. During that period, I traveled more than two dozen times to France, a place where five- or six-week vacations are the norm and many people retire comfortably at 60 or younger. I made many wonderful French friends and was more than a little awed at the way they aged so gracefully.
Are they perfect? Of course not. But certainly I admired how so many of them stayed trim while enjoying coq au vin, baguettes, andouillettes, eclairs and fondue while Americans struggled with their weight while gorging on diet soda and Lean Cuisines. I also admired the way they purchased clothes selectively, carried themselves confidently and devoured life every chance they got.
After speaking with a few of these friends, I've come up with a list of six things the French can teach us about aging well. Do you agree? Let us know in comments. And if there are things the Americans can teach THEM about aging, we'd like to hear about that as well.
1) That women of all ages can be the sensual love interests -- and not just the matronly grandmothers -- in popular movies.
Just consider Catherine Deneuve, 69, or Isabelle Huppert, 60, or Juliette Binoche, 49. These and other older French actresses such as Nathalie Baye, 65, and Sandrine Bonnaire,46, continue to nab meaty roles. In an American movie industry dominated more by the teeny-bopper set, it's hard to even name an older sex symbol other than, perhaps, Raquel Welch who's still, at 72, pretty darn sexy.
2) That less is best when it comes to makeup -- but that doesn't mean you should skimp on skincare.
Studies show that French women spend more on facial skincare products than their neighbors in Italy, Spain, Germany or the UK. Overall, nearly two-thirds of French women -- or 62 percent -- use anti-wrinkle products. (In France, a girl will begin applying anti-aging creams as early as age 15.) It's a different story when it comes to makeup. Wearing too much, according to French women, makes you look old.
3) That sex should continue to be important.
Studies show that 90 percent of French women over the age of 50 remain sexually active compared with only 60 percent of American women. But research points to a great interest in sex among those over 50 -- so why not keep it going?
4) That having just a handful of clothing items that fit perfectly is a lot better than having a whole closet full of items that aren't all that great.
American women have a habit of splurging for unnecessary items whereas French women make a habit of purchasing maybe 10 indispensable clothing items each year. French designer Anne Fontaine, known for her white shirts, once told Forbes magazine that "besides a beautiful blouse, every woman should have a great pair of jeans, black pants, a perfect skirt, a perfect little black dress and a jacket for each season."
5) That walking's the best exercise.
French women often look askance at American women who talk about going to the gym. Instead of furiously working out in zumba classes, French women tend to incorporate walking into their daily routines. They take the long way home when walking the dog; they climb stairs instead of taking the elevator. They also reject the notion "no pain, no gain," choosing instead a more sustained -- albeit more moderate -- exercise plan.
6) That what you eat -- and how much you eat -- are of vital importance.
If you've ever dined out with French friends, you'll notice that they eat smaller portions of more dishes -- instead of larger portions of fewer dishes. They eat more vegetables, drink more water and think more about the good things they want to eat rather than fret all the time about the bad stuff. When it comes to drinking, they tend to avoid hard liquor, opting for a glass or two of wine with their meal.
What else can our French counterparts teach us about aging? Tweet @HuffPost50 or comment below!
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