When middle age arrives, it can announce itself with added pounds, a changing shape and a tough time going clothes shopping. No doubt a positive body image can be difficult to maintain as you get older, so two women decided to take the struggle public in an effort to put everyone at ease.
Lori Petchers, 57, and Faith Baum, 63, came up with the idea for a photo project to reflect older women's struggles with their changing bodies. Petchers and Baum, both post-menopausal women and mothers, told The Huffington Post that it was a common discussion topic in their circles.
"Middle-aged female bodies are rarely seen except in advertisements about lifting, incising, creaming and hiding," Baum and Petchers said.
So they decided to change that. Enter, "Old Bags."
A photo series was imagined to "poke fun at consumerism." Middle-aged women ages 45 to 70, of all body shapes, races and sizes, were asked to bravely strip down to their underwear, and show off their bodies proudly -- but anonymously. They are all wearing shopping bags on their heads.
The project's creators say they wanted older women to know they aren't alone.
"A lot of middle-aged women have little idea of what is typical of an aging woman’s body. They think they are the only ones with saggy thighs, loose skin and everything else," the creators say. "It is so important to normalize aging. And to feel comfortable in our own skin."
The project was launched a few years back and has since grown into more than just powerful images. The photos have been featured in several art shows, an independent exhibit, and most recently, a book. "Old Bags Taking A Stand" features photos of women, as well as anecdotes on aging taken from hours of interviews -- all for other women to draw strength from.
"Many women see middle age as the end -- the end of children, sexuality, youth," Baum and Petchers said. "But the project has made us realize that many of us have 30 to 40 years ahead ... it's a chance to reap the benefits of past endeavors and start some new ones."
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"Hiding their heads with bags, forces the viewers really look at the body – which we think is very important," Baum and Petchers said.