“Each of us has our own independent self-imposed timeline.” When I first heard Norma Kamali say this, I felt free. The brilliant fashion designer and pro-aging advocate landed on the pulse of what I’ve been thinking since turning 40: We are all wildly different, which means we each grow and age well in unique ways. Kamali’s insight showed me that it’s okay to let go of the self-sabotaging restrictions we break ourselves against as we get older.
It’s no news that things seem to get tougher as we age, particularly for women. Everywhere we turn there’s a message to anti-age, erase wrinkles, or (somehow!) be younger. Are we time fighters? So many people—myself included—feel anxious, concerned, and left out. The harsh narratives around aging leave me wondering: How can we change this conversation?
Featured image by Michelle Nash.
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I want to take a breath and lean into the gift of getting older. That’s why I look to women like Kamali to guide me. Thankfully, she and a slew of other trailblazing, iconoclastic women are showing the middle finger to the constricted (and mean!) ideas around maturing by creating their own rules about how to age well. To create a manifesto, I corralled some of the most refreshing insights on aging from trailblazers near and far. I’ve turned to these bits of sage wisdom when I’ve felt down. Every word showed me that the best is yet to come.
Because to age well is to live fully. This calls for loving yourself and those around you, appreciating all the beauty, and squeezing every minute of the fleeting time we have.
I want to take a breath and lean into the gift of getting older.
11 Pieces of Wisdom on How to Age Well—From Trailblazing Women (And a Guy!)
#1: Youthfulness is a mindset
“When you get older, you realize that staying healthy is joyful and critical because age isn’t so much chronology,” activist and actor Jane Fonda told Glamour earlier this year. “You can be very old at 84, which is my age, but you can also be very young.” Fonda is epitomizing this mindset as she continues to charge forward with her activism sixty-plus years after she famously began passionately speaking her mind on all things political, cultural, and feminist.
#2: Every day is a chance to “grow better”
After a wildly successful career as a model and actress, Brooke Shields is focusing on shifting the narrative around age. The entrepreneur recently founded Beginning is Now, a wellness brand and platform rooted in her belief “that every day is a chance to begin again.” Shields told People Magazine that she was inspired to start her new venture after learning how many women didn’t believe they were entitled to feel powerful or beautiful after a certain age. That must change, she says. “Yes, my body [and] my skin is different at 57 than it was in my 20s, but that’s not what I’m coveting. I’m not trying to grow younger, I’m trying to grow better and more confident.”
#3: Cook and eat what you love
Eating clean and healthily is important, yes. But so is indulging in what makes you happy—and that is what glorious Babs Costello does with abandon. The 73-years-young TikTok sensation, who says she’s “everyone’s grandma,” floors me every single time she posts a cooking video with vigor. Her motto? Eat well, be around those you love, and have fun.
#4: Never lose the excitement for what’s next
If anyone makes 50 look good, it’s Tracy Ellis Ross. As she ended her run in the successful TV show, “Black-ish,” this year, she began leaning into new projects and new adventures. She talked about leaning into the unknown on TODAY, saying “I feel like I’m in the time of wander, ponder, be, and figuring out. What’s the next dream? What do I want next in this next chapter of my life?” And as for turning 50, Ross says it’s all about gratitude. “I have always loved getting older,” she continued. “I feel like I am wiser, I’m more comfortable in my skin.”
#5: Write the story of YOUR life
“I think everybody should write the story of their life,” Jennifer Grey said in an interview earlier this year, as she was promoting her brilliantly titled memoir, Out of the Corner. “We’re all so busy telling everyone else’s story. Especially in Hollywood.” I got goosebumps the first time reading the 63-year-young actress’s words, as I still do. Because as Grey proclaims, owning your path is more than a road to happiness. It’s about emboldening others around you to do the same. “Take back your narrative. It’s one of the most empowering things you can do. For yourself. For your kids. And not only is it a radical act of self-inquiry that can lead to really knowing yourself, but it can also shine a light on where it is you want to go.”
#6: Ageism is “old-fashioned”
Vera Wang, the inimitable fashion designer, has it all right in my mind. I love her outlook on never succumbing to the expectation of trying to stay young according to others’ expectations. “I never thought about going way out of my way to preserve youth in a fanatical, obsessive way,” she told BBC this year. When asked about her secrets to vitality and success, Wang applauds sleep and a daily vodka cocktail. I’m in.
#7: Grey Is gorgeous
When Andie MacDowell first stepped out on the red carpet in 2021 donning brilliant silvery corkscrew curls, the media had a frenzy. The longtime actress and model was proving to the world that a woman’s hair color needn’t be something that bends according to society’s age expectations. “I don’t want people to have the expectation that I need to look younger to have value or to be beautiful or desirable,” MacDowell exclaimed in an interview for Vogue. “We don’t do that to men! We love an older man. We love men as they age. I would love the same expectation for women, and we’re getting there… you know, baby steps.”
#8: Always ask for help
Speaking of men…. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s advice is so good, I had to include it. For his recent project, the action star got into the best shape of his life, he told Men’s Health. But this went beyond impeccable physical condition. Johnson reached new strengths for his mental, spiritual, and emotional shape, and he credits much of it to finally learning to ask for help, after 50. “I think one of the defining, seminal moments in my life was when I really realized the power and the value of asking for help,” he said. “Ego gets in the way, and we start stuffing things deep down in our guts, which is not a good thing,” he says. “I’ve become an advocate for asking for help.”
#9: Never dress your age
There goes Norma Kamali again, burning down the house of ageist fallacies. In her book, I Am Invincible, and in various interviews, Kamali breaks all the rules by saying that women—and anyone—should wear whatever they want, no matter how many birthdays they’ve celebrated. “A healthy lifestyle is much more valuable, but clothes do have a value,” Kamali said. “They can change how we feel in a day, and how we present ourselves. That’s why I say ‘don’t dress your age’ because that chronological age is a number—and you shouldn’t put yourself into that box.”
#10: Growing older should be celebrated
Paulina Porizkova, the self-proclaimed “accidental former supermodel” and writer, has grown to be one of the most inspiring public voices on aging with power. At 57-years-young, the activist gets bold on Instagram, sharing her honest thoughts on makeup, filters, societal expectations, and loving her changing body and face. It’s downright inspiring to watch her own it. I especially loved what she posted earlier this year that “Aging is not a disease.” She continued, “It should be celebrated for what it is. Growth and change.”
#11: That need to be and look perfect? Let it go.
Gwyneth Paltrow has given countless women permission to embrace themselves. I saw it firsthand when I worked at goop: the founder’s unparalleled knack for cracking open a person’s confidence, all by leading by example. When Paltrow turned 50 this past fall, she broke open a new chapter on aging with power by proclaiming her desire to let go of perfectionism. Paltrow wrote, honoring her “silver hair and fine lines,” that her body is something to celebrate and honor. “I have a mantra I insert into those reckless thoughts that try to derail me: I accept. I accept the marks and the loosening skin, the wrinkles. I accept my body and let go of the need to be perfect, look perfect, defy gravity, defy logic, defy humanity. I accept my humanity.”