It seems possible to me that some people in our society may think of us oldsters as unsightly, past our pretty years, not much to look at. We may experience unhelpful prejudices about being old simply because some people may look at us and wonder how we came to look this way.
These possibilities lead me to a question I sometimes toss around now that I’m older: How many of us, women and men alike, think that we’re good-looking? My guess is that most of us—for reasons we know only too well—don’t use that kind of phrase to describe ourselves. It’s possible that that semi-negative self-image colors the rest of our identity, dragging down our sense of meaning and purpose. This may turn into a spiritual matter, too, showing up in our prayers or hope for our future.
Here’s how I work to counteract this matter: Because beauty truly is only skin-deep, I try to think about attractiveness in old people more sensibly. When I interact with others my age, I take a good look at their eyes and their smiles. I listen to their tone of voice and speech mannerisms that reveal what is pleasing inside the souls of these people—the parts of their inner selves that are delightfully charming. I look for hints of the personal qualities that have remained appealing over all these years: Body language that invites conversation, empathy that’s consistent, kindnesses that show in facial wrinkles, eyes that still reveal a puckish sense of humor and physical agility that persists.
All of this seems especially evident in the Silver Sneakers exercise class my spouse and I are part of. In that setting, I see energy, determination, purposefulness, warmth, caring, understanding, humor and honesty about life. I am heartened by the number of fellow exercisers who are triumphing over physical problems. I watch hope—for strength and dexterity —grow steadily. All of these attributes comprise the kind of personal appeal that comes from deep inside these good folks.
As I strive to mature beyond shallow understandings of being attractive, I hold the hope that others will set aside their elderly-prejudices. That they would admire in others those personal qualities that aren’t visible at a quick glance, seeing in each older adult person someone they can respect, admire and even love. That they would expand their understanding of what constitutes an appealing personality, and that they see in their own selves the beauties of God’s creative hand.
Nothing unsightly about any of that, hmm?
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