We live in a youth obsessed, youth driven culture. Everywhere around us screams the message – be young! Stay young! Young rules! We do not revere our elderly for their experience and maturity as some other cultures do. We tuck the old away in nursing homes and assisted living complexes and rarely visit. We don’t want the reminder of what we will all become someday. Instead we relish our youth and try to extend it for as long as possible.
Our media promotes the idea of the power being young. Reality TV shows champion outrageous antics of young people with shows like teen moms, toddler beauty pageants, and someone named Honey boo-boo (or something like that? – Never seen it). Hollywood, magazines, the music industry all collude to convince us that young is in and old is out. The reasons for maintaining a youthful culture are all monetary – changing fashions, changing ideas, money changing hands.
As baby boomers, the biggest generation in numbers, age up the new slogan is “50 is the new 30” which means that “60 is the new 40” and so on. It’s true that we are living longer, but apparently we want to live younger not just longer. So how does youth get communicated? There are four primary factors that determine how old a person is perceived to be, all of them somewhat in your control to some degree.
The biggest factor in determining someone’s age is their gait and overall flexibility of motion. In observing how energetically someone walks and moves gives an immediate impression of age. With the mind-body link a flexible body indicates a flexible mind, as indeed inflexible thinking is a trait of older people. When the energy of youth is displayed as vitality in older people, they are automatically viewed as younger than their actual years.
Hair is a big factor in determining age, but not just any hair coloring job that covers gray will do. To appear youthful hair must not be flat or dry. Flat hair without some volume screams “I’m old and my hair is thinning”; flat hair without highlights states “look at my unnatural dye job”. Men have the wonderful option of shaving their heads, which is very trendy and they should take. Being bald, once a scourge, is now preferable over slowly going bald ungracefully (i.e. comb-over, Bozo the clown look, etc.)
The TV show ‘Look 10 Years Younger’ was a great testimonial of the impact of clothing on the perception of age. The show basically took a decade of time off of the victim’s appearance in a couple of hours. This was primarily achieved by changing the clothing to a younger look from the dowdy clothes they were previously wearing. How do you dress your age but embrace your youth? The key is to stay on the upper fringes of the lower generation’s fashion so you receive the benefits but don’t go crazy. Conservative dressing is older dressing. While there is comfort in your older “uniform”, adding a few key accessory pieces to the mix keeps your hand in a fashion game. Fashion by definition is youthful.
The fourth factor, one that is hard to change immediately, is skin: skintone and wrinkling are obvious signs of age. What is the difference between a young person’s bright skin and older person’s dull skin? A nice layer of fat or toned muscle that puffs up skin that would otherwise hang limp and eventually wrinkle. Skin is our largest organ and renews itself completely every 3 weeks. Like the rest of our body, skin is a product of what we eat, more accurately what we drink. To maintain great skin it needs to be moisturized from the outside and from the inside. Drink lots of water to moisturize from the inside. Use lotion daily after a hot shower or bath when skins pores are open to drink in external moisture. And get good sleep – rest is very important for skin renewal.
These factors taken together work quickly in everyone’s mind to determine a person’s perceived age. With those perceptions come preconceived notions of capability. While there are jobs that an older appearance is respected and even demanded for credibility, for the most part youth is preferred over aged.
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: The primary advantage of appearing youthful is that youth is more attractive and attractiveness kicks in the halo effect. The halo effect deems that attractive people possess all the positive attributes. True or not true if you want to be considers smarter, more capable, curious, mentally healthy, then you will take on a more youthful appearance (without going radical).