Mental Wellness: Aging with Grace: The Power of a Positive Attitude

by Denise O’Donoghue, Biblical Counselor

It is no secret that people are living much longer these days and feeling younger. We can thank advances in modern medicine for the extra years. Not only that, but most of the time, when I talk to people in their 50’s and 60’s, they tell me they feel more like they are still in their 40’s. Yet, outward appearances can tell a different story. Several key areas of change include our hair, skin, and body shape. Rather than try to pretend these differences don’t exist, the better option is to take charge. Embracing these changes positively can lead to a better mental outlook on life.

Hair – We all know hair has a tendency to lose its original color and become either gray or white. This is caused by loss of pigmentation in hair follicles as we age. How early we gray depends primarily on genetics. The age our parent or grandparent began turning gray is an indication of what we can expect. I turned gray in my early 40’s and saw that same trait in my father as well as his siblings. I have chosen to embrace my gray hair (I prefer to call it silver), reminding myself of an old proverb, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor…”. I save lots of time and money by not coloring my hair. However, if you prefer to color your hair, sticking with your natural color along with some well-placed highlights can make you look as young as you feel. Men, this means avoiding the “shoe-polish” black unless that was your natural color before graying.

Hair can also thin dramatically. With aging, the scalp simply produces fewer hairs. Some men will spread their remaining hair around (aka “the comb over”) to try and make their head look like it is still full of hair. This doesn’t fool anyone and actually ages you more. A better option may be to embrace the baldness. After all, many much younger men are striving for that look by actually shaving off the hair on their heads; you may have it naturally! 

Women who had long, luxurious locks in their younger years may try to keep the same hairstyle as they age, but less hair can make it look scraggly and unkempt. Beauty experts say the best way for women to disguise thinning hair is to shorten the length and add layers. For both men and women, a good rule of thumb regarding changes to the hair is to choose hairstyles that enhance your looks rather than trying to hold on to the styles of your youth. 

Skin – Wrinkles and loose skin come along with the aging process. Over the years, skin loses its natural moisture and elasticity and thins. Women should steer clear of cakey makeup and heavy powder, both of which deepen the appearance of wrinkles. A good moisturizer and a pleasant smile will do wonders in drawing the attention away from the outer wrinkles to the warm heart inside. As we think about embracing our wrinkles, it is good to remember what one author has written, “Wisdom resides in the wrinkles.” 

Body Shape – Body shape changes as we mature. One key area is the mid-section. For men, the belly is the natural storage space for excess fat, thus a potbelly develops once they begin to have less physical activity but continue consuming the same or more calories. Choosing proper dress can help camouflage the mid-section. One helpful suggestion is to choose darker-colored pants with a flat front along with suspenders to keep pants hitting at the waist rather than falling below the belly causing it to look even larger. For a more casual look, a nicely fitting untucked shirt that covers the belly elongates the trunk and minimizes the belly.

The onset of menopause and decrease in estrogen changes the body’s natural storage space from the hips, thighs, and arms to the stomach in women. Often the hips, thighs, and arms may actually become smaller while the size of the stomach increases. Women should choose clothing that takes focus off the mid-section, aiming for a higher dividing line with an empire waist fit, or a lower one such as offered with a drop waist feature that puts the seam at the hips rather than the mid-section. For both men and women, the best approach is to select clothing that is not too loose, not too tight, but rather fitted and flattering.

As time marches on we can be certain that we will experience outward signs of our body’s aging process. For a healthy outlook on these changes, adjust to the circumstances and remember every gray hair, wrinkle and change in body appearance tell the story of your life.

Denise O’Donoghue is a biblical counselor in Raleigh and a former professor for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is very blessed to have four living generations to share life with. You can reach Denise at mzdod@bellsouth.net