We live in a culture obsessed with youth. From “30 Under 30” lists to anti-aging cosmetics to fitness programs that promise to have you feeling like your youngest self again in no time, society is constantly reinforcing the notion that getting older is a bad thing. Aging, it seems, is something the modern woman should strive to avoid at all costs.
Too often, this narrative blinds us. We are made to feel that growing older—a natural biological process—is somehow synonymous with losing our relevance. The result is a harmful, dysmorphic mindset that quite literally fights against nature. Instead of contributing to conversations that vilify aging, we at KiraGrace want to open up a new conversation: Today, let’s talk about aging gracefully.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Global Ambassador Desiree Rumbaugh to get her take on the matter and dispel some of the damaging myths about aging. We loved hearing Desiree’s thoughts on rethinking the aging process, how yoga can help, and what it really means to “age gracefully”...
KG — What does "Aging Gracefully" mean to you?
Here is my answer at the ripe young age of 60. To me, aging gracefully means accepting rather than resisting the natural process of growing older, and allowing my body and face to change with time.
And, simultaneously, to me it means being willing to make whatever changes are necessary to keep myself as healthy as possible.
This is the tough part for some people. Often we hear people say “Life is short, eat the cake!” I have learned that I can truly slow down the aging process by actually upping my yoga and workout intensity, adopting some new rituals for self-care, and even further cleaning up my diet. I am very active and busy playing with my grandchildren and I continue to travel to teach yoga workshops on weekends. In order to keep myself balanced, I take time off regularly and prioritize self-care and sleep.
KG — How do you think society affects the way we feel about aging?
Society has always glorified youth in advertising. Receiving that constant message is part of what makes many of us feel invisible after midlife. The good news is that society, including Hollywood, is finally waking up and making changes. I am noticing more movies, shows and advertising that include people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. This is a good sign of the times.
KG — Do you think there is a difference in the way we talk about men aging versus women?
For sure! Men who have gray hair are silver foxes, while most women who let their hair go gray are told that we look old or tired. Off we go to the hair salon, and I am among those who still does this. I am not “ready” to let my hair show its age. I know that sounds fear-based, but it’s my choice. There are many gorgeous women out there of all ages with stunning salt-and-pepper, silver or white hair. My current plan is to wait until there is a bit more white hair and then unleash it in some very creative way.
Throughout time, older men have always been valued more highly. Thankfully nowadays older women are taking on leadership roles in every industry. More mature women are holding office, and I do believe in the Dalai Lama’s prediction. He said, "The world will be saved by the Western Woman..."
KG — How do you think we as women can support one another as we age?
Knowing that we’re not alone is very comforting. It’s so important to have friends our own age who share our interests and have the capacity to listen to us and give advice when asked. I also find it refreshing to hang out with friends twenty years younger and also twenty years older than myself. I learn new and very helpful things in both directions. When we share our experiences, about our careers, relationships, health, finances, hobbies, spiritual work, etc., we realize we are not in this alone, and we are not the first ones to deal with the inevitable challenges that life brings.
KG — What is one misnomer about aging you wish you could dispel?
That it’s a big downhill slide. This has not been my experience at all! In every way I am now a much improved version of my former self. However, I am aware that this doesn’t happen by accident. There is some measure of luck. Mostly we have to be willing and able to take care of ourselves on many levels in order to feel happy about growing older. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. I have an entire pit crew of support—friends, family, health practitioners, counselor, body workers, etc. It really does take a village.
KG — In your experience, what role does yoga and mindful movement play in the aging process?
Yoga helps us develop self-reflection, self-awareness, and self-love. While it is a humbling practice because we never “get it done,” being fully invested in our own journey inward increases our healthy self-esteem, confidence, and empowerment. We learn, often the hard way, to set healthy boundaries and make good choices. Because yoga makes us more sensitive and honest, we can know and feel into the state of our total well being. We tend to ask more questions and therefore we get more answers. We feel happier because we become the cause rather than the effect of Life.
KG — When it comes to transitions, we are often advised to “focus on the positive.” What’s one positive thing you think people should keep in mind about growing older?
Growing older just means you have more birthdays, which means you are lucky to have a wider perspective on life. Think of it as an opportunity to do what we all want to do: go back and live our life over with THIS mind full of maturity and wisdom. You don’t actually get to do that in the literal sense, but if we keep ourselves youthful with our healthy, holistic yogic attitude and practices, you get to live the rest of your life with this more mature wisdom guiding you, and it’s definitely the next best thing.
KG — What do you think when you look in the mirror and see yourself changing over time?
I can still see the 20-something with the twinkle in her eye smiling back at me. She’s saying, “Keep up the good work, and keep having fun."
KG — How can we open up the conversation about aging gracefully so that getting older doesn’t feel like such a taboo topic?
We can be excited about what we are learning or where we plan to visit on our next vacation or who we just met! People do complain about aging and I think that has something to do with not feeling seen or needed. Rather than whining about how I feel invisible, overlooked, or put out to pasture, my plan is to be so creative and involved in life that I continue to make helpful contributions. I can’t be a has-been if I keep re-inventing myself.
KG — Do you have any mantras or specific inspirations you look to when it comes to easing your mind about aging?
Here’s a great mantra:
“Do not grow old no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” - Albert Einstein
I feel that having role models is very important because they help us see what’s possible. These are some of mine. I am impressed by their attitude about life, their work and the fact that they never stop following their passion. Here are a few of them, in no particular order:
*Ernestine Shepherd, 83 years old, and still lifting weights and inspiring many people
*Tao Porchon Lynch, 101, still teaching yoga and dancing with hot young men
*Mimi Kirk, 81 years old, author of eight books about health, still traveling the world, offering workshops and lectures and living with a boyfriend 20 years her junior
*Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 86 years old, badass Supreme Court justice, epic warrior and legendary leader in the fight for women’s equality
*Jane Fonda, 81 years old. Revolutionary actress, author and activist. Tells it like it is and is not afraid to put herself out there