Attractive Older Women: Our Obsession With Aging Well

Updated April 20, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

The world's obsession with women aging is well-known and well-documented. Entire industries have been built on the premise that women should maintain a certain degree of attraction as they age. Facial creams, cellulite lotions, fat-removal procedures, and Botox all work to minimize the standard effects of aging to make women appear younger and, consequently, more attractive. What is the reasoning behind this obsession?

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What Constitutes An Attractive Woman?

The term "attractive" is largely subjective. There are the classic facial features that are considered attractive (symmetry typically designates this). There’s also a general idea of a body shape that is considered ideal, but attraction itself is often linked to youth, rather than a distinct size, shape, or general appearance of one's features.

This interest in youth as a measure of attraction is not new; descriptors such as "rosy cheeks" – which are often associated with children – have long been linked to feminine beauty. Full lips, large eyes, and smooth skin are also often associated with attractiveness, and each of these traits is also linked to youth. As you age, your skin loses much of its plump appearance and grows both thin and saggy, and skin might begin to show wrinkles, pockmarks, and discolorations. These signs of aging are inversely related to attractiveness, suggesting that younger women are more attractive than their older counterparts.

Aging And Attraction

Even in relationships, age has been linked to a decrease in feelings of attraction. One study found that men consider their wives or partners less attractive as they age, and although love might not decrease with age, attraction and sexual interest often do. This means that, although men might not leave their wives as they age and still consider their love life strong and vital, they might allow their eyes to wander more to "make up for" the loss of attraction they experience for their wives.

Conversely, women often do not experience this same change and might even experience the opposite. While attraction is often largely due to physicality for men, women usually have a more robust set of traits that inspire attraction for someone and may feel that closeness, compatibility, and love are ways to increase attraction, regardless of someone's actual physical appearance.

Youth And Its Appeal

Some evolutionary scientists have posited that youth's interest as an indicator of beauty is based largely on the need to procreate and further your line. Younger women were more likely to be fertile and were, therefore, more desirable to men. Although this might have been believed to be true at one point, increasing bodies of evidence suggest that this is not necessarily the case. Women are fertile well into their thirties and forties, with only a small increase in maternal and infant mortality rates, provided that a healthy diet and lifestyle are adhered to. Men, too, experience a significant drop in their hormonal ability to father children as they age, suggesting the idea that perpetually-fertile men and women with a small window of fertility should pair up is inaccurate.

Nevertheless, the notion of youth as an indicator of beauty persists. Young women are encouraged to wear makeup, display their figures, and engage in adult behaviors younger and younger, with preteens learning how to apply makeup, dress to suggest a more mature figure, and rid their bodies of hair. Youth is simultaneously suppressed and idealized, creating quite a chasm for young girls, women, and aging women alike.

Aside from an evolutionary impulse, though, there may be another reason youth is considered an appealing driving force in attraction; younger people will likely have less emotional baggage in a relationship. Someone middle-aged or older might have a larger backlog of broken relationships or have kids. These factors can complicate relationships, making them unappealing for someone looking for an easier introduction to a long-term relationship.

The World's Obsession With Aging Well

The world's obsession with women aging well, then, seems to have little to do with concern for women's well-being, a women’s health, or any derivative of these. Instead, the obsession with women aging well seems to focus entirely on preserving a woman's attractiveness – which, when gone, dramatically diminishes a woman's ability to get a job, attract a mate, and even get paid appropriately for the jobs they are performing. Women are the source of countless ad campaigns and industry standards to improve by reducing the appearance of aging. Women’s physical appearances play a large and powerful role in whether they are perceived as being worthy of countless experiences in life. 

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Despite some movement toward inclusion, encompassing people of all sizes, races, and ages, the fact persists: most models are young, slender, and light-skinned, and deviation from these standards is typically an anomaly rather than something to be expected. Women are lauded not merely for aging well, but for failing to age in the way that is expected – by looking far younger than their actual age and maintaining a figure that would normally be celebrated on a much younger woman. While aging well is certainly something to aspire to, much of the conversation revolves around women appearing to age well, rather than women taking on the healthy strategies and lifestyle behaviors needed to encourage health, vitality, and longevity as they grow older.

Aging And The Beauty Industry

Although much has been made recently of the unacceptable standards placed on women, entire industries still benefit from and operate on the insecurities and fear that women have about aging and appearing older. Women are encouraged to begin adopting anti-aging skincare routines in their early twenties, while wrinkles and a widening figure are regularly criticized. Rather than celebrating the growth, wisdom, and strength that often comes with age, women are encouraged to focus their efforts on hiding or reversing the effects of aging, sometimes at the detriment of their health and wealth.

The advertising, film, and television industries certainly carry a significant amount of weight. Slender is blared in the form of who is chosen for ad campaigns, who is offered leading roles in film and television, and who is chosen to grace the cover of magazines. These messages converge to create a staggering weight on women's shoulders: be attractive or be forgotten and overlooked.

The standards placed on women can be overwhelming and can breed an unhealthy obsession with appearance and tie to worth. If you find that you fear aging or find your self-esteem consistently falling as the years on the calendar climb, it may be time to consult a mental health professional. While a therapist cannot remove all of the pressures society places on women to look a certain way and keep their youth intact as much as possible, a therapist can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms and a more forgiving, accepting mindset, which can help you find strength and confidence, no matter your age, the number on the tag inside of your clothes, or the number of wrinkles gracing your visage.

Having a strong self esteem as you grow older has been found to be important for the quality of life – including wellbeing, life satisfaction, adaptability, and health. A therapist can help you strengthen your self-esteem through techniques such as cognitive restructuring, which helps reframe negative thinking patterns. 

Studies have also found that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy in most situations. With ReGain online therapy, you can meet with a professional relationship counselor at a time that works for you from the comfort of home. For many, ReGain is less expensive than in-person therapy would be. 

Takeaway

While the beauty industry's message is clear (your worth is found in your attractiveness), there is far more to living, breathing, and being than being young and beautiful. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and varies from person to person and culture to culture, while youth and vitality are not mutually exclusive. Women of all ages can enjoy a life rich with health, vitality, and joy, whether 19 or 89. However, sometimes it takes a little help from a professional to help you realize that. Contact ReGain to get started. 

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