It’s hard to be excited about getting older when you can’t see anyone ahead of you. With so much of our society oriented towards being young (and staying that way), we’re more inclined to look backward and resent what we’ve lost rather than forwards towards all the good things yet to come. Spoiler: the modern world may not shout about it often, but life goes on when you pass your 20s, 30s, and 40s. In fact, it can be pretty incredible.
No industry unashamedly celebrates youth over age quite like show business. This year the annual Annenberg Foundation study found that in more than 1,000 films released between 2007 and 2017, just 24.6% of the women on screen were over the age of 40. Even as the entertainment industry begins to engage in conversations about diversity and accurate representation, only a few months ago actress Jane Fonda revealed that the studio execs behind Book Club (a film about four lifelong friends whose lives change after reading Fifty Shades of Grey) said they would only produce the film if the characters were younger.
"It's an industry that's very much driven by youth and beauty. Ageism is alive and well. I think that's beginning to change though," Fonda said. It’s no secret that it's a different reality for older men, however. We know that women are considered to be at their peak at 20, while men hit their prime in their 40s. Research has even demonstrated how the likes of Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington and George Clooney play characters their own age, but the women playing opposite them either stay the same age or get younger.
But Fonda is right; there is change on the horizon. 2018’s award season was flooded with acceptance speeches by some of Hollywood's most wonderfully talented women, such as Frances McDormand and Nicole Kidman, who thanked actresses over the age of 40 for the "trailblazing performances you have given over your career". She added: "Twenty years ago, we were pretty washed up by this stage in our lives, so that’s not the case now. We have proven these actresses and so many more are proving that we are potent and powerful and viable."
To celebrate these trailblazing women who refuse to be invisible past 50, who challenge society's stubborn perception of the "older woman", who continue to tell stories about life beyond middle age, we've rounded up some of the brilliant things they've said about aging. Click through and feel really damn good about what getting older actually means.
"The weird thing is, you get more comfortable in yourself, even as time is giving you less reason for it. When you’re young and beautiful, you’re paranoid and miserable. I think one of the great advantages of getting older is that you let go of certain things."
"When you’re young, there’s so much now that you can’t take it in. It’s pouring over you like a waterfall. When you’re older, it’s less intense, but you’re able to reach out and drink it."
"I am appalled that the term we use to talk about aging is 'anti'. Aging is as natural as a baby's softness and scent. Aging is human evolution in its pure form."
"The older you are, the more interesting you are as a character. There’s a whole life history and knowledge of the world and self-possession that come from someone who has seen more. That experienced point of view is always more exciting."
"What's released me most from the fear of aging is self-awareness … I’ve never determined my value based on my looks or anything physical. I’ve been through a lot in life and what has gotten me through is strength of character and faith."
"It's the rudest word in my dictionary, 'retire'. And 'old' is another one. I don't allow that in my house. And being called 'vintage'. I don't want any of those old words. I like 'enthusiastic' and I like the word 'cut' because that means you've finished the shot."
"There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It’s not seen as a gift. Something happened culturally: No one is supposed to age past 45 — sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally. Everybody dresses like a teenager. Everybody dyes their hair. Everybody is concerned about a smooth face ... [Looking old is a signal] that you are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information."
"We're still living with the old paradigm of age as an arch. That's the metaphor, the old metaphor: You're born, you peak at midlife, and decline into decrepitude. Age as pathology. But many people today – philosophers, artists, doctors, scientists – are taking a new look at what I call 'the third act' – the last three decades of life. [...] What is the appropriate new metaphor for aging? A more appropriate metaphor for aging is a staircase – the upward ascension of the human spirit, bringing us into wisdom, wholeness, and authenticity."
"I'm baffled that anyone might not think women get more beautiful as they get older. Confidence comes with age, and looking beautiful comes from the confidence someone has in themselves."
"I’ve never felt so powerful and so calm. I just don’t care, because I’m too old. It’s such a great feeling. You don’t get to judge me. I’m my own person, I don’t care what you think."