If real life was like a Dove commercial, every person would be considered physically beautiful, regardless of age, skin tone and size. But in reality, the media is sending the 50-and-older crowd plenty of messages about conventional beauty—and the answer isn’t frown lines and stretch marks, despite what marketing tools the Dove folks use.
What is beauty, according to those standards? It’s youth, says 56-year-old Raven Valdes, a Scottsdale-based marketing specialist and event planner. Valdes is a member of “50 and Fabulous,” a social club all about embracing hitting the big 5-0, and she’s not happy about the media’s emphasis on youth.
Pick up any magazine by the checkout and take a look at the young, beaming girl on the cover. Flip inside to the ads for wrinkle-reversing serums and night creams boasting massive results, all the while having a 30-something model as the face of the brand. You know that spread commending that aging actress on how great she looks? What they’re really saying is how young she looks. And for every successful, “distinguished” leading man, there are dozens of “washed up” actresses.
Outside forces be damned. As the average American lifespan continues to rise, the 50-and-older set can still feel great, even as they age. Modern medicine and exercise science allow us to maintain a lengthy life and often that means looking youthful well into your older years, as the ladies of 50 and Fabulous know well.
The dozen women who comprise the Scottsdale social group know aging is about much more than maintaining a certain level of beauty (although there is something to be said for the confidence in looking great, Valdes says). It’s also about learning to live your life for you, finally coming into your own, and doing the things you enjoy with people you love to be around.
Valdes and her fellow club members get together at least once a week for drinks and dinners, often celebrating birthdays and indulging in the occasional “staycation” as a way to meet with like-minded ladies who are living well in their 50s, maintaining career, family and most of all, having fun with each other. Together, they offer insight into accepting age—and sometimes outright ignoring it.
Name Your Own Age Thirty years ago, when the ladies of 50 and Fabulous were in their 20s, they readily admit the word that came to mind when they thought of a 50-year-old woman was “old.” But today, Salpie Tatka, a petite 52-year-old Scottsdale makeup artist and cosmetology teacher with sassy shoulder length brown layers, doesn’t stop to think about how “old” she might be. In fact, she rarely has time to slow down at all. Between being a mother and running her own business, she doesn’t exactly have down time to dwell on her age. Even if she did, she wouldn’t want to.
“When you say it out loud, it makes it true,” Tatka says. “Then you start to feel that age.”
And feeling old just isn’t part of the 50 and Fabulous attitude. The ladies spend their time keeping active. They don’t have the space in their club for anyone who focuses on the negative side of aging. Instead, they’re open to anyone who has a positive attitude and is committed to enjoying life. For them, that doesn’t mean restricting themselves to “age-appropriate” activities.