Americans Feel Hotter the Older They Get, So Here's Your Reason to Aspire to Age Gracefully

Once we reach a certain point, most of us don’t really like the idea of getting older — but here’s something that may make aging a little bit more palatable: According to a new Gallup poll, American adults all feel a lot better about their physical appearance once they hit the 65-and-above age bracket. 65 is the new sexy! Hoorah!

More than 80,000 adults were surveyed for the poll, which asked respondents to state on a five-point scale how much they agreed with the item, “You always feel good about your physical appearance.” Fully two thirds of adults 65 years and older chose either four (“agree”) or five (“strongly) agree. Those in the 18-to-34 age bracket felt almost as good, with 61 percent of respondents agreeing; the 35-to-64 age bracket, however, displayed a drop in confidence, with only 54 respondents agreeing. So apparently the way it works like this: Generally we feel great until we hit our mid 30s; then we feel like hell for a couple of decades; but once we’ve aged up a bit, we start feeling awesome again. Salon notes that the results don’t necessarily suggest that older Americans don’t long for the days of their youth; the point, though, is that when it comes to confidence about how we actually look — not how we wish we looked — we feel better about it the older we get.

In some ways, this isn’t surprising; the decades where our confidence dips tends to be the time during which we actually start to show our age. I mean, up until that point, we’re either young and growing into our adult appearance, which makes us feel competent and professional and all that jazz; then, once we hit our 60s, we’ve kind of settled into the fact that we’re getting older. In the middle, though? That’s when the wrinkles start to show, when the hair starts to grey, and when time generally starts to take its toll in more visible and, as society perceives them, less desirable ways. It’s kind of like the puberty of old age: Everything is changing and it feels really awkward. So, y’know, at least there’s a light at the other end of the tunnel, right?

The poll also highlights a disparity between the genders too, though, which kind of casts a troubling light on it: According to additional results, men almost universally feel better about their appearance at all ages than women do. You can clearly see the distinction on the graph below; the only point at which women overtake men is when you get aaaaaaaaaall the way over to the age 85+ side of the graph:

If we’ve ever seen a clear-cut visual representation of the effect of society’s weird and unattainable beauty standards on women versus men, this is it. It bears particular weight in light of that hellish Esquire piece by Tom Junod declaring that 42-year-old women are suddenly hot again. Others have already addressed this essay in more eloquent and funnier ways than I could, so I’ll spare you a whole ‘nother post about it; I will, however, add this: Tom Junod? You’re not helping, even if you think you are.

But hey, in the meantime, it’s nice to know that even if we start to feel kind of “eh” as we get older, there will come a point where we’ll feel awesome again. Besides, it gives us all a reason to try as hard as we can to age gracefully. I’d much rather be Helen Mirren when I grow up than Kim Kardashian.

Images: terrellcwoods/Flickr; Panda Whale