Ageism or compliment.

A mini-post this week. A social commentary about ageism, sexism and our cultural expectations

This is what a 61-year-old looks like!

You don’t look it

Last year I attended a conference. I met a bunch of people who I hadn’t met in person before. It was very convivial and friendly and a treat to speak to people IRL rather than as a little box on a screen. Covid was still playing its part in keeping us apart.

During the course of the three days, alongside the work-related sessions, we went out for dinner, chatted around morning tea and had a few drinks. Just like any good conference!

As a natural part of the conversation, age came up. 

“62 this year,” I said 

“Gosh, you don’t look it”, was the surprised response on more than one occasion.

I’m not shy about admitting I have been around the sun a few more times than most of my colleagues, but the response got me thinking.   I’m guessing I was meant to take it as a compliment, but is it ageism? Do they actually mean: 

“Gosh, you don’t look like what my image of a 62-year-old is supposed to look like!” 

Just what is a 60-ish -year-old SUPPOSED to look like? 


Wrinkly? Overweight? Stooped? Wearing glasses? Dressed in old-fashioned frumpy clothes? Not useful to the world? Not out having “fun”?

Is this comment only directed at women? Probably. 

My relatively youthful appearance is likely a result of good genetics and the privilege that comes with being a middle-class white person with an education who has access to good food, shelter and family and not much to do with my chronological age.

I have another birthday coming up. Will I continue to surpass the cultural norms?

2 thoughts on “Ageism or compliment.

  1. Ageism is a tricky thing. As a newly retired person, I’m not sure how to take a comment like that either. If I like it, am I being ageist? If I rail against it, is that showing my internal prejudice against looking and being older?

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