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getting older, better: advice on aging for millennials

Q&A with Barbara Hannah grufferman, part one of three

Barbara Hannah Grufferman

For an inspiring example of how men and women age 50 and older are staying healthy, active, and beautiful, look no further than Barbara Hannah Grufferman. A true champion of embracing age, Grufferman, 58, is the force behind the Best of Everything After 50 website, produces videos for AARP's YouTube channel, and blogs for AARP about lifestyle and aging.

Grufferman wasn’t always so enthusiastic about aging. When she turned 50, it completely took her by surprise. In fact, she says her first thought was to “run for the hills, or run for the nearest plastic surgeon." In time, she accepted that she had quite a bit of control over how she aged, so she began taking better care of herself by working out regularly and, she says, treating herself with the same kindness that she treats others.

Today, as a de facto spokesperson for the 50-and-up group, Grufferman says she's frequently correcting misconceptions and trying to change the way marketers and others perceive her demographic.

We sat down with Grufferman for a three-part interview about how she embraces aging, her beauty tips, and how the 50+ are challenging misperceptions about their demographic.

On your site you talk about your decision, when you turned 50, to embrace your age and love who you are. What message can you share with people in your generation who are struggling with the idea of getting older?

It's not always easy. In this society, especially in this country, we're surrounded by messages from all kinds of media that say youth is better, youth is beautiful, you don't want to get older. It's almost like aging is a disease you want to avoid at all costs. I tell people to stay connected, on Facebook and with your network of friends. We get immense satisfaction out of talking about these issues with each other and motivating each other. It's very rewarding.

The other thing I tell people is love your age, love your life, and love yourself. The best way to show self-love is to practice self-care. That means move your body every day. Eat well. Take care of yourself.

Give yourself the same respect, patience, and kindness that you would give your kids, your parents, your spouse, your partner, your friends, and even your pets. So many women do not do that. It's hard to embrace your age if you feel so exhausted and if you haven't taken care of yourself. And, at the same time, you're listening to the media messages that surround us about aging.

To you, what's been the best part about aging?

For me it's been living more in the moment and embracing who I am now, every single day. In the past, I was always so forward thinking, so I never enjoyed the moment. I was constantly looking ahead to "when I finish this degree, when I get this job." I'm not saying we don't want to plan, but it's a deeper thing now. Stop and really embrace the moment.

How do you flip that switch to go from thinking ahead to appreciating the moment?

I think it's very specific to the person. In my case, I was rushing through life: working, kids and family, everything. And all of a sudden I turned 50 and I was like, "What? 50? No, how did that happen?"

All these things were going on. There was the bone density and the weight gain, and I went through menopause. I was filled with questions. Was my hair too long? Could I still wear jeans? I was ready to give up, give in, and pull the proverbial blanket over my head. Run for the hills or run for the nearest plastic surgeon.

And then, finally, I had a long talk with myself. It all came from inside. I said, "there's a better way," and I realized the option was to focus on myself. And here we are.

Remember to check back soon for Parts Two and Three of the interview!