Getting older, better: advice on aging for millennials

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

June 2, 2015 · Share via Email LinkedIn

Barbara Hannah Grufferman

This is part two of a three-part series. To read the first installment click here

Turning 50 was a wake-up call for Barbara Hannah Grufferman. 

First, there was the physical reality: she'd gained a few extra pounds and her bones were beginning to thin. Then, there was the mental realization: "In this society, especially this country, where 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," she says. 

"It's almost like aging is a disease you want to avoid at all costs. That's the message we hear at all times."

After she got past the shock, Grufferman decided to take action. She started exercising and eating well, and, in the process, dropped the weight, stopped the thinning of the bones, and changed her attitude. 

In doing so, she has become a spokesperson and role model for her generation through her Best of Everything After 50 website. She also produces videos for AARP's YouTube channel and blogs for AARP about lifestyle and aging. Today, at age 58, she's working hard to communicate that aging is not a disease, and when it comes to her demographic, getting older doesn't mean slowing down—it means reinventing yourself. 

For part two of this three-part series, she sat down with us to talk about issues surrounding beauty, health, and positive aging. 

What is the biggest misconception about the 50-and-up demographic and health?

That it's too late. People think, "Oh well, I gained the weight, that's it for me, it's too late." Or, "Oh well, my bone density test showed that my bones have gotten thinner, and oh well, there's nothing I can do." Baby boomers and people over 50 too often have that feeling that they will give up and give in. 

I, personally, am a walking, breathing example of how that's not true. When I turned 50, I had gained 15 pounds, I broke my arm, got a bone density test, and, lo and behold, my bones were thin and heading toward osteoporosis. I wasn't fit. I couldn't do two pushups. So I took the steps. I have stopped my thinning bones right where they were. I lost the 15 pounds. All of my health-check numbers are exactly where they should be. I'm down to a size that I'm really comfortable with, my weight is good, and it's all because of simple steps. 

It's not too late.

What beauty advice would you give to a 25-year-old today? What about to someone 50-plus?

This is my only regret that I have in my life so far. Stay out of the sun. 

As we speak, I have a little Band-Aid on my cheek where a biopsy was taken this morning. I used to mix baby oil with iodine and reflect the sun on my face. For somebody who's 25, they have to understand that the sun is the number one major ager. We all know that. 

For someone 50 or older who's already done the damage, I still say it's never too late. But I would tell someone over 50 to stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen. When you're 25, you can prevent. When we're 50 and older, we're playing catch-up.

Are there any trends you're seeing in how Boomers take care of themselves?

We're always looking for ways to look and feel our best. We're looking for ways to get as fit and as healthy as we can, lose weight if we need to, and then manage that weight in ways that are not overcomplicated. We really want to simplify our lives; that's a pervasive theme I discovered and embraced once I hit this age. 

I find that people are embracing very simple things, like walking and running. I ran the New York City Marathon to celebrate my 55th birthday, and I'm planning on running it again next year to celebrate my 60th, God willing. If I can do it, anyone can do it, because I only started running after I turned 50. 

People in this age group, we like the idea of achievement. I think the whole Boomer mindset has been exactly that: "I'm going to invent things, I'm going to reinvent." I think that has carried forth into "I'm going to run in a marathon. Why not?"

Not only that, we're going back to basics with a lot of things, like skincare and makeup. We want simple skincare: exfoliate your face, protect it with sunscreen, and moisturize. And that really does the trick. All the other stuff is icing on the cake. You can really improve your skin by maintaining a very simple skincare program, and then enhance it with makeup—the simpler the better. We all look better with less makeup as we get older; there's no question about it.

Remember to check back next week for part three of the interview!