The beauty of aging

23 Jun

Old age is the most unexpected of all things that can happen to a man.                     – Leon Trotsky

Rohan Francis, Mr. Caribbean Canada 2008

39 is not old. It isn’t even middle-aged, but 39 isn’t exactly fresh either. By the age of 39, we have become more mature and established, but our bodies have changed, we’ve got “life lines” on our faces, our energy may have waned some, we may be more susceptible to injury, and maybe it’s time for reading glasses.

When we think of male “beauty pageants” or “fitness modelling contests” as they are known, men at the ripe old age of 39 are probably not an obvious choice in contestant, but at 39, personal trainer, Rohan Francis, decided to enter one of these contests, won the title of Mr. Caribbean Canada, and went on to compete in Mr. Caribbean International.

“It was my last kick at the can,” Rohan says, explaining that he was by far the oldest contestant in the 2008 competition, his competitors 10-14 years his junior.

Rohan’s rivals were confident and self-assured islanders, fit, and living healthy lifestyles, and judged by the usual “beauty contest” categories: modeling casual wear, then swimwear (to show off their brawn and physiques), talent (Rohan did a dance routine), then a question and answer session to spotlight the intellect and personality (I believe that this is the category that won Rohan the title – he’s a shining star here).

When I asked him how he felt about going on display, he told me that when he was 25, he knew what he had and he worked it.

“At that age, a guy is all about ego and getting laid,” he said.

At 39 however, the motivation was different. Rohan explained that instead of focusing all of his energy on sex and how to get it as a younger man, “life is more than your looks and sex appeal, it’s more about character and aspirations about things outside of yourself.”

Through the competitive modelling experience, Rohan learned that he could still compete with younger men but didn’t walk around with a chip on his shoulder and a puffed up chest like I’ve seen some older men do in imagined or real competition with younger fellas. I suppose these older guys are clinging to their former strength and fear of losing potency, perhaps not rational but completely understandable.

Andropause

As men age, their testosterone levels drop and they experience what is called andropause (also known as “man-o-pause”). Somewhere after the age of 40, hormones slowly wane, accompanied by “changes in attitudes and moods, ongoing fatigue, a loss of vitality, and decreased sex drive. Added to this, there is usually a decline in physical agility and ability,” says the Masters Men’s Clinic website.

According to Andropause Canada, men may experience the following short-term effects of andropause:

  • Decreased strength
  • Decreased endurance
  • Dermatological changes
  • Decreased libido
  • Decreased sexual performance
  • Dysphoria (restlessness)
  • Increased anxiety

Because the testosterone deficiency causes the loss of muscle mass and bone density, it can make a guy feel tired and can affect his self-esteem. Though this could threaten a man’s virility and his sense of self-worth, the post-30s should really be a time in a man’s life that he accepts and embraces.

As Rohan says, “It’s important to respect the body especially as we age. The body wears down so we shouldn’t try to do at 39 what we did at 25. Play it smarter and respect the aging process but don’t feel that you’re incapable.”

Leverage 

Winning a title such as Mr. Caribbean Canada could have been all about Rohan, Rohan’s ego, Rohan dripping with star-struck women, and Rohan getting more stuff because he’s a title-holder. But being older and wiser, Rohan used his title and notoriety for good, seeing it as a launch pad for business exposure and to help his community.

He was featured in a few magazines including Sway, a quarterly urban magazine, and had a wardrobe supplied by Anthony’s Formal Wear for a year. Nice perks, but what is really cool is that Rohan used his influence to make his community better.

Rohan recognized that blood donations from the black community were (and still are) lacking, so knowing the far reaches of the gift of blood, our champion continues to promote blood donation to his community in support of the Canadian Blood Services. (Before I spoke to Rohan, I thought that blood was blood but apparently, Rohan’s blood has less vitamin D than my caucasian blood does, and this influences the tendency to acquire hypertension in black people – check this site and please enlighten us in the comments if you have further info on this subject).

Women

I came across several websites that sing the praises of older men and the younger women that love them while researching for today’s post, and there are lots of reasons to opt for an older gent including maturity, experience and the confidence that comes from being experienced, and a different kind of appreciation for women than younger guys riding the waves of blinding, pumping hormones might have.

Our old geezer in question had figured some things out about women that were different from his former attitudes, and certainly different than the attitudes of some of his younger competitors. Without so much focus on his ego, Rohan says that “intellect is the ultimate thing to win a woman over but to keep her, you’re going to need creativity, some “swag” (coolness), character, confidence, fun, and sex appeal.”

Affirmation

Having had the fitness contest experience, Rohan says that it’s time to reevaluate how we look at men and I couldn’t agree more. It should be about character, he thinks, not about how tight a guy’s buns are. It’s also about older men being empowered and self-affirming.

Now as a 42 year-old, Rohan says, “I can still live life to its fullest and I can still function and be relevant and vital.”

Indeed, in Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man, author and philospher Sam Keen writes that “to age gracefully, we must aspire to become wise and beautiful elders. For this, men require a revolution in identity in which we measure success by our capacity for compassion rather than by accumulation of power, and virility by the capacity to mature, husband, and mentor.”

Sounds good to me.

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2 Responses to “The beauty of aging”

  1. Rob Bird October 24, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Great article! I really liked the portion about the maturity of older men, and how combining that with fitness later in life leads to the best of both worlds. At least that’s what I drew from it…thanks!

    • Leah Morrigan November 23, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      Thanks Rob. It’s a pleasure to shine a light on older fellas who don’t get proper credit!

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