Tag Archives: effects on aging in men

In praise of older men

10 Oct

gregory_peck

This time last year, at the tender age of 43, I admitted to some friends that I kissed a 60-year-old man. My friends, still in their 40s, had interesting responses. One of them sneered at me, but the other was curious. “What was it like?” he asked. “It was fantastic,” I said.

The gent in question had flown into Toronto that day from the UK, to attend a posh business/cocktail party associated with his work that I happened to be at. We had a wonderful conversation, and before I knew it, we were the only guests remaining. After bidding the hosts adieu, we shared a taxi back into the city and had a couple of drinks at his hotel bar. Like many women, I fell under the spell of a man who excited my mind, and a man who wanted to hear what I had to say, and I wanted to show my appreciation.

I invited myself up to his room under the guise of wanting to see what they’d done to the building since renovating it into a hotel/residence. After looking at the view and talking about the action on the street below, I sat down beside him and asked if I could kiss him. It was innocent, respectful, exciting, unhurried. Most of all, it was a refreshing change.

My phone rang at 8:30 the next morning. With a thick head, I struggled out of bed to answer it. It was the gentleman calling me from his plane back to London as it waited on the tarmac. He wanted to make sure I got home okay and we chatted for a few minutes before he said goodbye. It was a romantic dream. I felt like the heroine in an old movie.

I’ve known a lot of men in my life, but I’ve seldom been treated so well. My gentleman carried a hankie and the manners of a bygone age, from a time where men and women treated each other with respect. Meeting this man made me think about the differences between seasoned older men and the urgent expectations of younger men; about maturity and experience vs physicality and insecurity. An older man’s politeness, consideration, and charm can be irresistible, and if he’s anything like my guy, it doesn’t hurt if he resembles Gregory Peck.

Survey says

I became fascinated with the idea of older men with younger women and wanted to know how other women felt, so I devised a survey and got the opinions of a handful of women who have had some kind of romantic tie to men at least 15 years their senior. Most women think their older fellas are fantastic, with the exception of one woman who complained of being more of a “nurse-maid” than a romantic partner. That’s a risk that a younger woman might take, I suppose, but overall, women who like older men love older men.

Women found their mature men respectful, polite, handsome, generous, intelligent, kind, affectionate, sensitive, and good conversationalists; the men were not considered pushy, demanding, or materialistic. The majority of women who took the survey found their older men confident, aware, and responsible, and all women recognized the differences between older and younger men.

One woman offered this: “Older men seem to understand that they have to be full participants in a relationship. I’ve also dated younger men (much younger) and found the relationships were hollow and shallow. Older men know who they are, what they want and where they’re going. They are less selfish and self-absorbed. They are also more caring sex partners. I put it all down to older men have more experience with women and therefore are more sensitive to our needs.”

The jaded nurse-maid was the only woman who would not recommend dating older men, and rightly so, but most women agreed that men get better as they age. As one woman said, “Older men have a lot more going for them than we often think.”

Andropause

When men reach their mid-30s and move into their 40s, they enter andropause, also known as man-o-pause, similar to women’s mid-life menopause where hormone levels change and people take on new behaviours. When testosterone levels begin to wane in men, many changes occur – vitality lessens, the sex drive and aggression decreases, and physical agility declines. This can be shocking for some men, but they have a choice to cruise into their golden years with grace.

The following short-term effects of andropause can include:

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

Added to the effects of testosterone deficiency comes loss of muscle mass that, according to this Huffington Post article, includes higher fat levels as muscle converts to fat, and more fat means testosterone converts to estrogen. Increased estrogen can look like many things like a heavier frame and “man boobs”  (yes, even 007 has developed moobs – have a look at Roger Moore as a senior). Some of these changes may not be welcome, and depending on the man, could be thought of as a defeat, but an increase in estrogen is what makes men more sensitive and better listeners, and this is what the women in the survey found so appealing.

The style of the older gent

Researching for this post, I did a general search for “older men” and had to pick out the rare bits that were not focused on health issues like increased urination, risk of falls, or a preoccupation with the falling libido. I waded through scathing articles written by women about men growing meaner as they get older, terrible sex-crazed articles describing how thirtysomething “older” men should deal with the conniving, sex-obsessed, gold-digging twentysomethings. I was crestfallen to find few articles mentioning the allure of older gentlemen appealing to a woman’s sense of intelligence, and so too, anything about the style of an older gent.

For the Baby Boomers who bore the youthquake movement of the 1960s, their youthful ideals have in the end betrayed them, and we find ourselves in a youth-focused society where older people are almost entirely overlooked. It’s a shame – we miss out on how awesome they are. As a men’s image consultant, I am blessed to work with older men who want to reinvent themselves during the second part of their lives and become the men they’ve always wanted to be. 

We’ve been conditioned to think of aging as a sentence, as a terrible end to life, but it’s all about perspective. Take it from actor/model Gerry Hennessy who, at age 67, would rather talk about style than ill health:

“Surely personal style is one of the choices that define us as individuals,” he says, “It is the wrapping on the package that identifies you as a man who is interesting, interested, fearless and worth knowing. That is why abandoning your sense of style as you age makes as much sense as retiring at 65.

“If only older men took the time to explore and experience the sense of well-being that personal style brings to the life table, then perhaps we would have more things to discuss than the things ageing generally brings. It is a matter of finding inner peace through life’s style choices – I age, therefore I style.”

Further reading: In Praise of Older Men (Elle magazine)

The Myth of Older Men Wanting Younger Women (Huff Post)

Rent older men in Japan!

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.