By: Laura Bennett
Our attitudes toward ageing are a complex thing. Framed by our cultural understanding of what it means to get older coupled with our feelings about time passing and our stature in life, ageing is about so much more than physical change.
In their 50s and 40s respectively, friends Melissa Doyle and Naima Brown found themselves being asked new questions about age and how they felt about their milestone birthdays. They also had questions of their own as their bodies changed, careers evolved and family lives started to shift.
Their conversations resulted in How to Age Against the Machine, an empowering guide for women ageing on their own terms.
Far from being a “style guide for mature women” or some kind of “makeup for mature faces” reference book, How to Age Against the Machine addresses everything from grief to friendship to romance and retirement as it tackles the subject of female ageing from a justice perspective as much as a personal one.
“These are often [subjects we don’t] talk about until we’re faced with them,” Melissa said in our interview. “Suddenly retirement is looming over the hill and it’s not something that research has shown us people plan for quite as much as they might plan for when they’re going to start a family, or when they’re going to buy a house.”
Retirement Can Creep Up on Us
“Retirement’s one of those things that creeps up, and for many women the decision is not theirs and that’s what makes us quite angry.”
Meeting on the set of Channel 7’s flagship program Sunday Night, Melissa and Naima have extensive experience across the media industry: Melissa, for 30 years as a journalist – 14 of which were spent as host of the Sunrise breakfast show – and Naima working for SBS and NBC News New York in addition to Channel 7.
Some might view their industry as “part of the machine”, but Naima believes it extends beyond the media and entertainment arenas.
“The machine for us is anyone, anything, any institution, any brand that’s telling you how you’re [ageing] is wrong and that you must do it ‘this way’ and ‘ageing must look like this’,” Naima said.
“Any time you feel yourself coming against that conflict, coming up against that wall of going ‘but this isn’t me, this isn’t the pathway that I want to take, I have so much more to offer still, my relevance is only getting stronger’ – that’s the machine.”
We Don’t Fade Away – But We Must Adapt
As we get older, we have to reject the notion that means we somehow “fade away” but accept that ageing means we have to evolve, says Melissa.
“How do we treat ourselves as a project and move forward and say, ‘What do I still have to offer? What makes me still relevant and visible, and what is my purpose in life going forward?
“We come back to the terms ‘purpose’ and ‘meaning’ a lot because sometimes that has to be renegotiated.”