Beautiful, rich and famous celebrities are re-defining the aging process for the rest of us mere mortals.

The latest news: Madonna is about to turn 50 and making her umpteenth cover appearance on Vanity Fair magazine; Jamie Lee Curtis graces the cover of AARP; Priscilla Presley is appearing on “Dancing with the Stars”; and Kathie Lee Gifford is returning to morning television.

The list of inspiring celebs goes on and on. But what about ordinary, not-so-famous women who have managed to at least delay the inevitable process of looking like our mothers?

We, too, have permanently changed the images of aging. We are challenging expectations of what we should look like and how we should feel.

An “active retirement” is not what we are looking forward to; rather, we are embracing new life experiences and newfound freedom outside of what society once said we should expect at 50 or 60 or, yes, 70.

Most people cannot even come close to guessing my age or the ages of most of my friends. We have exercised, danced, aerobicized, pilated and yogaed ourselves for the past 20 to 30 years. Something is working. We are also taking advantage of medical inroads that can help us look younger without expensive and risky surgeries.

It would be wonderful to have the hairdressers, make-up artists and private trainers celebrities have at their disposal, but there is a vast population of women who were savvy enough to follow the common-sense advice of medical experts all those many years ago when the ability to look younger was reserved for only the very rich and famous.

Yes, it is great to see our fellow “ageless beauties” soaking up media attention, but we should also remember that re-defining aging is not just reserved for those who have been symbols of beauty as long as we can remember.

It is for all women — in every walk of life — who have valued health, activity and new challenges as a lifestyle and who now have the good fortune to extend our years in new ways. The preservation of what we call “beauty” is just an added bonus.

Cheryl Townsend

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