Beauty & Fashion

The stark(ers) reality of older bodies — That’s Not My Age


We are bombarded by images of perfect bodies: young not old, sculpted not flabby. So it’s been a relief recently to see a couple of films featuring positive depictions of naked older people. Ordinary people going about their daily lives, sometimes without clothes on.

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is an award-winning Estonian documentary by the director and screenwriter Anna Hints. The group of women (of differing ages) meet regularly for a smoke sauna, in a cabin in the woods. Traditionally, the sauna can last up to four hours so the women often end up sharing their innermost secrets; discussing heart-rending issues, such as childbirth, cancer, abortion and rape. This is more than just a cleansing ritual, it’s a cathartic process.

We don’t always see the women’s faces but we do see beautiful, close-up images of their bodies through the smoky haze; described by Sight & Sound as ‘loving shots of imperfect bodies reminiscent of the joyful fleshiness of a Jenny Saville portrait.’ And mostly, the women are relaxed about the way they look.

Research suggests that ‘body satisfaction’ can improve with age. As we age we are more likely to value our bodies and what they do for us. According to a feature in Psychology Today by Susan Sands Ph.D an assistant clinical professor at UC Berkeley,  ‘Older women actually have higher levels of  “body appreciation.” We tend to accept and respect our bodies more and can more easily reject the “thin ideal” promoted by the media.’



Wim Wenders Perfect Days is one of the loveliest films I’ve seen lately. The main character Hirayama is a zen public toilet cleaner in Japan; played by Koji Yakusho who deservedly won the best actor prize at Cannes Film Festival. The movie follows the 60-something’s everyday rituals: coffee from the same vending machine every morning, listening to cassette tapes in the car, toilet cleaning that feels more like mindfulness. Though I was a bit worried that Hirayama didn’t always have his rubber gloves on… But at the end of the day, he heads to a communal bath house for a thorough cleansing session. Perfect Days is Wenders biggest box office hit; featuring gorgeous images of Tokyo, amazing public loos, excellent music and very tasteful nude scenes. Don’t miss it.

How refreshing to see more naked older people in film –  it can only be good for our body image and self-confidence.



More on what we think of our ageing bodies HERE.

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