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Following Their Lead: 19 Influential Women Who Taught Us How to Age Gracefully

“Aging gracefully” turns up 3.7 million results on Google, yet what it means and how to do it remain ambiguous at best. These 19 public figures made the list not for vibrant skin and a youthful frame, but for aging gracefully as defined by Keith Richards, founding member of the Rolling Stones: “We age not by holding on to our youth, but by letting ourselves grow and embrace whatever youthful parts remain.” This list includes those who have grown in years and wisdom while continuing to pursue greatness, do good, and emanate beauty.

#1: Queen Elizabeth II 

Not only loved by her country but by millions worldwide, Queen Elizabeth (93) is the epitome of aging gracefully. One of her greatest recent accomplishments was the passing of The Crown Act in 2010, which removed gender from consideration in royal succession, allowing first-born daughters to inherit the crown before their younger brother(s).

#2 Jane Seymour

At 69 years old, British-American actress Jane Seymour is as beautiful and vibrant today as she was when she first appeared on the big screen. After finding love at age 68, she described aging as simply accepting who she is, what she looks like, and what she feels like with less pressure to change or fit in than she felt in previous years.

#3 Betty White

Betty White hasn’t lost an ounce of her zest for life in her “wiser” years. At a remarkable 98 years old, Betty is as sassy, glowing, and loved as she was on the radio in her thirties, on the Mary Tyler Moore Show in her fifties, and as a Golden Girl in her sixties.

#4 Rita Moreno

The first Hispanic woman to win an Oscar, Rita Moreno’s accomplishments don’t stop there: she also accomplished the coveted feat of winning all four major entertainment awards: Emmy, Grammy, scar, and Tony. Today, the Puerto Rican-born dancer, singer, and actress is 88 years old and still classy.

#5 Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda is a household name. The 82-year-old used her influence as a leading actress to further causes that were important to her, including Native American rights, feminism, and environmentalism. She holds 4 Golden Globe Awards, 2 Academy Awards, the Honorary Golden Lion, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award.

#6 Meryl Streep

Since she first hit the Broadway stage and shared her talents with the world in 1975, Meryl Streep has been in over 70 films and received an impressive 21 Academy Award nominations. Today, at 70 years old, she remains unchanged in the eyes of America: beautiful, classic, and talented.

#7 Diane Keaton

Perhaps one of the most multi-talented women on the big screen, Diane Keaton has made her name as an actress, producer, director, author, singer, photographer, and real estate developer, far achieving her fans’ expectations when they were first introduced to her in Lovers and Other Strangers. Today at 74, she says that life gets easier with age.

#8 Oprah Winfrey

66-year-old Oprah Winfrey, arguably one of the most influential black women in American history, is the picture of graceful aging. Oprah makes growing older look good by embracing her age and the wisdom and freedom that accompany it.

#9 Sally Field

A close second to America’s sweetheart, 73-year-old Sally Field won the hearts of her fans over the course of 37 engagements and several decades. The multi-award-winning actress embraces her age by being honest and transparent about osteoporosis, breaking hearts, and growing older.

#10 Katie Couric

Renowned journalist since joining ABC News in 1979 and developing her career from there, Katie Couric has a myriad of notable achievements under her belt, from earning Emmy Awards for CBC Evening News with Katie Couric to becoming the first solo female evening news anchor in America. Today, Katie is embracing the freedom that comes with semi-retirement by keeping her fan base involved on Instagram.

#11 Dolly Parton

Country music guitarist, singer, and actress Dolly Parton is perhaps better known for her warm, larger-than-life personality than she is for her vast array of talents. 74 years old now, Dolly is totally transparent about the work she’s had done, perhaps giving others permission to be open about imperfection: “If something is bagging, sagging, or dragging, I’ll tuck, suck it, or pluck it.”

#12 Michelle Obama

The 56-year-old attorney, author, and former First Lady of the United States is the epitome of graceful aging. Her time in the White House led to improved school nutrition across the United States, numerous events designed to encourage girls to break the glass ceiling, and even more nutritional options for children dining at major restaurant chains.

#13 Diane Sawyer

After a prolific career in American journalism launched by her role as President Nixon’s staff assistant, Diane Sawyer was inducted into the TV Hall of Fame in 1997. She has aged gracefully by serving as a role model for women over the decades: intelligent, beautiful, and natural.

#14 Tina Turner

After selling over 20 million copies of her first album, Turner had a place in the hearts of Americans, perhaps best known for “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” Today at 80,

she demonstrates graceful aging by continuing to live; Tina, a musical based on her life debuted in 2019.

#15 Helen Mirren

At 74 years young, English actress Helen Mirren is every bit as beautiful as she was when she debuted her acting career in 1967. Perhaps the most prolific performer on our list, her talents have been featured in at least 72 films, making her a household name worldwide.

#16 Laura Bush

First Lady of the United States from 2001 to 2009, Laura spent her time in the whitehouse championing for healthy women and families. At age 73, she is focused on family and grandchildren but still advocating for global women’s rights, demonstrating that women can continue to affect change at any age.

#17 Angela Bassett

Best known for her roles in biographical films, Angela Bassett  has been featured in over 50 movies since her first role in 1986. Aside from retaining physical beauty all these years, she’s still working  to make a difference at age 61 as a UNICEF ambassador and advocate for the arts, juvenile diabetes, and children in foster care.

#18 Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters achieved great accolades in her decades in show business, including creating and then serving as executive producer of the popular show, The View. At 90 years old, Barbara’s health is failing her but she continues to fight with the same passion that she put into her career for so many years, demonstrating an important perspective of aging gracefully.

#19 Maxine Hong Kingston

At age 79, Maxine Hong Kingston is aging gracefully by working on her “posthumous work, to be published a hundred years after I die,” she says. Maxine is best known for her memoir, “The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts,” which explores life as an Asian-American and has won a number of prestigious awards in the 40 years since it was written.

Aging gracefully means something different for each of these courageous public figures; for some, it means maintaining your appearance while for others, it’s about accepting themselves fully, flawed though they may be. For most, it means continuing to make a difference in the lives of others despite it all.

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