31 March 2015: According to new research from Optilase, Ireland’s leading laser eye surgery clinic, the vast majority of Irish (91%) judge a person’s appearance as the main reason to consider them ‘middle aged’.
Over half (53%) of Irish focus on facial looks, while almost 1 in 5 (18%) cite quality of hair with the same proportion citing body appearance. Only a fraction of Irish (4%) believe a person’s clothing can make the difference and even fewer (3%) believe non-appearance led changes to mental agility or physical mobility define the ageing process.
Most Irish people over 45 have also considered what makes them look older than they used to. Almost 1-in-5 consider changes to their skin as the number one issue, while almost 1-in-4 cite weight gain and almost 3 in 10 rated a change in hair (going grey, thinning etc.).
Wearing reading glasses was also seen as an ageing factor for many Irish people. Over 4 in 10 regard this as one of their biggest worries about getting older and more than 1-in-10 felt this was the number one sign to others that they are middle aged. In addition, almost 1-in- 6 considered it the second biggest issue, after skin, hair or body weight. When asked to rank how they feel about wearing glasses almost half (48%) put unglamorous in their top three factors, while almost two thirds (63%) had making them feel older and middle aged in their top three.
Unsurprisingly then, almost a third (29%) of Irish resist purchasing reading glasses and 1-in-10 spend years dodging the need to wear them. The ways we dodge them are quite creative. In restaurants, more than 1-in-10 (16%) Irish squint at menus under candlelight or order dishes they’re familiar with, while other tactics include borrowing other people’s glasses for short periods of time, and waiting until people are standing right beside us before we can confidently address them.
As a result, over half (55%) of adults over 45 struggle with their sight. Almost one in three (32%) can’t read labels, 14% have issues reading signs and almost 1-in-10 (9%) struggle to read digital devices.
More than 1-in-5 (22%) of adults over 45 also believe they are starting to be “looked through” as though invisible, by younger Irish. And while over half (54%) say they’re not bothered by this, almost 1-in-4 admit that it has made them feel sad, while 1-in-10 experienced feelings of being embarrassed. Some of us have also felt angry (7%) and resentful (3%).
This probably accounts for the fact that, while 80% of adults over 45 still do consider themselves to be sexually attractive, more than 1-in-3 (38%) only consider themselves sexually attractive to people of their own age or older. More worryingly still, 1-in-5 (20%) over 45 year olds believe they are past the point of being considered “sexy” to anyone.
Does this mean that our society is ageist? Our attitude to this is complex. Almost 1-in-3 (30%) of us believe Irish society is not at all ageist leaving a resounding 70% that believe it is. Of the 70% who believe our society is ageist, 30% give their first rank to us being inherently ageist while 1 in 20 of us awarded top ranking to Ireland being most ageist when it comes to politics. Over 1-in-10 (13%) gave top rank to the Irish being at its most ageist in business, while 1-in-6 (17%) ranked us most ageist when it comes to dating.
So how do Irish adults over 45 get their mojo back? Over a third (37%) believe that if their skin looked better they would feel more like themselves. While over a quarter (26%) believe that they would feel more like themselves if they had their full vision back and didn’t have to wear glasses. Almost 1-in-4 (23%) believe they could counteract the signs of aging if they could dress like they used to and more than 1-in-5 (21%) would feel more like themselves if their hair was thicker and fuller.
Commenting on the research results, Optilase Medical Director Dr. Wayne Crewe-Brown said: “This research shows that many Irish adults over 45 are holding themselves back because of insecurities about their appearance. In Optilase we use state-of-the-art treatments to restore sight and have seen first-hand what a positive change this can have in the lives of our clients. We’re encouraging more Irish adults to address this confidence issue, by sharing their opinions online with the #VisibleAdult hashtag.”
To join the Optilase #VisibleAdult conversation, go to www.facebook.com/Optilaseeyeclinic or www.twitter.com/optilaseireland
Notes to Editor
All figures are from a survey carried out by MRNI Research, conducted using a sample of 220 adults aged 40+ across Ireland (125 females and 95 males) in the 40-65 age group, covering all four provinces of Ireland. Fieldwork for the survey was undertaken from 11-18 March 2015 and was carried out using an on-line methodology.