Old Is New Again: Why 2015 Is the Year of the Octogenarian

Joan Didion is the new face of Céline, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the subject of a new biography, and Gloria Steinem loves being 80.

Joan Didion in 1970. (Photo: Julian Wasser/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Jan 8, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

The Internet is still gushing over the recent unveiling of Céline’s new cover girl, who was photographed for the French fashion line wearing oversize black shades, a black turtleneck, and a gold pendant. The model is none other than Joan Didion. The author and essayist recently turned 80, and she’s just as stylish as she was nearly half a century ago, smoking a cigarette in the front seat of a Stingray. The press given to her fashion campaign—it’s been covered everywhere from The New York Times to BuzzFeed—and as the face of Céline’s 2015 spring line means a new generation of young women may stumble on her essays and novels.

Didion’s latest star turn is yet another example of awesome octogenarian women proving you can be smart, stylish, and fiercely feminist at any age. For further evidence, look to the recent news that fellow octogenarian and everyone’s favorite Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is getting her own biography. The book, slated for a fall release, will be cowritten by the creator of the popular Notorious RBG blog, which compares her level of coolness to the rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s. Since its launch in 2013, the blog has immortalized Ginsburg with memes of her face accompanied by defiant rap lyrics that celebrate her dissent against the Hobby Lobby ruling, for example.

We can’t wait to see what 2015 holds for feminist activist and octogenarian Gloria Steinem. The former Playboy Bunny—a job she took for the sake of her essay “I Was a Playboy Bunny”—celebrated her 80th birthday in style last March, riding an elephant in Botswana, according to The New York Times. The paper also commented on her age-defying beauty in a March column called “This Is What 80 Looks Like”—the title a riff on her own quip about turning 40.

On her acceptance of aging, Steinem told the Times, “Fifty was a shock, because it was the end of the center period of life. But once I got over that, 60 was great. Seventy was great. And I loved, I seriously loved aging. I found myself thinking things like: ‘I don’t want anything I don’t have.’ How great is that?”

Another plus side to aging? A shrinking libido, according to Steinem, means that “brain cells that used to be obsessed are now free for all kinds of great things.” A friend of Steinem’s suggested to the Times that growing old has been a relief for the feminist icon, who had been glamorized by males who put too much emphasis on her looks and not her political achievements, which include cofounding the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1970 and starting Ms. magazine a year later.

Maybe embracing aging boils down to having self-respect. In her Vogue essay from 1961, “On Self-Respect,” Didion wrote: “To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which, for better or for worse, constitutes self-respect, is potentially to have everything.” In that sense, maybe women really can have it all—at any age.