Q: I was thinking this morning on the bus. I was sitting half asleep, behind some elderly women. I realized I was staring at their hairstyles, both permed and a strange color. One looked like a gristly orb and
the other like a zealous crab's nest. Do you know why old women opt for styles like this? I'm sure they wouldn't if they were younger.
A: While I probably wouldn’t characterize any woman’s look in quite such uncharitable terms, I do recognize the seeming trend you describe, and while such discussions fall more into the realm of pop psychology, I will
offer my experiences as information and edification.
There are often a number of factors at play in this kind of situation, not least of which is “comfort”. That doesn’t mean physical comfort, but rather that women (especially older
women) often get into routines with regard to their hair. They may select a style that they like and attempt to “stick with it”. Without peer pressures and encouragement to try different things, which is often
non-existent in an older woman’s circle of friends. Older women are often hesitant to disparage a friends’ look out of a sense of politeness and a desire to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
Sometimes, a woman’s look can be affected by medical conditions and aging. As the body ages, the hair changes, and it may become thinner, coarser, finer, lose pigment, or change
in wave pattern. Because of the changes, a style that suited one type of hair may no longer suit, but the woman may be unprepared to deal with her changed hair type, and not know how to adapt. She may do the best
she can and settle for that.
Yet the most likely reason that such hairstyles exist is that often they develop gradually. Aging and styling damage are all cumulative effects that usually occur slowly, rather
than coming in sudden, dramatic changes. A woman’s look may slowly degrade from the way it initially appeared and the woman may not realize how much change has occurred because of the incremental nature of the change.
When you add in gradual development of things like arthritis or other conditions that reduce range of motion or cause pain, a woman may not have the stamina to spend as much effort on her hair.
So, these are not necessarily conscious choices in hairstyle, but more likely are a result of gradual deterioration of ability to maintain the upkeep on a favored style.
Personally, I keep a supply of business cards in my wallet so that when I encounter an individual whom I feel needs help, I can offer my card and my services. This is done as politely
as possible, and I never make any statement regarding the person’s current look.