Gone are the days of Jell-O molds and plastic couch covers. Today's seniors are modern, energetic and stylish, especially when it comes to their hair.
The blue-haired little old ladies who would have weekly hair appointments to get poofed and permed are gone. Taking their place is the new generation of active seniors, who want not only hair that is manageable enough to skip the weekly salon session but also locks that look full, natural and contemporary.
"Seniors are more active in today's generation. As the saying goes, '60 is the new 50 and 50 is the new 40.' Because seniors are more active, they are aggressive with their styles and comfortable with a fashion-forward style," observes Veronica Penzone, owner of the salon Beauty by Veronica. "Say goodbye to your 'grandma roller set' seniors who only washed their hair once a week."
The current trends for hairstyles for seniors are medium to short lengths, according to Penzone. "These lengths are easier to manage for active seniors who don't want to spend as much time or money maintaining complicated styles," she says. "Additionally, with shorter hair, they can embrace the natural progression to gray and still embrace fashion-forward styles and updated cuts. Jamie Lee Curtis, Helen Mirren, Paula Deen and Judi Dench are all great examples of popular styles for seniors."
Becky Cowan, 52, shares some of her thoughts and practices when it comes to her hair: "I wear my hair in medium-length shag. I have colored my hair for about 25 years now. It is normally dark brown, so I usually try to color it just a little bit lighter. But some of the lighter browns and reds look brassy, so lately I have been using a 'high lift' brown with good success. It matches my eyebrows better."
Cowan uses a curling iron on her straight hair to give it some height at the crown and to lift the ends up at the bottom of her shag cut. "I always have bangs because they are more flattering to my diamond-shaped face. I like to have hair longer on the back of the neck because it balances out a fuller neck," she says.
"I am active," she says. "I work out at the gym, ride my bike, and swim in a warm water therapy pool. My hair stands up to this pretty well. I don't usually get it wet in the pool. I only have to wash it once or twice a week."
Cowan tries not to spend too much on her hair, getting it cut every six weeks at a salon that charges $12. She purchases a bronze highlighter at Sally Beauty Supply that looks like a mascara wand and lets her put small highlights in her hair around her face.
"The highlights wash out each time I shampoo, but they do not contain any bleach," she says. "I add a few strokes of bronze eyeliner to my brows so they match better. My style is pretty easy to maintain. I can pre-spray it, curl it with the iron, and then brush it a little before a final spray. This takes about five to 10 minutes each morning. I work full time, so this works pretty well."
Penzone agrees that many seniors are looking for easy-to-maintain styles. Today's seniors "take pride in their appearance," she says. They "embrace fitness, active lifestyles and fun fashion. They are on the move, and their hair reflects their fun attitudes. Less maintenance and easier styling is a must with active lifestyles."
Penzone provides some hints for senior women and their hair care. "Any shampoos that cancel out yellow tones are great to properly manage your gray, keeping it silver and shiny. Seniors with gray hair should avoid flat irons. Too much heat will cause the hair to reflect a yellow tint, leaving a less appealing color," she says, noting that a good shampoo for senior hair is any kind of clarifying shampoo, such as BioSilk Silver Lights shampoo and L'Or?al Homme Grey anti-yellowing shampoo.
"My hints would be to ask your stylist for a style that works well with your face shape," Cowan says. "Also, go just a little lighter than your natural color, or add highlights. I don't think perfectly straight hair looks very good on seniors. A little bit of softness is more flattering."
Above all, enjoy yourself, Penzone advises. "Enjoy your 60s and beyond; don't be conservative with your hairstyles. Today's generation of seniors knows how to enjoy life with a fun, fresh attitude," she says. "Let your hairstyle reflect your fun and fearless personality. Just because you're a senior doesn't mean you can't be sexy."