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In Just 30+ Years, Our Expectations Of What 45-Year-Old Parents Look Like Has Changed Dramatically

Photo: @baddestmamajama via Twitter / Kourtney Kardashian via Instagram / sparklestroke, WomenPunch, Royyan Wijaya via Canva
tweet showing diane keaton and steve martin next to kourtney kardashian and travis barker

If you're of a certain age, namely between your 30s and 50s, you've probably thought it: Adults seemed to look a lot older back in the day than they do now. 

And it hasn't even taken that long for this all to change — or at least for lots of people to start noticing.

The internet is full of posts and videos from people who have noticed that a 2020's 35- or 47-year-old doesn't look anything like they used to.

A perfect example is the iconic film "Father of the Bride," which came out just over 30 years ago in 1991.

45-year-olds were expected to look like this:

Photo: @baddestmamajama/Twitter

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If you're anywhere near 45 nowadays, Steve Martin and Diane Keaton probably look a bit long in the tooth for 45, right?

But if you're thinking Martin and Keaton must have been older at the time, think again. Martin and Keaton were both exactly 45 in 1991. 

Compare that to two of the biggest movie stars today, Jessica Chastain and Edgar Ramirez, who both turned 45 this year.

Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.com, @edgarramirez25/Instagram

A far cry from Martin and Keaton, right?

The phenomenon is seen in lots of movies and TV shows.

Lots of beloved old characters looked shockingly old at relatively young ages back in the day by today's standards.

Take, for instance, the cast of the iconic sitcom "Cheers." Most of us would assume that the old gang at Boston's friendliest bar was in their 40s and 50s, right? 

Well, keep telling yourself that, because with the exception of the elderly character Coach, nearly all of them were a lot younger than they appear.

Photo: @TheRoryJohn/Twitter

In fact, some of them were still in their 20s, like Kelsey Grammer, who looked like a 40-something dad at the ripe old age of 27 years old.

As one millennial tweeter put it, "How the hell am I 35 and most the cast of Cheers looks twice my age when they were my age back then."

And it only gets weirder when you start skewing older. Consider the cast of "The Golden Girls" — who, Sophia Petrillo notwithstanding, were all supposed to be around 55. This is the same age as the women of "Sex and the City" are today.

With the exception of Rue McClanahan who was a sprightly 51 at the time the show premiered, cast members Betty White, Bea Arthur, and Estelle Getty were all in their early 60s.

And today's roster of 50-something women are glamazons like Viola Davis, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Aniston.

Can you imagine anyone taking a show about those four women in their supposed "golden years" seriously?

Even if you got 60-something women to play them, you'd be talking about women like Julianne Moore, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Angela Bassett. Nobody's buying them as retiree roommates in Miami in 2022!

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So what on Earth is going on here? Is it our beauty standards that have changed, or aging itself?

It's partly based in perception, but science has found we are in fact biologically younger than our parents and grandparents were.

Some of it is explained by the fact that what we perceive as "old people" aesthetics — hairstyle, clothing, etc. — changes over time.

Take, for instance, the Photoshop makeover of Norm from "Cheers" that many people have shared on social media over the years.

   

   

Change the facial hair and the clothes and suddenly old man Norm looks like any other 30-something millennial nowadays.

But there's biology at play too — it turns out we really are younger nowadays.

A 2018 study published by the National Institutes of Health found that age markers like blood pressure and lung function showed "biological age" had decreased significantly just between 1988 and 2010.

The cause? Simple lifestyle changes like less smoking and better medications. The ubiquitous use of sunscreen helps too

All that chain-smoking at three-martini lunches may have made our grandparents seem impossibly glamorous, but it turns out it aged them beyond their years. 

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.

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