The strongest realization that came to me was how aging does not change desires or a sense of self, but that physical limitations limit the ways we can act on those desires and interests; aging constrains choice.
While coming up with ideas for our age simulations, we had jokingly suggested putting our hair into hot rollers while using saran wrap to restrict our movement. It seemed like a trivial suggestion because neither I, nor my partner, are really “get your hair done” kind of ladies, but this ended up being the most emotional part of our aging simulations for me. It made me realize just how physically strenuous it could be to stick to a beauty routine. Holding my arms above the head, carefully wrapping hair around a roller, and securing the roller with a pin required intense muscle strength and precision of movement. With all of the motion restricting measures we had taken, it was quite painful and the end of it all, my hair still looked truly terrible.
It made me realize how much I associated a “kept” appearance with my own grandmother. Maintaining a coiffed hairdo and styled was really important to her sense of self. I never realized how much effort it would take for her to maintain her appearance while she was dealing with aging and her worsening arthritis.
It made me realize how easily we can assume that things like appearance are the product of choice, when really, choice is constrained by so much of the aging process.