Good nutrition and exercise help seniors maintain vitality

At 73, Paul Newman still makes women swoon. So does an older and more rugged-looking Sean Connery. Heck, even hunky Harrison Ford has joined the over-50 ranks.

Older women, too, prove they've still got the goods. In "Afterglow," a fiftysomething Julie Christie showed she's still the "It" girl. While there aren't too many 50-year-old women who will roll around nude in gold paint for a Playboy video, as did Farrah Fawcett, it's nice to know someone can. And then there are women who seem to age into their potential. The late Jessica Tandy glowed with an inner beauty in her 80s that wasn't so apparent in her youth.

You may not be a movie star, but you certainly can make the most of your looks. Here's how to look great at any age:

There's no doubt about it — good genes help when it comes to looking young for a lifetime. If your parents weathered the years with glorious hair, smooth skin and overall good health, chances are you will, too. If, however, you didn't win the gene-pool jackpot, read on:

Healthy looks on the outside come from good health on the inside. A balanced diet composed of fruits, vegetables, low-fat proteins and adequate essential fatty acids promotes shiny hair, healthy coloring and soft skin. Some dietary supplements, such as flaxseed oil, can help, but check with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist before adding vitamin or herbal supplements to your diet. Some supplements can have adverse interactions with medications taken for other conditions.

The other component is exercise. Daily workouts promote blood circulation, which contributes to a healthy glow. You also can challenge yourself by taking up a new activity. Yes, you can learn to surf in your 50s, train for triathlons in your 60s, climb a mountain in your 70s. People who challenge themselves physically always show a youthful appetite for life.

The soap-and-water skin care routine of your youth may not be effective as you get older. Opt for mild cleansers and toners, followed by moisturizer twice a day. Some skin care elixirs promise a face lift in a bottle, but dermatologists say expensive products aren't necessarily more effective.

Cleansers and moisturizers containing alpha-hydroxyl acids can help improve skin texture, but over-the-counter products may not contain a high enough concentration to make a dramatic difference. For that, you should consult a dermatologist.

Pamper yourself with a moisturizing facial mask once a week. Use a mild exfoliator to remove dead skin, apply a warm towel to your face for a few minutes, then apply the mask.

And what about makeup? Here again, what worked 20 years ago, or even five years ago, may not be the most flattering look for you now. As skin changes color and texture with age, you should readjust your makeup palette for maximum effect. Aim for a natural look that enhances your own beauty.

Does she or doesn't she? Does he or doesn't he? These days, you never know. Covering the gray is a matter of personal choice. If you do color your hair, consult with a stylist to choose a shade that's flattering. That may mean picking a hue that's a few shades lighter than the coal-dark tresses of your youth.

Some women, for example, opt for an ash blond as a slightly "youthening" alternative to natural gray. This requires fewer touch-ups than darker hair color.

But gray or white hair can be a crowning glory, and the right cut will show off its luster. Also look for specially formulated shampoos and conditioners to maintain its soft texture and protect the color. In some cases, white hair can take on a yellow cast. If you're an avid swimmer, remember to protect your tresses with a swim cap and always rinse your hair with a special shampoo to remove pool chemicals.

Many men and some women find their hair thins with age. A good cut can maximize hair volume, and products like Rogaine can, in some cases, encourage hair growth.

What about style? You can tell when some women were happiest by how they wear their hair — it's as if they're frozen in time. Stay current by re-evaluating your haircut and color regularly. Sometimes just changing the shape can take years off your face.

You're older and smarter, which means you're no slave to fashion. Although you're not likely to run around in a crop top with a navel ring, you don't have to ignore current styles. We all get into a sartorial rut, and when you find yourself spending too many days wearing a warm-up suit and sneakers, it's time to seek something new.

Not sure what works? Many department stores offer free personal shopping services. Schedule an appointment at your favorite store and spend a few hours trying new looks. As with hairstyles and makeup, you'll likely find colors and cuts that are more flattering than what you've been wearing for years.

Updating your wardrobe keeps you looking current, which is especially important for older people in the workplace. You want younger co-workers to see you — and your experience — as relevant, not dated.

People who are young at heart are often young-looking, too. And that has nothing to do with a full head of hair or smooth skin, but with twinkling eyes and a ready smile. That comes from staying physically and mentally active, involved in the world around you and eternally curious.

Smart skin care, healthy hair and a snappy wardrobe help, but perpetual youth comes from emotional well-being.