Returning from a Florida vacation in February, I met a beautiful, 80-year-old woman on my flight who changed my perceptions of female beauty.

Returning from a Florida vacation in February, I met a beautiful, 80-year-old woman on my flight who changed my perceptions of female beauty.

Caroline had perfectly styled hair and very few wrinkles. With glowing eyes, she described her beloved husband and their devotion to each other before he passed. She expressed pleasure at being able to live on her own, near her grandchildren. Impressed by her adaptability to life changes, I believe this quality was at the root of her inner and outer beauty.

"I am most fortunate to have come from a loving family with parents who told us we were rich," she told me. "I always believed it because we had a mother and father, a roof over our heads and never went hungry. We were raised believing work was a privilege, and we worked hard — very hard — and with pride. Love your family, work hard and you will think and be beautiful."

She said she was taught that there is beauty in everyone.

Her words motivated me to take a closer look at the women around me, learning how they maintain their inner and outer beauty throughout life. I believe all women possess inner and outer beauty, whether they feel it or not. So I asked other woman to share their thoughts.

Mona, 55, told me: "The loss of a child makes you understand that life can be short, but certainly sweet. Love yourself; love your children; love life. Live your life with no regrets, finding the beauty in all that surrounds you."

Sixty-three-year-old Julie responded: "I believe my inner beauty comes from being raised in a four-family house surrounded by relatives who made me feel loved, secure and validated as a woman with a voice. The adults in my life taught me the value of spending time together in conversation, sharing meals and celebrating each family member as a valuable part of the family unit. We were taught how to cooperate and share, never to outshine another and always help others in need. My spirituality comes from sharing what I know with everyone who comes into my life."

When I turned 66, I sarcastically thought: "Gee, at 65 I began collecting Medicare, and at 66 I'm collecting more wrinkles."

Now I look back on that little quip differently. The knowledge I've gained about myself — and the many changes I have made and experienced in my life — afforded me an inner beauty of which I'd never dreamed. My sense of humor and acceptance of the way my life has unfolded provides balance.

The overwhelming love for my grandchildren — and the pieces of myself within them — gives me a sense of eternity. My love for family and friends and their acceptance of my foibles keep me right-sized. Accepting others as they find their own paths to inner beauty is a gift from within.

Inner beauty comes from the way I conduct myself and treat others. The "marionette lines" and wrinkles remind me that I'm aging appropriately. The slight hearing loss (so I liked loud music), more light when I read (at least I can still comprehend and read) — these are unique to me and contribute to who I am today.

My philosophy now: Acceptance is the key.

So do not struggle with life changes and the prospect of getting old. Instead, gracefully accept this as part of the incredible gift of life. We all have a natural life cycle, like the beauty that surrounds us in nature.

Cherish each and every moment and feel the beauty.

Joy reader Clare Coughlin lives in Sams Valley.