The hall of Elrond's house was filled with many folk . . . .J. R. R. Tolkien, quoted from The Lord of the Rings, Book 2, Many Meetings
Frodo looked at them in wonder, for he had never before seen Elrond, of whom so many tales spoke; and as they sat upon his right hand and his left, Glorfindel, and even Gandalf, whom he thought he knew so well, were revealed as lords of dignity and power.
Gandalf was shorter in stature than the other two; but his long white hair, his sweeping silver beard, and his broad shoulders, made him look like some wise king of ancient legend. In his aged face under great snowy brows his dark eyes were set like coals that could leap suddenly into fire.
I was chatting (in the technological sense) with some friends last night [this two years and gone], and remarked that my hair had grayed since last they saw me, December. It being now March [N.B. of 2007], I was vehement at the change. A gracious lady made remark that graying (actually whitening, I read in wikipedia) distinguishes men.
Which is the common observation of early 21st culture. At least in the industrialized world, and I suspect uniformly. Gray hair on a man signifies wisdom, victorious struggle, and dignity. On the other hand a woman's gray hair simply means she isn't young. Which, at least in this pleasure driven cultures that value objects, means she doesn't have one of the two qualities of worth to a woman. And of course that she's likely quickly losing the other: beauty.
(I dissent with the notion that age must rest ungraciously on women. I think we can see the beauty of potential: a young girl or small gazelle or budding gardenia; and the beauty of fulfillment: a mature woman or grizzled wapiti or withered wreath.)
Perhaps it is a specific and concrete achievement to notice, to appreciate the beauty, the good of each thing.