I had my 30-year high school reunion over the summer. I really didn’t think much about the gravity of three decades until it got closer. The week before I found myself rushing to the store to buy neck cream (results in two weeks….darn!) and anti-aging moisturizer.
I realize at this point, when 50 is closer than 40, that I have some decisions to make about how I want to proceed. It’s so easy to go into anti-aging mode: lament to friends about wrinkles, spend money on anything anti-aging, and dread every single birthday from here on forward.
But there’s this other side to aging too. It’s nice to see the fruits of your labor, know what you want, and feel more confident in your own skin. And why not celebrate this life every year?
So I’ve started to question if getting older is as bad as it’s made out to be. Who made this up this story anyway? Why does society idealize the under 30 crowd so much? And most of all, what do I have to gain (or lose) by fighting the inevitably of aging?
Just as I’m thinking about this, it seems pro-aging movements are starting to show up. Hopefully, more people are taking notice. I know I have.
I was at the grocery store when I saw the cover of Allure with Helen Mirren. It wasn’t so much the picture that caught my eye but the title: “The End of Anti-Aging: A Call to the Industry.” I read the article online nodding in complete agreement:
Language matters. When talking about a woman over, say, 40, people tend to add qualifiers: “She looks great…for her age” or “She’s beautiful…for an older woman.” Catch yourself next time and consider what would happen if you just said, “She looks great.” Yes, Americans put youth on a pedestal. But let’s agree that appreciating the dewy rosiness of youth doesn’t mean we become suddenly hideous as years go by.
The article ends with a call to the industry to stop anti-aging messaging and start celebrating the beauty in all ages. This is something Cindy Joseph, creator of Boom Cosmetics, has already started doing. Her pro-age cosmetic line is “for women who want to reveal their genuine beauty with an honest and realistic approach.”
Negative concepts of aging are make-believe, man-made and invented. We make them true by believing them. When you change your mind, and start living according to your new points of view, you begin changing truth. I am interested in creating a new truth. I believe all women are attractive. It’s our nature. We bring fun, desire, and appetite to everything we do. When we find ourselves perfect, exactly as we are, we change our persona. That changes how others perceive us. Feeling good about who you are is attractive. Enjoying ourselves is attractive. The texture of our skin does not make us attractive. Our hair color does not make us attractive. Our clothes do not make us attractive.
Science Says Take the Positive View
Interestingly, research suggests how someone feels about aging matters for longevity. In one study, participants were asked to respond to statements about aging like “As you get older, you are less useful” and “As I get older things are (better, worse, or the same) as I thought they would be.” The people in the study were followed for 23 years. The researchers found those with a more positive view of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with a negative one. Positive self-perception of aging had a greater impact on survival than gender, socioeconomic status, loneliness, and functional health.
That’s not all. The impact of positive self-perceptions of aging was greater than having a lower BMI, not smoking, and exercising which contributed an additional 1 to 3 years of life. Another more recent study found similar results: Those that felt younger than their age were at a lower risk for death than those who felt their age or older.
The researchers of these studies suggest these benefits may have to do with an increased will to live. Feeling better about aging may mean people are less likely to let it stand in their way. In other words, they are not moping around fretting about their wrinkles, they are busy living.
The Anti-Aging Promise Doesn’t Hold Up
Maybe with enough work, I could get my skin to look much younger and smooth. And maybe keeping my birthday and age low key would lead people to think I’m younger than I am. Isn’t that the promise of all the anti-aging revolution? Happiness lies in how young you look.
But just recently I was talking with my high school friends after our reunion. And we all agreed that even back then — at age 17 — we didn’t appreciate our looks. Our skin was clear and we were thinner, but we still weren’t satisfied. And if it didn’t work then, why would it work now?
What we did have — and what many young people have — are dreams; a life full of opportunity, goals, and fun (AKA ‘will to live’). It seems to me the anti-aging message is really a distraction, keeping people from what is truly needed to live a happy and full life. And that can’t be sold in a bottle.
That’s why I’ve decided — as hard as it might be — to look at my wrinkles in a more positive light. They are not a sign that something is wrong. No, they teach a vital life lesson.
Because it’s not that 40 is the new 20 or 50 is the new 30. It’s that we can make aging be anything we want it to be. It’s up to us.