Anti-Aging-Marginalizing The Golden Years
There seems to be a negative perception of aging in our culture. Let's change that!
My parents rolled into town this past week for a summer visit. I love those guys — they're still crazy for each other after all these years. In fact, they are the ace up my sleeve, the secret of my success, and the unfair advantage I inherited in life. Not just because they blessed me with charm, whit, and genetic good looks (and a wild sense of imagination), and not because of their emphasis on education so that I could converse with my dad about hot topics like the narcissism of perceived difference. No, the edge they have given me in life is much simpler and increasingly more rare — they value life and they still love each other.
"Every child should be preceded by a love story," my dad says.
Although they admit they would never win any beauty contests, they are at peace with hitting age 65 last year and the silver haired image that greets them in the mirror each morning. "Life is so much more enjoyable when you don't stare at your reflection all day long. You see life much more clearly and positively when you are not always factoring in your age or your image," suggests my mom.
We discussed aging and getting older. The bottom line is that they are enjoying it. They both said that rather than fight the aging process, they try to own it - It's who they are now. Are they depressed about birthdays? "They beat the alternative! As long as I'm still having them, I'm fine!" quips my dad.
"There seems to be a negative perception of aging in our culture. Look at the wave of nutrition and beauty topics under the umbrella of 'anti-aging.' Without meaning to, society subtly embraces the rejection of aging and consequently the elderly in general. We are literally 'anti' aging; aging is to be avoided, fought, delayed — rejected. I'm all for aging gracefully and slowing the effects and even the signs of aging, but at some point we need to face the fact that aging is inevitable — and a glorious part of living," says my dad.
NPR presented a discussion recently contrasting American versus British perceptions towards health and care. Setting aside the notorious stereotype of dental hygiene among the Brits, the English made some interesting points. Fundamentally, the point was that Americans seem to be adopting the notion that with dedicated exercise and zealous nutrition, all disease and perhaps even death can be completely avoided.
Yes, they were exaggerating a bit, and no, we probably can't say enough about diet and exercise - they absolutely enhance, even extend, life's journey. But the truth is that we do tend to be a society that fixates on youth.
So would they like to turn back the clock a bit? "I get a sense of nostalgia for certain periods of my life and realize that the years go by so quickly," says my mom, "but I am filled with great joy and immense satisfaction when I realize that I have no regrets. Aging has it's limitations and it's opportunities. Life must be viewed as a progression that moves us onward and upwards in experience and wisdom. The view from the top of a mountain is grander than the view at the bottom — and it takes effort and age to get there, but the higher you climb, the farther you can see and it begins to feel like the world is at your feet. So no, I wouldn't want to go backward, just upward."
Talk about a balanced sense of self. Beauty truly is more than skin deep. After all, there is no cosmetic for beauty like inner peace and happiness.
Onward and upwards.