Anti Anti-Aging

I am 58 years old and trying hard to anti-age.

The bombardment of anti-aging tips is everywhere. Dr. Oz has a site devoted to them, Christiane Northrop wrote a book she titled Goddesses Never Age, and the Huffington Post provides anti-aging advice. It’s written on my night cream label, stated in my green juice recipe, mentioned in yoga class. It is a topic discussed by friends and colleagues.

It is even…in me.

But what does it really mean?

Dr. Oz suggests that his anti-aging tips can help us live to be 100.

But I ask myself, how can one not age AND live to be 100? It seems like an oxymoron.

If I am honest, this is exactly what I want. I want to live to be 100 and feel and look thirty (I’d even take forty).

It seems that I am an ageist, and like the rest of our culture, I am youth-biased.

And who wouldn’t be? Isn’t it more preferable to be young and beautiful than old and wrinkled? We have all been persuaded to think that smooth skin and youthful bodies are preferable to greying hair, furrowed foreheads and wrinkled hands.

But wait. I love wrinkled hands.

They remind me of my grandmother. I remember watching those hands, the bulging veins and large knuckles, kneading pasta dough, scrambling eggs and picking peppers from the garden. Those hands danced when Gram told a story, tap-tap-tapping on the table, rhythmically pointing for emphasis, playing piano in the air.

Gram was not anti-aging and yet she was full of energy and vigor. In her late 50’s she started a drum corps for local youth. I picture her marching in parades, knees up high, smiling broadly, not worrying about wrinkles or her waistline.

She was pro-aging. And she lived a long life too.

Becca Levy of Yale University studies the impact of negative stereotypes and aging. She is especially interested in internalized negative self-stereotypes and their deleterious effects. Her research proves that negative implicit stereotypes are responsible for the youth obsession and our anti-aging fixation.

What knocked me over is that Dr. Levy’s research indicates that individuals with an internalized positive image of aging live on average 7.5 years longer than those with a negative bias.

What this means is that in order to increase longevity we should embrace aging. And stop investing in the anti-aging myth and the industry that created and supports it.

Aging has its perks. We just have to uncover them. And make it more inviting. Let it be a more diverse, rich and even surprising experience.

Of course the most challenging thing about aging is that it brings us closer to death.

But as Dr. Levy’s research suggests, feeling positive about aging can give us a few more years.

So I am anti anti-aging. It’s a trap, makes us feel bad and doesn’t keep us young.

I have decided to be pro-aging, and hope to live a long, healthy, purpose-filled and fun life.