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Achingly Tired of Youth

A couple of days ago, Crabby Old Lady ran across the one-zillionth news story about how boomers, the oldest of whom are entering their early 60s now, expect to buck the heretofore inevitable trend of the human body to age and die by living (while remaining young, of course) forever. This one, from the Hartford Courant, is about the uptick in sales of books with instructions on how to do that.

"'...[boomers are] starting to panic as they see those unmistakable signs of aging,' says Sarah Bedell, owner of the Bookworm bookstore in West Hartford. 'They've controlled every part of their lives up to now and they want to be able to control, or even avoid, old age as well. So they're seeking out as much information as they can find to try to hold off the inevitable…'

“…Boomers are looking for a loophole. To assist the over-50 crowd on that quest, publishers are filling store shelves with new guides on healthy aging, avoiding memory loss, retirement, downsizing and other aging-related topics."

Good God, if you haven’t figured out how to live a healthy life by age 50 or 60, a book probably won’t help. The rules are few and simple:

  • Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains

  • Avoid too much fat, red meat and sweets

  • Take some regular physical exercise – every day

  • Exercise your mind too

  • Get enough sleep

  • Don’t smoke tobacco

  • Get a physical checkup once a year

There is little more to know. Whatever you do, you will get old. Unless you don’t. The day of our individual death is up to Mother Nature (or God, if that is your belief). It’s not your call.

If any of the book authors’ extravagant promises of eternal youth really worked, there would be a lot of 200-hundred-year-olds hanging around running marathons. Crabby Old Lady hasn’t seen any, so if you have, please do let her know so she can retract this rant and buy a bunch of those books.

None of this would interest Crabby if it didn’t affect smarter old people. Why should she care if aging boomers, who admit in surveys they haven’t saved enough money for retirement, make millionaires of book-author, snake-oil salesmen?

Let Crabby tell you: because every time (thousands a day throughout the U.S.) the media, in advertising, books, magazines, newspapers, radio, television programs, blogs and websites, promote youth as the gold standard of life, aging is reinforced as a character flaw, a weakness, a deformity against which every effort must be made to correct it.

That leads to disrespect, age discrimination in the workplace and reinforces the many myths about elders as lesser beings.

Oprah Winfrey, who at 53 is old enough to know better, is among the worst offenders in promoting youth as the ideal stage of life. As she has for years, she continues to promote Dr. Michael Roizen whose “Real Age” program promises to make people “live and feel up to 26 years younger” – a claim so weird in its specificity that it leads Crabby to question anything he says.

Oprah’s newest medical darling is Dr. Roizen’s recent co-author, Dr. Mehmet C. Oz, who has shamefully allowed his advice to be promoted on Oprah’s television show website in the following manner:

  • How to add years to life and turn back the clock
  • Dr. Oz’s Guide to Staying Young
  • Ready to commit to staying young?
  • Dr. Oz says he's uncovered the fountain of youth that will add years to your life
  • Fight back and stay young.

Behind the hype, Dr. Roizen’s and Dr. Oz’s advice is mostly that long-proven, standard-issue stuff listed above that any good physician will tell you. Crabby Old Lady would have no objection if it were not positioned as youth worship and the word “healthy” were substituted for “young” in those odious promotional blurbs.

That Oprah incessantly harps on youth and beauty is even more unforgivable in light of her enormous cultural clout. Imagine how elders’ lives could be changed, how age discrimination could be reduced or even eliminated, how elders would gain in respect of society if Oprah would get over her obsession with youth and accept aging as the normal and remarkable stage of life it is.

It is not good enough to let her audience in on Maya Angelou's wisdom when almost every other day she is complicit in keeping ageism alive.

Crabby Old Lady started this blog to help herself (and maybe some readers) understand what getting old is really like. That is, what’s good about it, what isn’t so good, how beliefs and attitudes might change with the years, what it feels like physically and emotionally, what is takes to live the last years as fully as the earlier years.

That’s what Crabby wants to pursue and she is deeply, achingly tired of finding no one willing to think publicly about aging in any way other than staying young forever.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rabon Saip tells the story of a man with real Machismo - not the bullying swagger of those who only wish they had it.]


Comments

Ronnie, oh how I envy your writing ability. You express it like I think. It is all so true. Have a wonderful day. Nashville has its first heavy frost. Everything looks white outside.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this old Boomer don't want to be young again. I earned the right to be old. I think chasing youth after a certain age is unattractive. Besides, I like myself better now than I ever have in my life. No, I haven't the energy I once had and yeah, I worry about how I'm going to take care of myself if I live too long but I also believe that the Good Lord has gotten me this far and will get me as far as He needs me to go. Maybe that that sounds silly to some but with my history, I not only have to believe it, I have to rely on it.

You're so right, Ronnie. Of course anti-aging is what sells. Good basic health and active minds are what matter most, but our society seems to encourage improving our outer appearaces rather than what, if anything, is going on in our brains. I'm willing to bet that books that tell it like it is (an example: "60 On Up," by Lillian B. Rubin) don't sell nearly as well as the guides to staying young. Reality is sometimes hard to swallow.

Amen!

Oprah's 53?

Does that mean we have to wait around for at least 7 years to see if she finally 'gets it'?

I don't mind waiting.

Your work on the blog is a great gift to all of us. THANK YOU.

I think you do yourself no favors by using the term "Crabby Old Lady". I much prefer to think of you as vibrant, insightful, and willing to have opinions in print...all indicators of a depth of character that is admirable.

Statements of opinions, facts, etc. are not "rants".

How about championing a campaign to send Oprah e-mails about getting into the positive aspects of aging?

Keep up the great work!

Sue

I made the mistake of taking the are you living young test of Dr. Oz's on Oprah's site. It reminded me of how school IQ tests used to be so culturally slanted that the results didn't indicate a level of intelligence but pinpointed your social stratosphere.

My family and I were talking about this topic at dinner last night. What really got me was the idea that to live young you had to take all of the vitamin and mineral supplements, have sex every few days, and orgasm even more often (whatever). In the culture I live in, we tend to believe a healthy diet doesn't have to be influenced through drugs or extra supplements. Most of the people I know, whether single or married, whether relatively young or old, do not have sex every few days.

I wish Oprah a mentor who ages with dignity and grace, rather than a mentor who is concentrating on retarding or removing all traces of age.

Ronni, seek no more: YOU are "one willing to think publicly about aging in any way other than staying young forever." No need wishing for who you already are. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And I adore the moniker that you reserve for ranting;-)

What you have written is good old-fashioned commonsense. Good health is a large part to do with how we treat our bodies, with a little bit of luck - good or bad - thrown in.
Heavens is Oprah Winfrey only 53? I thought she was quite a bit older but had taken advantage of face-lifts and suchlike . . . .

I join you in this frustration. I saw the introduction to this last "stay young" Oprah show and turned it off. But I also emailed her and will continue to do so. I think that ceaselessly hearing our voices and our constructive, creative ideas, might make a dent...

I have not listened to Oprah for years but what she says permeates the culture and I think it's too bad. To me, she is shallow and has spent her money on a desperate quest to find happiness through luxuries. Nothing wrong with that but it's sure not the highest use, even the school she built was all about Oprah's ego and when she found out there had been molestations there, it was all about how it impacted her. She is very conscious of not controlling her weight and trying to hold onto youth. It's too bad so many people listen to her for wisdom. If it's just to find entertainment, fine, but she does not disperse wisdom-- in my opinion. Hers is an entertainment program

Keep it up, Ronni. I agree with most of the points here and I emailed Oprah the day I saw the show. (Think I'll send a link to this post, too.)
Everyone is right: if she gets on the bandwagon to fight ageism changes will happen.

Meanwhile, I prefer not to bash her too much. In the culture in which she lives (mediaville) she sets a very high standard for integrity, generosity, and social responsibility. That she's not perfect just makes her more like me.

And all of us here - don't discount the impact our own voices will have on this issue. We hold the power to make the changes also and are adding to that energy every day. Go Team!

OK, for newbies like me - Crabby Old Lady *is* Ronni Bennet? I wondered why COL got to guest-blog.

Mary Jamison...

Crabby Old Lady is Ronni Bennett's less polite alter ego. She reads over Ronni's shoulder and urges Ronni toward stronger and - uh, more colorful speech.

If Crabby Old Lady had her way, this blog wouldn't be fit for the family hour. You should hear Crabby when she gets wound up - whew! even the cat runs for cover.

Mostly, Ronni keeps Crabby Old Lady under relative control on the blog, but occasionally something slips through that Ronni herself would never say in public.

Am I ever glad Crabby didn't mention drinking on her list. I look up to Crabby.
As for Oprah..I do watch her show...she just gives the audience what they want. I take the good and ignore the bad. I'm not buying Dr. Oz's book as I think I'm fine the way I am.

Well, Crabby, I can see why you won't be running out to those bookstores anytime soon. Never mind the money, it's not worth the effort.
Because all those silly gooses, Oprah included, are delusional. I don't care what kind of cream, info, etc. they have....pssss! They TOO will get OLD some day.
I think "they" have the two words mixed up....healthy vs young. I would never want to be "young" again. Learned my lessons and mighty glad to be where I am at this stage of the journey. Now, healthy....I hope to maintain that for quite awhile.

Staying fit and healthy are more important than looking young. I think that is what Oprah and Oz mean, but to catch the masses of public interest, they have to couch it it terms to which the majority of the public responds.

It is too bad that so many of us have "looking young" as our mantra, rather than being healthy enough to have a vibrant old age.

The Internet strategies company I work for is, except for my friend Anne and me, pretty much the Temple of Youth. It's a small company, so it doesn't make much difference, but this is likely to be my last job. I dread the thought of heading out with a résumé at my age. I think I know what would happen.

Right now I'm having trouble getting a transcript from my undergraduate college. Yes, I explain, I attended 40 years ago. Forty years may seem like a long time, but I think the transcript still exists--and, yes, as a computer record, not a damn cuneiform tablet!

kenju...

Crabby almost agrees that Oprah thinks she means fit and healthy when she says "young" (except for the large amount of time she spends on beauty makeovers meant to make the volunteers look younger than they are.)

But in a culture as youth-centric and ageist as ours where elders are denigrated at every turn for not being young, people must use language carefully. That is especially so for people with great influence.

When Oprah's audience hears "look young" they believe she means that to look old is bad.

What Oprah may or may not really mean is not doing attitudes and beliefs about elders any good.

Excellent post, Ronni! Oprah has done much good, but she is on the wrong track with her age denial programs.

Americans love self-help books and buy them with both hands. And, face it, books with titles like The Joy of Wrinkles, The Upside of ED, and Humor for the Alzheimer Patient are not going to sell.

I love to read what Crabby Old Lady writes. You need to let her 'ghostwrite' more often.

Thanks for the post, Ronni and to everyone for their comments. As I have mentioned before, it is good to have a dose of realism. Especially this is important to those of us who have less than perfect health. Aging gracefully is about learning to work within the perameters of our health issues.

Loved the rant. I too work in a bookstore and wonder why people mostly women have to read these "claw back up the hill" books. No aging isnt fun but growing up wasnt a piece of cake either. I like what i am and who i turned out to be. Yes i do whine about being mistaken for my mother's sister. But then she had the same problem with her mother. We are all short & round with our original hair color long gone. I'm going to look like my ancestors no matter what. I truly think a great age-fighter is kindness. Smiles break down barriers.

ronni gosh forgot to say thank you for the wonderful blogsite. Its important to keep up to date on all the issues you bring to our attention. With all the information so readily available now its not always possible to get feedback from friends and coworkers. Gee i just realized i sound like my letter-to-the-editor writing dad. I guess thats inevitable too! Thanks for opening your blog to all of us.

I had forgotten what hooked me on this blog in the first place until I realized I had been missing COL. So what if her language gets out of hand sometimes! I'm just glad she has a forum for expression and am in awe of her special knack with written words.

Meanwhile, I join others in continuing to promote the fact that "the language that's used" is a significant part of what this ageism is all about, as I have been doing since long before I "met" COL.

That remind's me, doncha just love the name of that one Dr. on Oprah -- Dr. Oz ? Seems apropos for the land in which Oprah currently lives relative to aging.

Sure am glad to read others are writing her, too. I remember when I heard her speak in person, before her show was picked up by the network. I was really impressed, made a point of watching her first national TV broadcast, have seen numerous shows since then.

Some years ago, she really got off track, despite all the good she accomplishes. If she ever comes to grip with the aging reality, she could make a signifcant contribution toward changing aging perceptions in this country, even the world. I hold out hope that will happen, and want to be around to see it.

Dang I'm glad I resisted that eyelid surgery now...and even more when I see people even younger than I whose eyes now look too tight and continually surprised because the lids don't go with the face. It's great to make the acquaintance of others out there in the blogosphere who have the same sentiments as I. Thanks Ronni for giving us a voice.

Whenever a see Dr. Oz-type headline about "fighting" aging, it never occurs to me to sign up for this particular army.

Even if we dye our hair, get our faces "done", work out two hours a day (as IF!), and pile on the anti-aging "miracle" creams, we will still age.

We will not look 25 again no matter what we do. And neither will Oprah.

Think about how tough this makes the rest of us, whether we know it or not.

If multiple millions of dollars and a first name that's a household word is not enough to make you feel OK about yourself as an old lady, how brave must the rest of us be to face life on a lot less?


Three cheers for Crabby! Keep preaching!

I refuse to feel guilty about getting older. It isn't a battle we lose, it's growth. Thanks for being a voice.

I agree about the authors who are getting rich selling the latest ’stay young’ garbage to us in-denial boomers. Imagine if we could take that money and use it, instead, to help the thousands of soldiers coming back damaged from Iraq, for instance.

What gets me most about Oprah is her insecurity with her own looks. You can see her look into the monitor to check her image about a million times every show, ever since her very first show! A while back, she caught her image from one angle and didn’t like how it made her fake eyelashes look and actually called her makeup man up onto the stage to look at them! On the air! I couldn’t believe it!!! Who gives a flip?!? Also, a big ta-doo is made of her love of high heels. We constantly see her walking in the most peculiar way, simply because those beautiful shoes are killing her feet! And she admits it! What kind of message is THAT sending?!? There are many things about Oprah that I enjoy. Although she seems very naïve about some things, and the rest of us have to wait for her to catch up, she has many shows that give us good information that will help us. Re our safety; our health, etc. And I’m so glad she uses her money to help lots of people; probably much more than we see ‘on air’.

I don’t agree so much about the Dr. Roizen and Dr. Oz thing. I agree that NOW it’s so much hype. But I think it has BECOME hype. (Dr. Phil just started out by offering his help to people on the Oprah show, right? And it was desperately needed, so it became popular, leading to his own show and hype, hype, hype.) I don’t think it started out that way. I think it started as Oprah or the doctors or the network or SOMEONE thinking it would be good to get health information out there. Information about how our bodies work, etc. Information is power, right? And so many of us are so ignorant about these things. I mean, a nation with such high obesity levels is NOT a nation of people knowledgable about what the wrong food is doing to their bodies.

To me, the RealAge thing is an important tool. I’m 60 years old now but if I choose to have this and that bad eating habits, for instance, the REAL AGE of my body is going to be more like 75. I think many people don’t think about that. Getting the info I need to turn that around can only be a good thing. I think it’s practically a public service they’re doing. Yes, it could be as simple as eating more fruits and veggies, getting exercise daily, etc. But I still look forward to watching Oprah whenever Dr. Oz is on. I learn. And I don’t need the info in order to STAY YOUNG. I’m NOT young! I’ll never be young again. I need the info to STAY HEALTHY. The hype may be about youth (‘cause the networks think we’re idiots); the reality is about health. IMHO.

Ronnie, you put so many of our thoughts about this subject in writing so well. I also am just so sick and tired of seeing endless media of all types hype the "secret" of staying young. In effect, each article, book, and TV program story is saying that growing older is somehow wrong and shameful and to be totally avoided at all costs. Each time I see one of these "how to stay young" stories I am offended. As I approach the upper edges of my 50's on the cusp of 60, I grow more offended by this hyping of youth products each year.

I came to understand the benefits of aging in my early 50's, with the great assistance of your wonderful insight into what it is "really" like to get older. Being an elder is nothing to be ashamed of, and hidden under miracle wrikle removers (let alone permanent smiley facelifts).

I met one of these boomer women obsessed with staying young at a party recently, after she started up a conversation with me. Suddenly, with dire concern on her face, she says, "What are those spots under your eyes?" I told her that I supposed they were "age spots". She said, like it was something really serious, "Oh why don't you get them removed?" I responded immediately with, "I guess I'm not vain enough to worry about them." She avoided me the rest of the evening, to my delight.

When will this boomer obsession with staying "young" subside? I fear it will not, for a long time.

Melinda

I am about sick and tired of everybody telling me what a 'Boomer' is supposed to be doing!

Aging is inevitable if you live long enough. 20 was 20, and truth be told - Free At Last, Free At Last, Thank God Almighty I'm FREE At Last! Like many 20 year olds, probably most - I was as dumb as a stump!

If Oprah wants to pretend that aging doesn't exist, she's watching the wrong world. Get out here where there are real people, doing real things and enjoying each day as it comes.

Aging is a whole new experience for me, haven't been here before and when I'm 80 I intend to take up something new, not shaking in my socks saying 'oh, Lord, why can't I be 30-40-50 (keep adding numbers if you want to) again?'

I'm going to be the most curious, questioning, mentally stable and physically ok person in my world, aches and pains and laughter to go with it. Now if that isn't living - what is?!

I suppose the next thing we'll see (if it's not out there already) is anti-aging products for pets.

Crabby is very wise.

I thought about the Maya Angelou connection too. As far as I know, Ms Angelou does not obsess with appearance and youth.

Oprah often quotes Ms Angelou's advice about "when you know better, you do better". I hope she reads COL's blog. Maybe she'll learn and do better.

Oprah has also had on her show the plastic surgeon who just allegedly operated on Kanye West's 58 year old mother, gave a her a tummy tuck, and sent her to the grave with a flat stomach.

I am older than the Boomers. I can no longer avoid confessing to myself that I'm aging: I've had a hip replacement and my cataracts removed during the past year alone. If this keeps up, I will be bionic before I die.

Maybe that's the final answer we are all looking for: replace everything.

I readily admit my age, I live a healthy lifestyle, and I plan for the future as though I could have another twenty years. But I don't fight the culture either; I had my eyebrows tattooed on today. It is what it is. Although we can't change it, as the number of aging people in the culture multiplies, it will change by itself.

Ronni-well spoken! Here, here!

I think all us Boomers need to embrace our inner Crabby and write Orpah that her "infotainment" creates a huge injustice to her OWN age group. (Heck, folks, I'm only a year older than she is.) Perception is at least half of the battle.

I agree 200%..I'm so tired of having to hear looking young..or younger..all I pray for is to live a long and happy life with my family and few friends. I wish Oprah would give her obsession with beauty as well as age up..she would enjoy her life a lot more. All she does is try to look like a fashion plate..certainly not what life is really about. keep the articles coming, maybe someway she'll read them.

My best..
Dorothy from grammology

They never thought about aging. Getting old was something that was always going to happen to someone else. They knew they were going to live forever. Now they woke up.

Good in all of them except the tobacco, I still smokes. Great article

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