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HBO Tackles Aging

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category_bug_ageism.gif Anyone who has been reading TimeGoesBy for awhile knows my feelings about cosmetic surgery and other medical interventions that attempt to camouflage age by make the person appear to be younger than he or she is.

Most obviously, the injections and surgeries don't work. Botox, etc. might fill in a wrinkle for a period of time and a nip/tuck might smooth out a line temporarily, but it always must be redone again and again. It fools no one because those procedures cannot reinvent the amazing, dewy complexion of a teen or early 20-something which is the greater hallmark of youth.

At their worst, those injections freeze the face into something like rigor mortis and the surgeries turn people into mid- and late-age grotesqueries. Several aging television personalities who had a too much enthusiasm for the knife in the past are on the verge of slipping into that latter category any day now.

But my number one objection is that all attempts to appear younger than what is naturally written on one's face are ageist. And more, every person who makes the attempt is telling the world that growing old is the worse thing that can happen.

You may think that has nothing to do with you. After all, you are perfectly comfortable in your aging self, right? But you would be mistaken to think you are unaffected.

The attitude and belief that old age must be avoided even at the cost of dangerous surgery and poisonous injections is the reason for the social invisibility of elders. It gives certain politicians' cover to repeatedly try to cut programs elders have spent their lives paying for and it causes age discrimination in the workplace that shortens the careers of thousands every year long before they are ready to retire.

All this came to mind recently when I ran across a reference to a new HBO documentary, About Face (clever title). From what the short, teaser trailer shows, the film addresses the topic of aging and facelifts with a bunch of older fashion models such as Paulina Porizkova, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Jerry Hall, China Machado and Isabella Rossellini. Take a look.

Isabella Rosselini notes the truth that as we get old, “we don't count anymore,” and another of the women points out that the “whole society makes us want to stay young.”

Yale psychologist Becca R. Levy has been studying aging for more than 20 years. Her research shows that the constant bombardment of negative stereotypes about age increases blood pressure – ageism can literally make old people sick.

Levy told the Washington Post:

“[W]e have found that when we activate negative age stereotypes, older individuals tend to show a decline in memory performance, self-confidence, will to live and handwriting,” said Levy.

“In contrast, we have found that when we activate positive age stereotypes we tend to find beneficial changes in these same areas.”

Good luck finding any of those “positive age stereotypes” anywhere in your day-to-day life.

It remains to be seen if HBO's About Face has a point of view on ageism. The doc will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012.

It is Christmas week and readers have been laying some fine, fun seasonal videos on me in the past few days. Because they tend to get stale when festivities are finished, I'll include as many as possible during the rest of this week.

Here is the first from Nancy Leitz, a long-time contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place. The blurb at YouTube from pet owner Paul Ciampanelli of Paw Nation, says this:

”Cat owners know that setting up and decorating the holiday tree may be made into an infinitely more harrowing ordeal than usual if there's a curious cat around. It turns out that whether or not that cat can see makes little different.”

So here is Oskar the Blind Kitten and the Christmas Tree.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: Old Kitten on the Keys


I seem to remember you describing using an anti wrinkle cream saying it was "just for testing purposes".You seem to be not really as immune as you say you are from worrying about your looks as you age.

Yeah, well, Joyce, just the other day I found and ditched that bottle of expensive crap I'd stopped using because it does no more than my regular, cheap moisturizer.

How would I know if I hadn't tried it - and if something does ever work, I'd sure like to know for myself and to have a discussion about that on this blog.

This is the second time you've been snotty about what I report on. If you find me so hypocritical, why are you still here?

I have one friend who must still work. She found that jobs teaching were'nt there for us older ladies. Now she looks 45. Another friend now looks in her 50's. Frankly, I have chin envy.

Sounds like a fascinating film. I hope I can catch it when it comes out.

The women for whom this transition is most painful is those who were beautiful in their youth. Women who were never attractive suffer a different kind of pain, which is life-long, but which may actually be somewhat mitigated in old age.

I am glad to see some attention on the subject of passing for young.

One of the songs I wrote in A New Wrinkle, my musical revue on aging is titled PASSING for YOUNG. Some of the lyrics go like this --Look at my face
Does it sag or does it flap?
If wrinkles give me character
I say, erase, erase!
I don’t want to look like Rumplestiltskin
Even if it rhymes with Paris Hilton! I’m going to pass for young...

Then when the Barbie the doll like singer finishes the Chorus asks her this---

When you took your old face off and the wrinkles escaped
What happened to what was
written all over your face?
When you put the new face forward
When you put the smooth face on
Where did it go, the map you made
dancing along with life? Let's face it you could have lost face there.

I am happy knowing that in some cultures people age without all the cosmetic and psychological torment we see here, and I am rooting for a paradigm shift.

Don't have HBO but maybe it will show up on Netflix. I recall when invisibility began for me, took me awhile to catch on. The other aspect that bugs me is being dismissed as un-knowledgable, especially at a doctor's office. Fortunately I've found a pulmonologist and an internist who are respectful and inclusive.

Now don't misunderstand. I don't hold any particular malice against cats but just as there are double weddings, I may have made a conscious effort to popularize the double funeral had I been the one decorating that tree!

As to your comments on aging, our society seems to be seldom satisfied with any human condition as best I can tell. The elders, as you point out, are bombarded with how to stay younger while the young men and women are likewise bombarded with the thin and toned syndrome. There’s little room left for the average person. I suspect it has little to do with concern over how we look but rather all to do with the almighty dollar! In fact, once again it seems the 1% are dictating to the 99% how they should present themselves in our culture and are trying to convince us that they know how to accomplish such!

It sounds like a film I would enjoy and will keep my eyes open for it. I'd hate to have been in a field where everything depended on physical beauty at any age. You see way too many young models who kill themselves, some to try and stay skinny and others who commit suicide to not understand beauty professions are hard on people. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I'd like to come back beautiful but in a field like animal biologist or something that you use your brain and muscles, not dependent on someone else judging you to be beautiful.

As for wanting to look as good as I can at my age, I don't apologize for it, nor will I go to wild extremes to maintain something I cannot hold onto; but I don't blame this on the media. It's just a reality that people enjoy looking at the beautiful and vital looking. I don't think that requires a media to convince anybody. I still enjoy looking at young, beautiful people.

I just saw 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' with Ryan Gosling and anybody who can't enjoy watching him in his total prime is beyond my understanding, and it's not just physical beauty with his body either but also that spirit that shines through. That's the twinkle we can still have and see in elders-- like Harrison Ford in Cowboys and Aliens-- two men of way different ages but both very appealing to watch with no apologies from me for that enjoyment of their beauty.

Old age may not have to lose the twinkle but it will lose physical vitality (it goes with the territory) and you cannot get that surgeries and I sure am not going to inject poison into my skin. Frankly if I thought a face lift worked, I'd sign on as I like looking attractive to others. Right now I enjoy doing what I can as naturally as I can with understanding that trying to hold onto it would be depressing. You either accept aging and its changes, or you fight what you cannot win. I'd rather stick to battles I can have a chance of winning. I do though enjoy trying creams and such, have written about the ones I use, and like it when a man looks at me twice or thrice. It's fun; but if one tries to think they can hold onto it forever, they are kidding themselves and the pressure would be intense.

The thing with old age is, I think, do the best you can with what you have and enjoy the new things that come along. Laugh at the changes, don't fight them. There are pluses to each age, but as long as I can I'll be using make up and enjoying dressing in a way that makes me feel sexy sometimes. It's part of the fun of life. I accept it isn't going to always be possible short of being a bad joke

I definitely would change my neck. But not my face or my eyes.

IF you want to take the appearance of age back a few years, you don't have to do cremes and shots and knives. Simply color the grey. I'm convinced that the invisibility starts with the grey hair. For unknown reasons, at 76 I'm still mostly brown on top and I've heard many times, "You don't look 76". Of course, my reply is not "Thank you", but "Really? But this IS what 76 looks like". I don't think people are keying on a lack of grey hair alone, but it's a big part of it. Keeping the body in pretty good shape and watching the posture also helps. I definitely have "old lady" skin with wrinkles and turkey neck and veiny hands, flapping triceps etc. and will take the whole blotchy, sun damaged mess to my grave.

I think Alan hit the nail on the head; it's all about money (Isn't everything?). If Madison Avenue can't convince us that being young looking equates with the good life, how can they sell all those expensive surgeries, creams and lotions?

The problem I have with this business of blaming the media is my experiences with my youth, my own family and their aging, how I saw it years before media pushed anything since I grew up during the years when TV was just starting, magazines? who had money for those? But I saw aging in my elders and they didn't look as good to me as younger people. It's just reality. You could get a media to push aging and wrinkles as the in thing and you still wouldn't convince people. In a lot of ways media follows what the people want as much as creates it. I think a better goal is to help people who are old to enjoy what is, get a kick out of the changes, and not worry what others say. I get it that some of this relates to being hired for jobs but right now the youth are having just as big a problem with that. There are many reasons companies don't keep old timers and one of them is they are paying them more salary. They can fire them and hire someone else at a lower wage. It's not all ageism but as much opportunism. There are companies that want to have young energy. (My husband added to this that start-ups are fueled by young blood, those who will do more hard work, longer hours and can than my husband who says he has had it with that or can't do it sometimes. It's just the way life is and would be in a tribal society too. The old are needed for the wisdom they have, but not as many of them).

Because I don't watch much regular tv, I never see ads for creams or lotions but when I want to try something new, I go to the drugstore and look at the products, read their labels. It doesn't take an ad somewhere for that. And frankly I don't feel bad about it. If you can do it, why not? I am open in telling people my age, call myself old, but I do what I can to make old look as good as I know how. I don't mind the lines. I just want the overall package to look as good as I can make it when I look in a mirror... and yes, call it vain if someone wants, but I look in mirrors frequently and in many lightings as I have them throughout the house. Sometimes I like what I see and sometimes not but I do look.

Because of my mother's fixation on looking young and , whatever is supposed to make you look "younger," I'm again' it. She was always on a diet, carped about my sister's and my weight early on (our weight was perfectly normal) and had - as far as my sister and I know - 8 face lifts (that includes work around the eyes, a chin tuck or two and more besides). Because of that, I have an utter revulsion to the whole beauty business. Besides, it is a billion dollar business and I always think of a billion other useful ways that that money could be spent.

That poor Christmas tree. No match for a kitten, and a blind one at that.

Merry Christmas everyone!

It was Oscar Wide who wrote: "Don't worry too much about what people think of you, because most of the time, they;re not think about you at all" (or words to that effect)

My wife started dieing/dyeing her hair more than 15 years ago but when she burst her brain aneurysm last year, the had to shave the hair off the right side of her head and when she got out of the hospital she had long brown hair one one side of her head and a white hair with a crew cut on the left. She wanted to have it redyed but I told her that short all around was the way to go.
She wasn't convinced by what I said but when she went to her usual salon and the head said "White is right" she just got her hair evened out and she's been white and quite striking ever since. I hardly ever say "I told you so" much.

I think dye jobs, wigs, Botox etc. just draw attention to the "problem area" and none of them "really look real"

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