TGB's New Storytelling Feature and The Alex and Ronni Show
INTERESTING STUFF – 11 August 2018

It's Time to Abandon the Phrase, Anti-Ageing

REMINDER After such enthusiasm for the idea of a new storytelling feature here at TGB, I was surprised that hardly anyone responded after Wednesday's announcement that it is set up and ready for story submissions.

Maybe I buried the lead? Or, maybe there are a whole lot more readers here than writers. In case you missed the invitation on Wednesday, this is a reminder that story submissions are being accepted.

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“Aging is not a disease any more than puberty or menopause are.”
       - S. Jay Olshansky, Professor of public health/gerontology, University of Illinois

It's hard to know that from the ubiquitous marketing and advertising messages for wrinkles and sags which, when not treating old age as a disease, strongly suggest it is a personal failing.

Ageist terms are common but the one that most drives me nuts, usually from purveyors of pseudo youth potions and procedures, is the ubiquitous “anti-ageing.” About a year ago, The New York Times addressed some of the cultural consequences of its wide use:

”...not displaying the signs of age on one’s face,” writes Amanda Hess, “is seen as a professional accomplishment, even a virtue.

“We elevate a select few celebrity ambassadors of 'good' aging — [Helen] Mirren, Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Andie MacDowell — and turn them into not just avatars of covetable good looks, but fierce, audacious heroines who are celebrated for pulling off the near-impossible.”

As insulting as the the phrase “anti-ageing” is, it's a big seller for cosmetics industry who tack it onto every product they can. A search of Google for “anti-ageing” (British and my spelling) returns 45,800,000 items; a search for “anti-aging” gets 191,000,000 results.

Anti-ageing is big business. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, $16 billion was spent on cosmetic surgery in 2016 and, if business projections are accurate, sales of anti-aging products are expected to surpass $11 billion this year. Just yesterday, the cosmetics website Sephora listed 262 products labeled “anti-aging.”

Having felt for a long time that I've been on a lonely mission in my objection to the term, I was heartened a year ago to learn that in August 2017, Allure magazine announced it was dropping the use of "anti-ageing" from the magazine:

”'Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that ageing is a condition we need to battle' explained Michelle Lee in her editor’s letter. 'Changing the way we think about ageing starts with changing the way we talk about ageing'”...

“I hope we can all get to a point where we recognize that beauty is not something just for the young. Look at our cover star Helen Mirren, who’s embodied sexiness for nearly four decades in Hollywood without desperately trying to deny her age.”

Allure Mirren

At the time of the Allure's initiative, The Guardian reported:

”The rise in inclusivity and increased visibility of older models and celebrities within an industry that once shunned anyone over the age of 40 is a welcome change. Women including Helen Mirren (72) Allure magazine’s September [2017] issue cover star, Lauren Hutton (73) and Sylviane Degunst (59) all feature in campaigns, this year.”

Although more few more women of age are turning up in fashion features these days, I haven't noticed any reduction in the use of that demeaning phrase in cosmetic adverts. And not on the product labels themselves either. In a check at my local Rite-Aid this week, dozens of creams and other beauty products are plastered with the phrase “anti-aging”.

But the thing is, there is evidence from a large number of sources that the creams don't work. This one from the Mayo Clinic:

”Do they work? That often depends on the specific ingredients and how long you use them. Because these over-the-counter (nonprescription) wrinkle creams aren't classified as drugs, they're not required to undergo scientific research to prove their effectiveness.

“If you're looking for a face-lift in a bottle, you probably won't find it in over-the-counter wrinkle creams. The benefits of these products are usually only modest at best.”

The Royal Society of Public Health (RSPM) agrees with me about the odious phrase, anti-ageing. A month or two ago, the RSPH released a report on a new survey of ageist beliefs in the U.K. - how ageism harms people and what could and should be done about it. Among the report's conclusions:

"...the explicit presumption that ageing is something undesirable and to be battled at every turn is as nonsensical as it is dangerous. To be 'anti-ageing' makes no more sense that being 'anti-life.">

Here is the RSPH's video with a summary of the survey and the final recommendations:

The report, titled That Age Old Question and subtitled, How Attitudes to Ageing Affect Our Health and Wellbeing is well thought out, well written and filled with easy-to-understand detail.

The four major policy suggestions are excellent and doable: Let's repeat them in print where we can pay closer attention than in a video:

”Services such as nurseries, youth clubs and care homes to be brought under one roof

“Positive ageing to be addressed within schools

“Age to be recognized as a protected characteristic alongside others such as gender, race and religion

“An end to the use of the term “anti-ageing”in the cosmetics and beauty industry”

The researchers have a lot to say about the media's role in promulgating ageist attitudes, referencing key points from other research about the harm ageism in all its forms does, which TGB has reported on in the past:

“Previous research has shown that those with more negative attitudes to ageing live on average 7.5 years less than those with more positive attitudes to ageing...

“There is now a growing body of research evidencing the real-life consequences that negative attitudes to ageing have on individual health outcomes such as memory loss, physical function, and ability to recover from illness.”

If you're interested, the report is well worth your time. You will find That Age Old Question study online here [pdf]. The website of the Royal Society for Public Health is here.


I do have friends who have spent a lot of money and time keeping up appearances, i.e. trying not to look their age. It's funny because my grands all want to look older (until a certain stage when they no longer look like kids.) I wonder exactly where that cut-off age might be. 21? 30? 40?

Appluase to Allure, I hope it becomes the new trend. I've refused for years to buy anything labeled anti-ageing, it's always sounded anti-old people. I think the best thing you can put on your face, man or woman is sunscreen to help avoid those nasty little skin cancers and/or a thicker lotion to help keep your skin comfortable. My father who was a biologist with incredibly dry skin experimented on his own and said he thought you might as well use crisco on your skin it worked as well as anything else he tried. He did settle for a less greasy house brand lotion daily.

Applause, ack.

Helen Mirren has gotten prettier as she has gotten older. She clearly has some good plastic surgeons, doesn’t overdo the shots to her face and lips, and has excellent makeup and lighting people. That’s all it takes...

I'll be happy to resume contributing to the Storytelling Place, just need more time to ponder what would be the next good story. Thrilled it's coming back!
And I've been boycotting "anti-aging" products for years. Sounds like embalming fluid.

As a young woman I stumbled into using Lancome products after receiving one as a gift and I enjoyed using it. I went merrily along my way using them until one day when they fired Isabella Rosallini as their spokesperson, citing her age as the reason!! I promptly sent off a letter telling them that if their products couldn't do anything for her, they certainly wouldn't help me and that I would not be buying them in the future. I love a good boycott, and I haven't used them since (not even now, when they have re-hired her!) I use a nice drugstore moisturizer with SPF that was recommended by my dermatologist.

The only way to be anti-aging, really, is to die now. Occasionally for the first time, I wear a somewhat dark lipstick.........I'm not trying to look younger, or prettier, it's sort of a kick-ass thing, like cool boots, or big, not as harmless as you think.

BUT, was I ageist when younger??? Oh yes, and I didn't even realize. I cared for my mom, was loving, helpful, kind.............and ageist. Nobody ever told me anything about being old, I just didn't have a clue. I liked old people, and they were strange to me too. Oh, the night when I came back in to the dining room with dessert, to see my mother with her forehead on the table, asleep! "Mom?" I said softly. Her head jerked up, we both laughed and it was never mentioned.

Thank you for the opportunity to express a grudge about Eileen Fisher. The clothes are marketed to older women (with $$) yet use exclusively very young models. Years ago I wrote the headquarters, but no response. And no change. My boycott continues.

The appearance of aging can be addressed, to a certain extent, but not the actual aging. You'll be a day older tomorrow no matter what you do. It's sad, even creepy, what some celebrities do to their faces with all the surgery, injections, etc. I guess if the tweaks are done well, I don't notice. But when I do, ugh! I buy the stuff at the grocery store because I need sunscreen and my dry skin itches, but that's the only reason.

The term, anti-ageing is a trend that has been around for quite some time. All aspects of it can be rather insulting if one chooses to believe it all. I don't, especially if it's filling another's entities pocket! I live in the now accepting my age and grateful for standing on this "side of the grass". I respect other opinions and studies about the subject and when "they" might be ready, to live in the now, plenty of grass left to stand on .

Anti-ageing of mind and mobility, yes. But I've tried to embrace the face - as it is. Still I share my mother's surprise when she commented, at age 85, "Who is that woman in the mirror and what has she done with my face?"

Changes are subtle and slow - until they aren't! I noticed that I was showing signs of wear, but it was still me. Now, there really is a stranger looking back at me! Ah well! Better than the alternative!

I have been pleased to note that, at least around my neck of the woods, younger generations don't chase the holy grail of "beauty", either - at least, not on the outside. Neither of our daughters, nor our granddaughter, nor granddaughter's finacee wears facial makeup. Hallelujah! (I wear eyebrow pencil because my sparse brows are light-colored and I've not learned to accept my face without eyebrows. I do recall, in the late 1950s wearing full makeup to work. I probably looked worse for it because it rarely occurred to me to check my lipstick for the need of refreshing.) Cosmetics are one place where most of us women could have saved ourselves a bundle by accepting ourselves as we were.

Somehow Madison Avenue tries to make you think that ageing is a horrible state to be in and you must avoid it at all costs. It's a devious way to brainwash the gullible who will buy the advertisers worthless products.

I wear my wrinkles as a badge of honor. I am glad I have lived to be 93 years old and proud of it, even though I have done nothing to achieve that end. Do I want to look like those sad women dressing in mini-skirts and sporting tons of makeup trying to recapture a lost youth? Nooo

I stopped using foundation, rouge, concealer, etc. many years ago. Such a waste. I have saved a lot of money and time. Like Cop Car, I do use eye makeup because I have done so all of my adult life and I wouldn't recognize myself without it.

I wish I had saved it, but several years ago I saw a photo of Helen Mirren before the cosmetic crew went to work on her to get her ready for a role she was playing. This was side by side with a photo of her after being made up. You would never recognize that it was the same woman. She was not beautiful in the before picture. So when you see these glamour shots you can take them with a grain of salt.

I agree with a previous post.... the only true “anti-Ageing” solution is death. In fact, I would say death is the definition of “Anti-ageing “. And I am NOT ready to stop ageing. I reject any product that uses that term in advertising. However , I am amazed that many older women actually believe that they will look younger by using the products.... not only younger, but that the product will stop the aging process!
I am unhappy that so many clothing brands- Eileen Fisher, Chico’s, J Jill- sell to older women (their market) yet feature young models in catalogs and websites. Coldwater Creek has managed to create catalogs and a website that only show the clothes, no models to influence the shopper into thinking she will look as young (and thin) as the model.

I can surely agree with what the earlier commenter have voiced, and say Thank you. Rather than just repeat them I would like to share this bit of wisdom I used often when writing letters to unhappy teenage girls. It may be 'old news' to TGB, yet worth repeating here, I believe.
Contrary to what some may think, Audrey Hepburn, known for her beauty, did not write this beautiful poem, Sam Levenson did. Levenson wrote "Time Tested Beauty Tips" for his grandchild, and it just so happened to be one of Audrey's favorite poems. She read it to her children on the very last Christmas Eve before she passed away.

"Time Tested Beauty Tips"

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it every day.

For poise, walk with knowledge that you’ll never walk alone.

If you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands,

One for helping yourself, and one for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears,

The figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because

That is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.

It is the caring she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows.

The beauty of a woman only grows during the passing years.

Sam Levenson

I have little to add to the above comments. But I find myself getting depressed by the numbers. I am in very good health, but I keep feeling as if the shoe is about to drop because in a year and a half I'll be eighty. I know the shoe does drop, and I know getting hung up on that possibility is not useful. My goal these days is not to deny my age, but at the same time not to succumb to fear of the numbers. To, as many of you have said, live in the present.

None of it is easy! My major adjustment has been to the loss of a future. In many ways it's a relief. In others, though, it's depressing and to dwell on it is to undercut myself in every way. A day at a time is the best answer for me.

Although I never wear lipstick, I wear makeup because it makes me feel like me, but the makeup comes from the local pharmacy or grocer. It is as good as the high-priced. I have no delusions that it makes me look younger-just ready to face the world. I do envy the people who can go without. I just don't feel right with my pale, uneven skin tones and invisible brows and lashes. I had to change from auburn brows when my dark red hair turned strawberry blonde, but hey!

Anne - yes! The loss of a future...I’m a bit younger than you but I’ve always been an old soul, and I often search for the words that you so eloquently used to describe this strange melancholy I feel more and more.

I think that yes, in addition to the plethora of age-related losses, loss of a future is the most profound and difficult to come to terms with.

The anti-aging mania is all part of making women feel inferior and worthless if they do not conform to a certain look. I've NEVER seen these creams, etc. marketed for men. And unfortunately women buy into it. Ageism severely affects both men and women, but again, it affects women more than men. I find myself seeing it more and more. I recently saw a movie I enjoyed a lot (Hearts Beat Loud), EXCEPT Blythe Danner played one the of the main character's mother and she had a dementia. Most old people do not have dementia. Most scam victims are not old people. But you would never know this from TV, films, etc.

First, let me second the criticisms of J. Jill and Eileen Fisher. Not only to they feature young, stick-thin models, they also persist in showing clothes that are not becoming to older bodies - short skirts, no sleeves, skin tight, or backless. Fisher in particular has been coming up with some god-awful colors in recent years, all in the pea green and mustard family. In addition, why does everything still have to be black? What happened to navy blue, shades of grey etc. etc.

I refuse to be ashamed of getting old! I don't dye my grey hair. I wear less and less makeup as time goes by (!) - now only lipstick unless I am getting really dressed up. The thing is, no one looks at you anymore anyway. Though I have had 2 young women complement me lately on my skin - because I have always kept my face out of the sun. Plus, I'm fat, so that fills out some wrinkles

Pamela, you hit the nail on the head with "this strange melancholy". There are so many age-related losses - and the loss of a personal future is definitely a fact that looms larger and larger with each birthday - but I have found the loss of hope for the future in general equally painful. I really have lost almost all hope that the human race will not destroy itself and everything else in the next generation or 2. Whenever I feel sorry for myself for not having grandchildren to dote on, I remind myself of what they will probably face, and let go of my self-pity.

I second Wendl's comment.

Along with anti-aging, I dislike the expression ‘young at heart.’ It implies that only the young know how to enjoy life when nothing could be further from the truth. The older and more mature you are, the more likely you are to appreciate and enjoy life in all its nuances. One does not have to be young to experience the very best there is or to actively participate in society.

Helen Mirren on the cover of Allure looks like an old lady with far too much makeup. That’s why I stopped wearing makeup after about 32, which is odd, because before that I probably didn’t need it. I will own up to adding a subtle amount of brown eye shadow until a few years ago when I abandoned all attempts at glamour beyond a colorless lip balm. The somewhat blurred vision of old age keeps me looking just fine when I check myself once daily in the mirror. I don’t miss beauty. I miss the elasticity of youth—-the ability to run and to take the stairs with agility instead of one at time while holding onto the stair rail.

The good news is that as long as I am reclining or sitting down, I am still young and my mind is as agile as ever. I find joy in exercising that part of myself in copious e-letter writing as well as NY Times comments and in the short, almost true, stories I write. Which brings me to my recommendation about TGB’s Story feature. That 750 word limit is just too short to incorporate a background, a plot and an ending. May I suggest that you allow up to 999 words.

It seems, generally speaking, that the British are less concerned about ageing. It’s more a North American thing. I’m thinking about people like Judy Dench and Maggie Smith.
Also, I’ve noticed recently that the ‘beauty ‘ industry has broadened their focus to include men. It was a subject on an afternoon talk show I happened upon. We know about waxing, but they were also talking about foundation for men.

I agree anti-aging/ageist pitches are little more than con-man or woman pitches. But lots of folks like to be conned, I guess— on this and even in politics.

I use ordinary lotion for my skin as many of natural oils have lessened with my aging. Darkening my eyebrows has been needed as they lightened with aging. Everything else now is dictated by a combination of comfort and appearance.

Into am excited about the storytelling place return, but the muse hasn't woken up yet!

Give it sometime, Ronni-we packers will be back sending you our stories again.

Aging is universal from the moment you take your first breath until the moment you take your last breath.

I am a big fan of Dr. Bill Thomas and his work on aging in a culture that refuses to accept the fact that we need to transition from adulthood to becoming an elder. Google him if you're interested in educating yourself about our final years of life.

I won't waste my time arguing anymore with those who are in denial about this last part of life. These years are a gift and I don't want to waste them worrying about wrinkles. Bring them on as I have earned them!

The irony about Allure featuring Helen Mirren on their cover is that they terminated their 50-something longtime editor for a much younger woman.

I wear make-up and get my hair colored and cut. I do my own manis and pedis to save $$.
I care about clear skin and will be doing something to get rid of my age spots. I want to present an appearance that looks clean and well-groomed and not matronly. Wrinkles are OK. It would be abnormal if I didn't have any!

My mother never wore makeup except for the occasional lipstick. She wore clear nail polish. She always colored her hair which she stopped at age 70.

All very well, Allure, but Helen Mirren, like most of those pioneering heroines, has still had cosmetic surgery. That is obvious, though the work is subtle and good, not G-force distorting.

I am admittedly ambivalent about it -- I'd rather not have the Huckleberry Hound jowls and neck struts that are the legacy of my bone structure (or lack thereof), reckless sun damage, and just plain age-appropriate collapse of collagen. But the issue is decided for me because there's no way I could afford it, and even if I could I'd like to have the courage to resist. Meanwhile, here in New York people assume I'm older than I am because they have hardly ever seen an unimproved 72-year-old. Despite my fit body language and evident comfort with standing on the subway (I have to sit to work, so I stand every chance I get), people of all ages solicitously offer me their seats. All they see is, "She has gray hair. She's old." They mean well, so I try to be gracious about it. (A comical side note is that in winter when my hair is long -- it is also thick, genetic consolation for the lack of cheekbones -- the offers stop. The unconscious reasoning seems to be, "She has gray hair. She's old. But if she has THAT MUCH hair, she can't be THAT old.")

Until we have values that are less external and superficial, less about seeing people as commodities in a marketplace pitched to the eye and the hormones, we will not see old people as beautiful in their own way and right. And if we do not see them thus they will not BE beautiful, because they will hide their light under a bushel of shame.

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