Beauty and the Aging Beast
Dec 11, 2015 03:37PM
By Angelena Craig
Have you ever seen someone and thought, “She must have been a beauty when she was younger,” or “I bet he was a good looking man, way back when?”
We tend to equate aging with diminished beauty because, after a certain age, the skin often loses its taut and smooth appearance; the hair becomes less full and shiny; and the waistline starts expanding.
I still remember when that first red flag began waving, a sign that I had gotten older and moved into a different phase of life. This turning point came shortly after my fiftieth birthday when I was repeatedly asked, “Are you alright? You look tired.”
I wanted to shout out, “I’m not sick, and I’m not tired! I’m just older!”
These messages informed me that I had left my youthful appearance behind. I was now “over the hill” and on the downslide.
Depending on our genes, environment and how well we take care of ourselves, physical beauty fades—at least by society’s narrow standards. This can be a challenging adjustment, especially if our looks have always been important to us. We may no longer attract positive attention or turning heads. We might become largely unnoticed.
Although it is still possible to invest time, energy and finances into preserving our looks, many aging people might choose not to for the purpose of avoiding vanity or superficiality. Besides, we can save ourselves money and aggravation if we accept that looking younger is often a fleeting pursuit. Therefore, some simply surrender and quietly enter their senior years.
However, for those who attempt to recapture their physical youth, the anti-aging industry convinces consumers that, unlike previous generations, we don’t have to appear or feel old. These businesses urge us to obtain a gym membership, hire a personal trainer, and rely on various beauty products lining the pharmacy aisles.
Cosmetic surgeons tell us that we need hair or breast implants, and encourage us to try liposuction if diet and exercise don’t promote weight loss. We are offered Botox to freeze the frown lines and fillers to puff up the face. Lasers can resurface the skin, removing wrinkles and age spots. We can visit hair stylists for a new color or younger-looking cut. We can even buy clothes in the latest fashions. There are several options to maintain a pleasing appearance—no matter our age.
Getting older typically requires spending more time and energy on self-care regimens. Everyday activities like going to work, an event or even to the local supermarket require more physical prepping than when we were young.
Is it pure vanity that motivates us to spend a small fortune on these products and procedures? Or, is this simply how we achieve an attractive and well-rested look? In this competitive world where youth and beauty are adored, while the elderly are sadly marginalized, taking steps to feel healthy and younger is just another way that we make a positive impression on the outside world.
However, beauty regimens only focus on the outer self. Aging, of course, also affects our bodies’ internal processes. The cells cannot multiply as they once did. The joints, muscles and organs lose their vitality as we become older. Scientific evidence indicates that consistently exercising and eating healthy helps maintain strength, flexibility, balance and longevity. Healthy weight management also helps protects the heart and musculoskeletal system which is an important ingredient in slowing down the aging process.
Beyond diet and exercise, vitamins, herbs and healing practices—like massage and yoga—can reduce physical and emotional aging stressors. As in all health matters, we must become informed consumers. Research on slowing—or even reversing—these effects are readily available in medical journals, newsletters and the web.
Remember that aging is a natural undeniable and unavoidable process. However, we have some control over remaining ageless and timeless. We can choose to adopt a positive attitude of acceptance and make peace with our seemingly outer flaws. We can also focus on that quality of “inner beauty” and appreciate the abiding courage it takes to grow old.
Angelena Craig is a Sarasota-based professional yoga instructor, teaching slow flow and chair yoga. She leads a workshop, “How to Age Gracefully and Healthfully.” Craig is also a columnist, addressing issues important to the Baby Boomer generation and beyond. For more information, visit ANewAgingMovement.com.