A few years ago, I caught myself buying an expensive anti-aging cream. You see, I wrongly thought that starting on anti-aging creams earlier in my life would somehow save me from the effects of wrinkle as I grew older. I did not realize at that time that I was letting a combination of faulty (or rather lack of) science and celebrity culture already shape my ideas about aging.
These days, I really begin to take a look at myself. I see the white hairs sprouting throughout my head. My metabolism is not exactly the same as it was at 21 and that I have to work even harder to stay healthy now. I am a complete mess if I sleep less than 7 hours (goodbye forever, all-nighters). I do not enjoy being out past midnight anymore and would much rather be in the comfort of my own” bed.
“You are getting old,” they tell me.
I am still relatively young. I have not seen my first wrinkle yet, nor even had a baby yet to understand what pregnancy does to a woman’s body. There’s still time for menopause: those hot flashes, the sagging breasts, and the vaginal dryness. “Wait until then”, I’m told – then it will all go downhill. Apparently, I should be scared and seek ways to make myself not visibly age by using varieties of creams, serums, and masks. Maybe they can be complemented wonderfully with a few cosmetic surgeries, while I am at it!
Then I realize, what probably scares me more than aging itself is a society that tells me that one day I will need to be ashamed of these changes.
Frankly, I have no desire to infuse my hair with nasty chemicals to cover up those white hairs. I would much rather work towards my own sexy version of the salt and pepper look. As for my skin, not smoking, a decent diet and de-stressing techniques may certainly help too. Embracing my orthopedic-friendly shoes and denouncing heels for the remainder of my life may be a good idea too if I want to avoid musculoskeletal pain (despite how good they may look).
All jokes aside, if I do happen to still be living till I am 80 years old, do I really want to spend the next 30 to 40 years trying to reverse time? Is that really a productive use of my worry space in my brain? Do I really want to spend more hard-earned money trying to drink teas and put on creams that promise me the vitality of youth?
I would rather spend the next years of my life trying to make aging less painful. I would much rather invest in ways to make menopause easier and do what I can to prevent aging-associated diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases (including Alzheimers Disease, other dementias, and Parkinson’s Disease).
For example, it excites me to learn about what telomerase enzymes can do for prolonging the life of our telomeres (short little chromosomes attached to our Tetrahymena cells). Having our telomeres extended this enzyme helps enhance feelings of youthfulness as we age. More importantly, these enzymes are not something we even need to buy from a store. We can abundantly create them within ourselves by managing the stress that spikes our cortisol levels through meditation or even reframing how we see challenges.
Science also reminds us that we need social relationships and ways to manage loneliness to help the aging processes. This is especially true because another difficult part of the aging process is seeing people around us die. Whether we like it or not, we are living longer (at least in high-income countries), and that means more old people than ever before in history. Technically, beating aging is mathematically impossible, but unfortunately, it does not stop many people from somehow thinking they will stop it – even scientists. And that speaks to a very important point: we have got to stop with the ageism that’s been heavily wired into our brains.
After all, unless we do not live to see old age, it is our future.