Getting Older (and That’s the Good News!)

Recently I read a very interesting book review in The Economist, November 16, 2013 edition. The book is titled Out of Time, The Pleasures and Perils of Ageing and was written by Lynne Segal.

Getting older... and that's the good news!

Each of us passes through the various stages of life, sharing some growth and development events common to all human beings, while at the same time experiencing our own unique journey. And at some point it all ends, again uniquely for each of us.

Professor Segal is a psychology professor at the University of London who has studied the works of literature, psychology, sociology and poetry to find how to “acknowledge the actual vicissitudes of old age while also affirming its dignity and, at times, grace or even joyfulness.” The article notes that we usually do not feel our age – I cannot tell you how many thousands of patients have told me, “I look older than I feel.” This disharmony between how one feels about their positive engagement with life and their appearance is what drives them to have rejuvenation treatments and surgery. By looking more youthful, less tired, less sad, less angry – fill in your own negative adjective here – harmony between their appearance and spirit is restored. And, as Sir Francis Bacon said, “Beauty is harmony.” In the case of our patients, the objective harmony of looking better is integrated with their subjective harmony of feeling better.

It was also noted that this disconnect with how old a person is and how old they feel increases over time. A 2009 American study showed that 50-year-olds often felt 10 years younger, and 65-year-olds 20 years younger. You probably have noted that as you age the years seem to go by faster and life is increasingly speeding by. I’m not sure I know the answer to this feeling, but I remember an interesting hypothesis I read many years ago. Consider this – from the age of 1 to 2 years your life is actually doubled, so time appears to have gone slowly. However, from age 50 to 51 – the same absolute one-year period – your life is only increased by 2% more. And so the time appears to have passed faster as you compare the one year to your life experience. Indeed, summer vacations seemed so long when we were in public school! Whatever…, most all of us feel life is passing by too quickly, and we all want more time.

It was noted in the article that Doris Lessing, a Nobel laureate at age 73, had said, “The great secret that all old people share” is that “your body changes, but you don’t change at all.” My reflection is that this is what truly keeps us positive and engaged in life and is what allows us to weather the storms of life. If we believe in ourselves, and we believe in a long life, then we will arise every day with a sense of purpose and the drive to enhance our lives. By using modern medicine, nutrition, fitness and, indeed facial rejuvenation, we can maintain our bodies in the best possible condition to fulfill our spiritual and emotional goals.

Ms. Lessing observed in the article that while, “old age can bring loneliness and sadness,” it can, “also (bring) a greater appreciation of the transience of all things.” This resonated very much with me, as two of my life mantras are, “Celebrate your success” and, “Make the most of every day.”

At the end of the day, we are each responsible for our own future. These studies show that yes, indeed, there are some negative factors associated with aging. But as any older person will tell you, so there are with being younger. Very few people want to go back and live their life over, but they do want to live well the years they have, and want to look as best as possible doing so. In this way, by living each and every day to the fullest, we will live our life to the fullest. What a wonderful way to enjoy the journey and be content and grateful when we reach our final destination.

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