The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

February 23, 2013

Aging: Soul twinkles as the flesh wrinkles

ENID, Okla. — You are, conventional wisdom tells us, as old as you feel.

Now a new study says you are as old as you think, as well.

Researchers at Trinity University in San Antonio studied more than 900 American, British and Australian women between the ages of 18 and 87, asking about whether they referred to themselves as old or fat, or simply expressed general dissatisfaction with their bodies.

The study found that women of all ages took part in some form of “old talk,” which they defined by any speech indicating that looking older is unacceptable.

Sixty-six percent of all women responding to the survey engaged in old talk, with women 46 or older doing most of it. But nearly half of women 18 to 29 said they occasionally called themselves old.

The study focused on women because “men are allowed to age” in our society, Trinity psychology professor Carolyn Becker told NBC News.

Aging male celebrities are considered distinguished, she said, a luxury not afforded to women, famous or no.

Thus men are, at least according to some, given a free pass when it comes to dealing with the ravages of time.

Oh, really? So why am I shocked every morning when I look in the mirror and find my father staring back at me (or at least the way my father would looked had he ever run afoul of a stampede of wild horses)?

If guys are not hung up on looking younger, why did the number of cosmetic surgical procedures for men rise some 20 percent last year, becoming the fastest-growing segment of the multi-million-dollar industry, according to plastic surgical organizations?

Nearly 50 percent of men are now considered consumers of cosmetic surgery products and services, including Botox, face lifts, eyelid lifts, skin treatments, liposuction, hair restoration and breast reduction surgery.

Men are being tucked, trimmed, nipped, snipped and pulled, all in the name of looking younger. If guys have hair, they want it to be the same color it was when they were kids. If they don’t, they are trying to restore their mane to its youthful glory.

The anti-aging craze is sweeping both men and women. Overall, more than 14.6 cosmetic surgery procedures were completed in 2012, an increase of 5 percent from the year before. Botox procedures alone rose 8 percent.

By 2015, the anti-aging industry is expected to grow into a $291 billion business worldwide.

Many people today are seeking the magic elixir of youth, the quest that brought Ponce de Leon to Florida in the 16th century.

Whatever happened to the concept of aging gracefully?

That’s not to say you have to act your age,? God forbid. I don’t really know how someone my age is supposed to act. I’ve never been this old before.

They say age is all in your mind, but it’s in your eyes, ears, muscles, bones and joints, as well.

The aging body does not respond the way it did in the halcyon years of is youth.

It moves more slowly, is not quite as limber and doesn’t recover as quickly. It also makes strange creaking and popping sounds as it arises from a chair.

Aging is inevitable. I have a friend who won’t celebrate his birthday, as if denying the existence of another anniversary of his birth would somehow stop the clock, leaving him parked on the shoulder of the highway of time while the rest of humanity speeds past. It hasn’t worked, and think of all the cake and presents he has missed.

Face it, you are getting older every second. You are older, for instance, than you were when you started reading this opus. Aging is not optional. You, me and everybody else in the world are going to get older.

Getting old, on the other hand, is another thing altogether. While the effects of aging weigh on the body, they don’t have to hold any sway over the soul.

Old is a bitter fruit of the spirit, one whose love of life is banking down like a dying fire. A young soul still sees the joy, wonder and humor in life. It blossoms even as the flesh withers.

Age is a number, one that is increasing by the moment, to be sure, but a number nonetheless. Refuse to live your life defined by a number, or by your wrinkles, sagging bits and graying hair, for that matter.

Aging well seems a matter of eating right, getting plenty of sleep and exercise and laughing, a lot, especially at the increasingly gray and wrinkled person staring back at you from the mirror every morning.

And whatever you do, don’t call yourself old. Try experienced, or perhaps venerable.

Personally, I prefer to refer to myself as a kid emeritus.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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