Natasha V. More
(f/k/a Nancie Clark)
"What disturbs people's minds is not events but their judgments on events."
Epictetus, 500 BC
Whenever I hear the words, "How old are you," I stutter for an answer: My chronological age is a matter of years in existence, my biological age is vital, my psychological age is growing, my emotional age is mature, my functional age is young.
Whenever I read the words, "John Doe, 42, won the Olympic ..."; Jennifer Johnson, 28, was rescued ..." I wonder why revealing one's age is really so necessary. The media, influential and dominant in society, acts as a perpetual reminder of how old we are. It's persistent and unnecessary reference to one's age is a constant reminder and places over emphasis on age rather than on the autonomous person. Entertainment Tonight makes a big deal about the age of celebrities. They even exhibit a daily birthday calendar. Seeing someone our own age who looks bad can cause us to think, "Oh no, I hope I don't look like that." Alternatively, seeing a contemporary who looks fantastic, can raise hope or instill an unfair comparison.
When we purchase an item at the store and are asked for identification, the driver's license and credit card aren't enough. The sales clerk also wants to know "your date of birth". Bureaucratic forms persist in claiming entitlement to our age, as do the annoying telephone solicitations, "And, your age, please."
I find this invasion of my life unnecessary. My age is important to my doctor and myself. If the government wants to know my age for an important reason, I will give it. But I do not find it my duty to give my age to anyone for unnecessary reasons. Let me explain. Chronological age pertains to the number of years we have lived on planet Earth. From the moment we pushed our way through the birth canal into the oxygen world. Each year after this moment of celebration adds to what we are defined in the discriminating eyes of society. I have no qualms with my age, only in the manner in which society determines who I am and what I am capable of by my number of years in existence.
"You're 70, your time is up!"
"You're 60 and over the hill, dear boy - middle age, you know."
"You're 40, too old for extravagances."
"You're 30, find a responsible job and invest."
"You're 20, too young to worry about your health."
"You're 7, play with your dolls, not airplanes!"
Recently, I was at a birthday party of a friend. Getting late in the evening and getting more light-hearted, he summoned everyone together for opening presents. Delighted at his moment in the spot light, he read aloud birthday cards.
"It's your birthday! So, have a stiff drink and forget it!" and, "Congratulations! 40 is a great age. Practice saying that until you can do it without whimpering."
At the reading of each card, there was a roar of laughter. My friend even jeered at his own getting older, although I don't think he really was happy about it. He put a throw blanket across his shoulders and mimicked an old man squeezing joy out of remaining moments of youth. I left the party feeling a bit sad. Certainly, we find humor with the encroachment of age. Yet the type of humor the satire which pokes with snideness while pretending to cheer can be damaging. Getting older loses its mystique after 21. After the driver's license and the ability to buy a bottle of beer, the yearly reminder of getting older persists, and persists. Until, we lose an ability to think of our lives as a continual process, but defined by the time-element of a year.
"Heads you win, tails I lose."
The term "ageism" was conceived by psychiatrist Robert Butler. His summary is, "ageism can be seen as a process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old, just as racism and sexism accomplish this with skin color and gender."
Society has made assumptions about aging that are now outdated. Perhaps these assumptions were useful at one time, like old wives tales, but today they no longer serve a purpose. Assumptions are based on presupposed standards. [By whose standards are these assumptions made? ] The following negative concepts perpetuate ageism and instill unhealthy examples in our thinking.
The sex drive declines with age. In males, the sex hormone, testosterone, starts to decline in the early 20's. In females, the sex hormone, estrogen, falls in the mid-30s until menopause. Regardless of these hormonal declines, we can replace lost hormones as well as learn about our own attitudes and bias toward sex to help regenerate feelings about sexuality.
"It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper; so cry away. "
An evolutionary explanation of this myth is that our genes discriminate. It wasn't in the evolutionary interest of our genes to make life long, as reproduction takes place early in lifespan, and reproduction being the gene's primary interest. Thus, genes have selected against old people. Once genes are passed on, it hasn't been necessary for the creatures, or in our case humans, to live on.
Today, we have plenty of room for both young and old. The immediate response to the idea of extended lifespans is "What about overpopulation?" It has been proven over and over again that there is not an overpopulation problem. Population growth is caused far more by number of births than living longer. Furthermore, if we do exceed the number of individuals that the earth can support by that time, many of us will be soaring across the solar system in high-end designed portable communities with every comfort of earth and more.
As stated by Ann Oakley, British sociologist and author:
"The primary function of myth is to validate an existing social order. Myth enshrines conservative social values, raising tradition on a pedestal. It expresses and confirms, rather than explains or questions, the sources of cultural attitudes and values. . . . Because myth anchors the present in the past it is a sociological charter for a future society which is an exact replica of the present one."Our lives are controlled by our way of thinking. If we view life as being short, or governed by categorical time-units of age and lifestyles, we create the state of mind that will dictate the results of such a scenario. Being destitute is a state of mind, or seeing oneself as ill can make it necessarily so.
Ann Oakley (b. 1944), British sociologist, author. Woman's Work: The Housewife, Past and Present, ch. 7 (1974).
Here are 6 categories of aging and how we age:
"Chronological age is at best only a rough indication of functional age. Because age norms imposed by society work to constrain behavior, behavior at a particular age cannot be assumed to be a reliable indication for the possibilities of that age."All chronological age measures is the number of hours the Earth has orbited the Sun.
Dr. Roy Walford.
We can begin to turn back to the clock of physical aging by being physically active, eating healthy foods, taking vitamin supplements, exercising, developing muscles and strong bones, and undergoing cosmetic surgery.
We are taught that at any particular age, we have a set of tasks and responsibilities to live up to them. We accept them in order to function and satisfy with the least amount of resistance in our world. Although we accept these tasks and responsibilities and make decisions about them, emotionally we still have a longing to be youthful. In order to get along with the rest of the world, quasi rule systems form how we are supposed to act at a specific age to help us find our place in society. Many people long to escape from these responsibilities into a second childhood longing to have the responsibilities of a child, not to care what the world thinks, or to be burdened by the world.
Unfortunately, the world gives honor to those who carry a lot of responsibility. Some people feel an intense drive for responsibility and achievement as a natural process. Others struggle for achievement despite the fact that they long to be free from obligations and come in conflict with their true longings. The effects of age appropriate roles depends on whether it is pleasing or conflict causing. Thus, if the age appropriate role is causing a false sense of self, psychological ailments may arise. It can be difficult to maintain deep fulfillment while living a frenetic lifestyle.
Our most somber assumptions can be provokers of aging. For example, people tend to take on the characteristics of their parents as they grow in years. We may not consciously be aware of our own mutation in becoming more and more like our parents, for it can be a slow and unrecognizable process. Sometimes, when I see my brothers or my sister and a quick glance, I can recognize not only the physical appearance - the style, jesters and mannerisms - but also the language of my parents. One day I saw my sister in almost the identical outfit my mother was wearing. There is thirty years between them, yet excluding their facial characteristics and a difference around their abdomens, they looked like twins. I have found the same similarities between my father who died of cancer any myself when I have felt ill and weak.
Break old patterns. By altering how we have been programmed to see ourselves, we can create new patterns in not only our physical appearance, but also our behavior.
We must realize the limitations placed upon us by standards that may be inappropriate. We must see ourselves as individuals and unique. We must develop our intelligence to recognize our uniqueness and our capabilities. While pushing beyond the standard limitations, we must move with careful planning. Plan ahead. Know who you are and where you are going.
Meditation is one of the most useful tools to get the mind to focus. By meditating before starting the day, or achieving a goal, I am able to establish what is important in achieving my goal and what will be a waste of my time. This method of mental organization allows me to perform my work in a more efficient and effective manner. Meditation is an effective tool for Ageless Thinking because it helps to visualize the goal of being youthful and vital.
Hypnosis is another mental exercise which has enormous benefit. Dr. David Bresler, the foremost specialist in diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain, emphasizes the patient's individual role in controlling discomfort and pain through the use of mental control. Dr. Bresler believes that "by creating and utilizing personalized mental images," through guided imagery hypnotherapy, an individual is able to influence the deepest levels of his mind. Hypnosis is another helpful tool in Ageless Thinking because through its use, minor pains and discomforts that tend to cause us to feel old and fragile can be replaced with positive images. The sledgehammer headache causing anguish and a furrowed brow can fade away by the use of mental control.
Being a sex symbol has to do with an attitude, not looks. Most men think it's looks, most women know otherwise.How do you carry yourself? What are your opinions, convictions, sentiments, points of view. How do you feel? What is your outlook on life? How would you define your identity, character and abilities? In other words, what is your attitude?
Just the right attitude has put people on the world map. "If you've got it, flaunt it." With this in mind, if you haven't got it - get it. See yourself as your optimal persona. Be your own Muse and create your identity as an art and "strike a pose." (Madonna)
The answer to these questions remains in the hands and expertise of scientists. We can be young for as long as we continue to discover the reasons for aging, the mechanics to stop as well as reverse aging and the technologies for designing a youthful mind and body. Physical aging is inevitable only as long as we remain ignorant about the reasons why we age. When we learn all we can about aging, we can then prevent it. It is a matter of intelligence and time.
Because of our unique physical and psychological makeup, each one of us may require a specialized self-regulated diet. Certain specific aspects of formulated diets may be beneficial to your body, while others may cause conflicts, such as allergies or low-tolerance side effects. The best way to approach diet is conscientiously. Read a lot and sample what you have read until you find the diet which gives you the most energy and the least gastronomical problems. Learn about vitamins and supplement your nutritious diet with them. Learn critical thinking to be able to evaluate claims for new diets.
According to Dr. Ray Sahelian, melatonin could be used to prolong lifespan because of its ability to enhance the immune system, regulate hormonal levels and act as an antioxidant. Melatonin research has found that it contains free radical neutralizers. Because melatonin decreases in our bodies as we age, "melatonin, taken as a supplement, could slow down the aging process." (Melatonin Nature's Sleeping Pill, 1995)
One aspect of aging that we can control is replacing our decline in hormone levels. These would include estrogen, melatonin, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, growth hormone, and possibly others. Two of these hormones are available without a prescription are melatonin and DHEA. Therefore, it is our responsibility to learn all the facts and decide if we need to take hormones, how they could benefit our health and how much of these hormones would be appropriate for our unique circumstances.
Innovations in cosmetic surgery are continually upgrading how doctors treat the effects of aging. Dr. Richard Clark, plastic and reconstructive surgeon located in Northern California, is a pioneer in designing youthful faces and bodies. He advises each patient on an individual basis. His technique depends on the needs of the patient. He suggests that surgery and "lifting" as a means of altering the effects of gravity and peels and laser to correct environmental damage to the skin. Environmental effects: brown spots, sun damage, little wrinkle can be tended to with alpha hydroxy, Retin A and glycolic acid. As an alternative, a TCA peel (trichloroacetic acid) helps diminish fine lines and discoloration.
For deep wrinkles where the skin loses its elastic fibers and becomes leathery, Dr. Clark suggests the use of a co2 ultrapulse laser to take off superficial layer of skin down to the dermas layer. For stronger wrinkling, a phenol peel is used to burn the skin. This is referred to as a chemical peel whose action may cause damage to the natural color or pigmentation of the skin.
If the brow is dropping, Dr. Clark suggests an endoscopic approach (forehead treatment) which lifts the scalp to take out the traverse lines in the forehead and a possible removal of specific muscles which will eliminate the furrowing of the brow.
The fact lift pulls the skin back off the face and eliminates the lose look. The result is a youthful tone. The best candidates for a facelift is a man or woman whose face and neck have started to sag, but the skin has retained its elasticity. The facelift can improve deep cheek folds, jowls and lose skin around the neck.
In summary, if skin the damage is from too much sun, poor diet, smoking or other environmental factors, a skin peel with laser is an optimal suggestion. If the wrinkles are deep, a chemical peel will give a youthful tone. If the skin is sagging due to gravity's pull, then surgery is needed to lift up the skin.
We must seek the challenges of modifying ourselves, creating distinct views, embracing new behaviors, and welcoming the unfamiliarity of change. When it is our choice to explore challenges, we begin to take charge of our future. Our individuality is our dignity. The knowledge that is gained, the wisdom of experience, become the helping hand of change. The more we challenge our existence and make attempts to learn new skills, the more in balance with our own identities we may become.
Science and technology are not standing still. Just as we are carving our own new identities, science is also finding its place in the anti-aging movement. New information on how we view aging is occurring in many scientific communities. Genetic engineering is having an impact on how we age and reversing it. Hormone replacement therapy is being used to counter age decline. New markers of aging are redefining the categories of age. Becoming aware that we can live longer is effecting people's desire to live longer. Cosmetic surgery is giving us extra years of youthfulness. Nanotechnologies and artificial intelligence are developing important roles in medicine and aging. Cryonics is the best available safety net for extreme longevity.
"Today by carefully applying the technology developed during the past century (especially in the past 20 years), it may be possible to develop a practical, custom tailored, medically safe and scientifically sound life-extension (anti-aging) program. Currently, such a program is limited to the types of intervention" such as "diet, exercise, supplements, hormones, drugs, and monitoring). In the foreseeable future, however, techniques such as using drugs, hormones and neurotransmitters in slow release capsules, grafting tissue from hypothalamus, pineal and other areas of the brain, and genetic manipulation of aging control programs will all become available. Each year that one gains by preserving one's health and prolonging one's life now, significantly improves the chances that one will be around to enjoy the benefits of the tremendous rejuvenation technologies which will become available in the future."What are the bio-markers in determining age? How do we know which bio-markers are dependable? Is there available a reliable way to ascertain our functional age?
Christopher B. Heward, Ph.D., The Endocrinology of Aging
We age differently depending on which bio-marker we are looking at. We may be in good shape cardiovascularly but have poor elasticity in skin due to over exposure to the sun. Our bodies change with time. The best approach is to look at a broad spectrum of aspects of aging. It is not simple, or inexpensive, and there is still little data available on these factors.
What is a bio-marker of aging? Biomarkers of aging are indicators of how far we are progressing on the pathway of degenerative diseases that are associated with death. Any biomarkers that give us a clue about how this degenerative progression can tell us our functional age and longevity. Some bio-markers are more reliable than others. For example, cardiovascular fitness is important but may not be as important as cholesterol levels and homocysteine levels, the amino acid that is a marker of cardiovascular risk.
An athlete such as an ice skater who appears to be physically fit, suddenly dies of a heart attack. Jim Fixx died before 40 despite being a top runner. Although heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death, young, healthy individuals are considered to be out of risk. How could this happen? Are we using a wrong gauge to determine our health? What is going on biochemically and biologically? We need to know the risk factors.
Over the course of our lives, we probably get and beat many cancers that happen because our immune system is functioning at an optimal level. Yet, as we get older, or if our immune system weakens, our body's loses its ability to recognize and fight off the invasive cancers. This retardation in recognizing the cancer as being a non-self and to produce antibodies and mobilize white blood cells to take charge allows the cancer to grow. Cancer is the number 2 cause of death.
What if there was a lucid test to checkout our immune system and see how it is faring? What if we could simple check in on a daily or weekly basis and summon up different bio-marker for a report on how we are aging? Dr. Christopher Heward has developed such a test, BioMonitor. BioMonitor is a consistent measure of how we are functioning physiologically and compares that to our chronological age and our rate of aging. We then can make adjustments in biological selves.
The far future is coming into near range with undertakings such as the Human Genome Project which is an international effort by geneticists to decode all two billion base pairs of the human genome. The human genome is the entire set of genes. Another area of close-range explosion is the application of gene therapy to medical problems. These techniques will alter genetic programs and alter the rate of aging.
Scientists are discovering that the program of life is becoming more fully understood. If we view organisms as machines, we can understand the programs organisms are being run by. Because of the process of evolution, the programs of organisms have much in common. The human genome project is planned to be complete by 2005, but already Human Genome Sciences Corporation in collaboration with The Institute for Genomic Research have become familiar with thousands of genes which make up the human genome. This is accomplished by isolating genes to study what a gene/protein does. Its regulation requires further sequencing.
If we view our genes as a computer operating system with many lines of code it becomes difficult to make a clear comparison. However, we have created massive and complex computer operating systems and have the intelligence to understand them fully. We can assume that a reasonable number of people working on specific aspects of the human genome should be able to comprehend the human program works.
The process of understanding our physical makeup - our genes - and their relationship to aging is an enormous undertaking. Just imagine a settler in the late 1800's who has been crossing the planes in a covered wagon, old before his time, being given a shiny new red Ferrari along with a portable computer and cellular phone. Imagine a young woman in the 1700's in New England, unable to explore her own imagination, being censored, restricted and bullied by the town masters for having tea with her friends, imagine her attending a televised presentation where a woman not only hosts the show, but makes forthright statements about her own views openly in front of millions of people and whose voice is carried across electronic wires across the entire world!
Now, imagine our scientists, engineers and visionaries one hundred years from now and the work that has been accomplished in genetics and altering or controlling the rate of aging.
"These facts and projections point toward a rapid understanding of the aging process and an application for technologies to significantly extend lifespan. These technologies will be developed and applied faster than we age. The net result will be an unlimited maximum lifespan. Will people live forever? Not as biological machines. "Nanotechnology involves the study of chemistry, physics and engineering to build objects or machines atom by atom. To add significantly to lifespan, a nano machine could repair aged issues and organs. Nano machines might also be used to reanimate people who have been frozen in cryonic suspension. Further in our future will be the integration of the human/transhuman being and machine. That will be a time for a possible cybernetic immortality.
Robert Bradbury, Centre for Studies of Aging, University of Toronto
If their desire is to learn about life, to extend life, then through the use of technology and masterly skill, we all will benefit from the tenacity and labor of their efforts. We can also become paralleling visionaries in our own rights stretching beyond the constraints of yesterday's and today's limitations on our lifespan and our creativity.