Stepping up and challenging 'anti-aging'

Opinion: Columns

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By Marc Blesoff

Extra!!  Extra!!  Read all about it!

The Who, "Tommy"

I'd never even heard of Allure magazine. It is a leading, sophisticated advertising package for cosmetics, fashion, perfume, hair, etc. Flipping through the pages, one notices Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Lancome, Neutrogena, L'Oreal, and all the heavy hitters in the amazing, billion-dollar beauty industry.

I was in CVS, wearing beat-up sandals, dirty cut-offs and a stained T-shirt, unshaven, buying cough syrup. I saw the magazine cover at the checkout. I bought the magazine — not for hair-styling tips or shampoo recommendations or Botox ads. Right there in CVS the cover screamed out the words "The end of anti-AGING, our call to the industry."

This is like Car and Driver magazine promoting only green sustainable energy. Or the AMA Journal supporting Medicare-for-All. Or the NRA newsletter agreeing that 150-round clips and silencers sold at 7-11 is not healthy for our communities.

About 30 pages inside this very slick magazine I found the statement written by Michelle Lee, editor in chief: "Changing the way we think about aging starts with changing the way we talk about aging. With that in mind, and starting with this issue, we are making a resolution to stop using the term 'anti-aging.' Whether we know it or not, we're subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle — think antianxiety meds, antivirus software, or antifungal spray."

I ask: What is "anti-aging" anyway? Pro-death?

I've written here previously about what Dr. Bill Thomas terms "the tyranny of still." When referring to olders, the comment "Oh my, you still look so good" or "look at you, still sharp as a tack" or how about when we talk down to olders or raise our volume to help them understand or call them "honey" or "sweetie."

Michelle Lee writes, "Repeat after me: Growing older is a wonderful thing because it means that we get a chance, every day, to live a full, happy life. Language matters."

She closes her statement with, "Major props to those who have already taken steps, and, to the rest of the beauty industry, we're calling on you now: We know it's not easy to change packaging and marketing overnight. But together we can start to change the conversation and celebrate the beauty in all ages."

Kudos to Michelle Lee and Allure.

On another note, I recently read a terrific article by Elizabeth White titled, "Breaking the Reframe on Aging" (https://changingaging.org/blog/breaking-reframe-aging).  One of White's main points is that too many positive-aging advocates have yet to embrace affordability and access as core principles. She queries, "Are we really reframing aging when so much of the focus is on the traits of the boomers at the top of the food chain with the resources and means to take care of themselves? Those who are still high-school skinny, free from joint pain, working easily in cool encore careers. What's the reframe for the approximately 40 million boomers trying to scrape together the finances to survive the next 25 years?"

Finally, affordability, access and the other points that Elizabeth White raises may come up locally at an Arbor West Neighbors program titled, "Creating and Recreating Home: Options for Aging in Community," scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in the Veterans Room of the Oak Park Public Library. 

More on this next month.

Marc Blesoff is a former Oak Park village trustee, co-founder of the Windmills softball organization, co-creator of Sunday Night Dinner, a retired criminal defense attorney, and a novice beekeeper. He currently facilitates Conscious Aging Workshops and Wise Aging Workshops in the Chicago area.

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