Thursday, January 28, 2010

A New Way of Looking at Aging

This particular post was inspired by watching "Iron Chef". It wasn't the cooking that got me - it was more of the commentating of the judges that surprised me. There was this thirty-one year old female contestant who went up against Chen Kenichi (for those that don't know, Chen's the Chinese Iron Chef). What would most of you think when you hear the age thirty-one? In Western countries she would've been considered mature, or in the modelling industry, O-L-D.

Here? They called this thirty-one year old female contestant as 'young'. I thought it was a great way of viewing aging. In fact, in the Japanese culture, you're not considered an adult until your fifty. Their reason? "For the first fifty years of your life, you're learning all the lessons about life. You need to learn these lessons before you're considered an adult".

Different, yes. But thought-provoking. In Straya, we considered adults to be over the age of eighteen, where they're legal to buy beer, get into clubs, drive...all the important life lessons.

If we had a different perception of old-age, would people fear aging? It is a natural process. However, our youth-centred perception of older women in particular, is stereotyped and negative. This is reflected in our use of language, humour and media. Phrases such as 'over the hill' and 'don't be a fuddy-duddy' show old age as a period of incompetence. In jokes - which speaks volumes about societal attitudes - show women as lonely, frustrated and shrivelled up. Even though women live longer than men on average, older men are perceived as being healthier than older women.

Youthfulness is a major incentive to sell products. We're surrounded by media messages about the need - especially for women to stay young. As I said from the previous post, hiding old age is impossible. I'm twenty-three. While it isn't noticeable, I have laugh wrinkles. Even seventeen year olds have wrinkles, but they aren't noticeable. It's normal. We're all going to have wrinkled skin and sagging bodies to mark our old age.

A great example of someone who feared aging is this person. She went from this:

To this:

Happy reading!


Death Wears Diamond Jewellery said...

in other cultures, the older people are not only respected but admired for living so long! if only we followed that instead

Siobhan said...

It does concern me this disdain for older people (as if we aren't going to get old either!) and the fear of aging our society perpetuates, that at 18 you are an adult and after 30 its all down hill. It's gratifying to know not all cultures are as horrified by the very natural aging process.

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