Cosmetics industry analysts report that expenditures for anti-aging products have created a 15 billion dollar market for creams, injections, and compounds that promise to slow or reverse aging. We might think that the focus of this industry push are the baby boomers who are approaching later adulthood, but this is not what analysts tell us. Instead, the new market push is to bring 25 to 30 year olds into the campaign because they will be using these products longer. We’ve certainly gotten the message as advertising media links anti-aging with wellness and health, but the problem is that kids and adolescents are getting the message too. They also can’t escape the advertising hype that 1)aging is a disease and 2) it’s a disease we can choose to not catch. They’ve caught the message so much that around 12,000 botulinium (Botox) treatments were given last year to 13 to 19 year olds, according to surveys by plastic surgery professional organizations.
As disturbing as we might think that a 15 year old could be concerned about wrinkles, what may be worse is that 15 year old not understanding that aging, and old people just by association, are not the frightening forces that need to be avoided. We have forgotten that it is important to teach children and teens what growing older is about, and what it is worth. We aren’t just talking about teaching them how to cope with changes in how they look as they age, but more so the value in aging to our families, society, and community. What are some of the things that we can teach?
- Aging can make us psychologically healthier – as we gain perspective and prioritize what is important,
- Aging can be an active adventure – as we discover new interests and parts of ourselves we never knew needed to skydive, play the cello, or write a novel,
- Aging brings opportunities for generativity or, helping a future generation make better choices than our own generation.
Ironically, these values, activities, and ways of approaching aging are anti-aging in their effects. So instead of smooth skin and more pep, shouldn’t we be teaching our children that their goal in aging to be vital and connected with their lives?
To offer children an alternative and more positive view of aging than the disease model, try checking out the following books available through Amazon.com or other book sellers:
Can You Do This, Old Badger? and A Picnic in October by Eve Bunting.
Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman.
The Chicken Salad Club by Diane Arnold.