Better than the Alternative

As people across Canada and the US celebrate their nation’s respective “birthdays” this week, my family celebrated a more personal one this weekend, my mom’s. We invited friends and family over to our parents’ backyard for a traditional barbecue full of sunshine, grilled meat, and cold drinks. At one point I asked my mom if she was feeling blue about getting older (as most women do) and her response was priceless; “I’ve got good friends, a great husband, and beautiful kids. My life is pretty good, and getting older is much better than the alternative. So I’m happy.”

“Getting older is much better than the alternative…”

The alternative she speaks of is death of course, and this got me thinking. How many of us truly appreciate aging? My guess is very few. Aging and getting older are treated like the black plague in Western society. We fear it, we try to avoid it, and we become very sad when the first few signs of it appear.

Consider this:

  • The global anti-aging market is expected to reach $291.9 billion by 2015, a growth fuelled as the affluent baby-boomer generation all reach their mid-fifties and sixties
  • The anti-aging market is completely resilient to economic cycles because of consumers’ unchanging desire to be young and healthy
  • North Americans spend $115.5 billion annually on anti-aging skin care products
  • Botox was injected into Americans 5.6 million times in 2011, the average treatment costing between a few hundred to one thousand dollars
  • Since 2000, the amount of people getting botox treatments rose 584%

I will admit I am no saint when it comes to this. I’m in my mid-twenties and I’m already fussing about some wrinkle lines appearing on my forehead. I bought expensive cream this fall and started rubbing it into my head every night trying to force the wrinkles away. Did the wrinkles go away? No. Do I still apply the cream? Yes. While I do not think there is anything wrong with taking care of your body and health, I think us North Americans may have gone a wee bit overboard on the anti-aging front.

I think the money we spend on avoiding age points to a deeper issue in our society. We are so preoccupied with maintaining youthful appearances that we’ve forgotten what a blessing growing old really is. In some cultures, elderly members of communities wear their wrinkles as a badge of honour because it is truly an accomplishment to have lived past forty-five. In communities where infant mortality rates are high, clean water is a novelty, and health care systems are under-developed, growing old is a feat, a rarity, and something to be cherished. If you never get older, it is because you are dead. Moving forward, we should all try to think of birthdays a bit more like my mom does. Birthdays are a blessing, it means we are here, we are alive, and we’ve lived through yet another year.

Imagine what we could do if that $115.5 billion a year we spend on avoiding age was put towards helping others grow old?


10 thoughts on “Better than the Alternative

  1. Your mom is a smart woman!! I like her outlook 🙂 As I age I will try to embrace all the “getting old” signs and wear my wrinkles with pride!! haha. It won’t be easy, I know, but it’s a more joyful way of going through life!

  2. I’ve always felt that getter older is something to be proud of. Each stage of life gives us new challenges and we should be proud as we conquer each stage. Your age and your wrinkles are a sign that you have lived your life, and hopefully, learned many lessons. Maybe our society is too spoiled and that’s why we are always so concerned with how we look.

  3. I read your blog as part of my course homework to critique blogs on the same subject matter as yours. I loved your lighthearted yet poignant content and would like to post a link to your blog from mine . Well done and thankyou

  4. We all know of too many people who didn’t live long enough. Keep out of the tanning beds, and you will have fewer wrinkles, my dear! Thanks for the mention in your blog! And thanks for a wonderful weekend! Love, Mom

  5. Smart mom you have! I like her!

    I admit I fuss about getting older as well and I fuss over whether I look old and run-down. I am thisclose to turning 32 and goshdarnit, I’d at least like to look my age, not 20 years older. And okay, I admit I get excited when someone takes a guess at my age and thinks I’m still 25. Sweet!

    Aging CAN suck but if we embrace it and know that getting older can actually be fun we can enjoy life. My dad is almost 74 and I know he’s still having fun and being his usual smartass self. Beats being cranky and miserable, right?

  6. Very good point about the dollars. Not that it stops me buying anti ageing creams. I MOSTLY try to avoid the ones that have been tested on animals though. Sometimes my vanity overcomes me – HUGE driving force in human society!

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