Obsessed with Youth

How old is old? When I was a little girl, I told my first grade teacher that I was 6 years old, my mother was 26, and my grandmother was 46. I thought that Grandma—at 46 years old—was ancient!

Yet I never heard my grandmother or anyone else of her generation in my family complain about age or express any desire to be younger. Why, then, are we so obsessed with youth?

In Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging, Lauren Kessler writes, “I am part of a culture that labels ‘old’ bad (weak, sickly, sexless, boring, crabby) and ‘young’ good (healthy, vibrant, sexy, creative, adventurous). And I want to be good.”

Many view “younger” as where the excitement is, and “older” as no fun. But is that true?

Aren’t there advantages to being older? I’m not talking about the ideal of a golden retirement with good health and plenty of resources. No, what I’m referring to is the maturity and rewards that result from years in community with family and friends, lessons learned from life experiences, the rabbit trails, the successes and failures, the dreams that have come true as well as failed, the regrets that have brought wisdom, the discoveries about self, others, and the world that are ongoing. People in the upper decades of life have had time to learn what they want, which battles are worth fighting, what’s most rewarding, and what’s most important.

Elderly citizens in general don’t spend time agonizing over decisions about dating, marriage, education, and career. However, some seniors—celebrities in particular—spend three or four hours per day with a trainer and thousands of dollars on skin treatments and cosmetic surgery. Their lives revolve around trying to hang on to youth. Why is that? Aren’t there greater purposes in life?

Last fall, my husband and I went to see Virginia, a friend and retired registered nurse who was approaching her 94th birthday. She was her usual cheerful and witty self, well-dressed and coiffed, and interested in us and what we were up to. How did she view her life? Eyes twinkling, she said she was thankful to be living closer to family, was pleased with her apartment, and was looking forward to joining her late husband in heaven. “God is taking good care of me. I am so blessed.” The only things that bothered her were that she couldn’t see very well, which was why she listened to TV for news, and that sometimes her mind went blank. Not a word about longing for the old days or lost youth. She had other plans.

4 thoughts on “Obsessed with Youth

  1. Virginia is my kind of gal! I hope my eyes are also twinkling at 94. So far, the greatest lesson of my second half-century has been patience…with myself, with others and, most importantly with God’s timing as He works his wonders.

  2. I wouldn’t want to be young (and ignorant) again–but I certainly wouldn’t mind a younger body! Not to look younger so much as to feel better.

    1. I appreciate where you’re coming from, Judy, and I’m glad you pointed out the difference between wanting to look younger vs. feel better. I don’t want anyone to think I’m oblivious to the pains of our ageing bodies. Thanks for the insight!

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