Anti-aging is a phrase we see everywhere. From cosmetics and health products to plastic surgery and other medical procedures, we are in an age of trying to stay young forever.
An article in the Washington Post interviews Nortin Hadler, author of several books on medical overtreatment, who now is discussing the ‘medicalization’ of aging. He points out a couple of really important things that we should all consider as we get older. One is that aging shouldn’t be looked at as a disease—it is and should always be a natural process that will have its ups and downs. We can only hope that our bodies do not fall apart, we don’t lose our memory or other indications of mortality as we get into the later stage of life. Instead of merely seeking ways to fix it, we need to consult our doctors about our options and often surgery is not the best choice.
Hadler argues: “You want to know whether a proposed intervention will be effective given your context: your age, your degree of frailty, other illnesses that you have. How much benefit will you get: an extra three months, an extra year? If it’s a year, what kind of year will it be? Will I feel absolutely awful? What will the quality of my life be?”
Hadler gives an example of a patient who has had a spouse die recently, comes to see the doctor for knee pain. In our culture, we are primed to assume that the knee pain is interfering with coping with her loss. Science suggests the opposite: the grieving makes the knee pain seem more intense.
The doctor’s job is not to give her pain meds, it is to first help her realize the importance of the coping process.
How we look at growing old has an impact on our quality of life. Perspective, especially in this modern age where there seems to be products to “fix” anything, is more important than ever. “I want to reframe it by talking about what we can do to circumvent limitations and how to cope when we can’t,” said Hadler.
We are in a new time. The time is such that many people are turning 60 and then they have to consider what they might do with the next 25 years of their life. This is not a thought that we had back in the day. We can only hope that these golden years are a pleasant experience, and appropriately adjusting to the changes of life is one way to keep a better quality of life.
When we are faced with a problem and are considering the pros and cons of treatment, Hadler recommends that we ask medical professionals about the likelihood of the same outcome, or close to the same, if one doesn’t have the treatment? Out of every 100 people, how many are helped by this intervention? Key factors like these can help us make better decisions about how to deal with the curveballs aging gives us.
If we are lucky enough to survive to be that age, we need to cherish it and work towards good health and good aging, and not anti-aging.