Anti-Aging? No Thanks

Denial—even resistance—to getting older is a natural impulse. But what if we embraced our impermanence?

Illustration by Edmon De Haro

Aging has been around for as long as we have—so you’d think we might have accepted it by now. By the same token, you’d think we’d also had enough of cats on the internet, but they’re just so darn cute.

The past 20 years has given birth to a booming “anti-aging” industry, replete with creams, pills, diets, and even anti-aging clinics. So, a few bucks and a little extra work can keep me young forever? Sounds like a beautiful fantasy! Oh right, that’s because it is one. As Muriel R. Gillick, professor of ambulatory care and prevention at Harvard Medical School, writes in her book, The Denial of Aging, “When we believe we will stay young forever, and when we purchase special vitamins, herbs, and other youth-enhancing chemicals to promote longevity, we are engaging in massive denial.”

Pushing away aging makes good sense; why not stay healthy and fit as long as possible? The difficulty in doing that is a seeming glitch in our design that reveals the essential challenge of being a biological life form. Eventually, knees and hearts blow out, eyes and sex drive weaken, the broad mind and the narrow hips exchange places. We look in the…

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