Columnist: There’s more to successful aging than looking younger

Bob Ramsey
Bob Ramsey

By Guest Columnist Bob Ramsey

As the ranks of “wrinklies” increase, we see more products to help us age well.

Based on media advertising, it appears now that the “fountain of youth” is found in pills, creams, injections and surgical procedures. Who knew? Ponce de Leon looked in all the wrong places.

Sadly, most aids to successful aging focus on external appearance – looking younger on the outside – as if aging, like beauty, were only skin deep. I wish we’d concentrate on nurturing inner beauty, regardless of age.

There’s nothing wrong with preserving a youthful appearance. If you want to look younger, that’s OK. (Of course, looking your true age by embracing and celebrating your wrinkles and crinkles is OK too.)

Looking younger may boost your confidence and self esteem. It may even have some positive effect on your business and social life, for awhile. And a youthful look appeals to our vanity. (Yes, we’re all vain at every age.)

The trick is to avoid taking it too seriously. Chasing a youthful appearance can be rewarding; but if carried to extremes, it can also become a foolish, desperate and pathetic pursuit.

No matter how well the latest “treatment” works, it’s still a cosmetic or camouflage cover-up. Looking younger doesn’t reverse aging; it denies it. You’re still your actual age.

You can’t really see successful aging anyway, although you always recognize it when you encounter it. Likewise, you can’t get it at a Botox bar or over the counter. And you can’t learn how to age well by watching “The Real Housewives of (wherever)” on TV as they compete to see who can look, act or dress the youngest.

Despite today’s ads and infomercials, you can age well only by adopting an ageless attitude of wonder; staying interested, active, engaged and connected; accepting yourself and others; using your gifts for something worthwhile; and continuing to dream, set goals and have some purpose in life.

Unfortunately, many potions and panaceas for keeping us young turn out to be snake oil, smoke and mirrors. Conversely, successful aging is the real thing. It’s authentic. It comes from being true to yourself.

Successful aging is more than looking younger longer. So what is it? I’ll tell you. No, I’ll let Muriel Beal of St. Louis Park tell you.

In a recent conversation shortly after she moved into a senior residence, I asked, “How are you?”

Without hesitation, Beal replied, “I’m good. I’m always good. You have to get up each morning and say, “It’s going to be a good day!’”

That’s successful aging! You can’t age well simply by getting work done on the outside. You have to work on the inside as well.

National Healthcare Decision Day

April 16 has been declared Healthcare Decision Day to encourage adults of all ages to complete an Advance Care Directive (Living Will). Completing this simple form is the only way to assure your health care choices will be honored, even if you become incapacitated. St. Louis Park activities will include information tables at Park Nicollet Clinic and Methodist Hospital 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Lenox Community Center, 6715 Minnetonka Blvd., will host a 7 p.m. presentation, followed by time to complete the form with assistance. To register, call 952-928-6444.

For more information, contact [email protected]

St. Louis Park resident Bob Ramsey is a lifelong educator, writer and advocate for vital aging. He can be contacted at 952-922-9558 or by e-mail at [email protected]