Have you ever wondered how King Canute felt at the moment he realised that he was not only completely unable to command the waves to do his will, but that the waves were utterly indifferent to his wishes? Sometimes watching TV feels a bit like that.
Have you ever wondered how King Canute felt at the moment he realised that he was not only completely unable to command the waves to do his will, but that the waves were utterly indifferent to his wishes? Sometimes watching TV feels a bit like that. As someone who spends their time promoting a way of ageing well through doing exercise and working out, and who believes that one of the associated benefits of that is looking good, it is dispiriting in the extreme to see the complete absence on TV of people of age who haven't undergone one form or another of surgical treatment to try and banish their wrinkles. Time was when the majority of these were women. Now more and more men on screen are also indulging in this trend - and in our opinion at SGSC it's no more of a good look for men than it is for women. I would imagine that a large part of the impetus for this trend comes from the broadcasters themselves.
It has been observed before now by many people, and it is still very much the case, that women over the age of 50 or so are largely absent from our screens. The situation has moved on somewhat in the last few years in that nowadays it seems that they are there but only if they have had "work done". This trend also seems to be extending to older men.
Of course, if an individual person wants to wrinkle-banish that is their decision. Our complaint is that those who don't want to join in this headlong descent into android-hood are less and less being represented on TV and in the media in general, so that anyone who wants to tread a more natural path will feel like something of a freak in comparison to the bland and smooth-faced heads that are the only "humans" who populate their screens.
Firstly a confession - we watched the X-Factor final in 2013. In one of life's little ironies, as I began to think about writing this article, the grandmother of one of the contestants appeared in the programme in support of her grand-daughter. When interviewed by one of the presenters, she apologised for "looking so old". She didn't apologise for being old, but for looking old. Does this not demonstrate the effect that this trend is having on people? Apologising for looking old? Case proven?
I ask myself what is the difference between SGSC's approach to better ageing and this. After all, people who have treatments that counter the "visible signs of ageing" are merely trying to avoid what they see as the negative effects of ageing, even if they are only working to counter the "visible signs" on the face. It is this use of the phrase "visible signs of ageing" in the advertising for "age-defying" products and procedures that betrays the truth, that what is being offered is not a counter to the real issues of age - the decline of function, both physical and mental - but merely a superficial action, an attempt to pretend that what is going on isn't. But it is, and there's only one way that it stops, and when that happens, all this becomes irrelevant!
So while you continue living, ageing also continues, and it is appropriate to manage it as best you can. And at SGSC we don't think that the best way - or at least we don't think that the only way - of managing it that should be shown on the mass media is facial cosmetic treatments. Where are the examples of older people still doing the exciting things, things that challenge them not only physically but also mentally? Things that demand good physical condition as a prerequisite for performing these activities successfully and safely, which physical conditioning makes them look good because even though they have accepted wrinkles they are stimulated, fit and healthy?
And on the subject of good physical condition, another of the potential deteriorations of age is from the neck down rather than the neck up! We are referring to the unnecessary and avoidable worsening of one's posture and movement. What effect will facial cosmetic work have on that? On the other hand, strengthen your body and maintain your flexibility and suppleness and your appearance will show what you in fact are - more vigorous and with better functionality. This is a genuine counter to the "visible signs of ageing", and it is so by virtue of working counter to one of the underlying deteriorations of ageing.
But to return to where we started, when it comes to people's faces, part of our objection comes down to personal aesthetics. There is the Identikit look that cosmetic surgery produces, the loss of individuality, the loss of the life-story that is contained within one's face. There is the fact that after this work the faces seem less attached to the heads as if at any moment it will melt and drop off as in some horror movie. There is the disconnect that becomes more and more evident with each procedure between the face and the rest of the body, especially those parts that are immediately adjacent. And most of all there is the slightly sinister, less-than-human look as if all people on TV past a certain age have gone through some mysterious portal and emerged having been replaced by Androids who no longer have the intensely subtle variety of expression that characterises human faces.
Amongst the most invasive of the procedures is the classic "Face Lift". I wonder if the people who have them realise that the processes that they are trying to resist actually continue after? A face lift isn't a freeze on the lifelong transformation that goes on throughout your entire body every day, every hour, every second. It's just a massive and traumatic event that takes one part of your body off on a different path; different from its own former path, and jarringly different from the rest of the body. Over the course of a couple of years the difference will make itself more and more evident. And what then? Another lift? If you don't accept your wrinkles at 40 or 50, why would you at 50 or 60? Then not only will there be even more difference between your face and the rest of your body, you'll join the ranks of the "Unrecognisables", devoid of character and personality.
All over the world there is a movement promoting a holistic approach to life, and to health in particular; surely this facet of this industry is the diametric opposite.
So the true difference in our approach to ageing is that if you have a few wrinkles (temporarily) removed there's nothing that you can now do that you couldn't do before. Strengthen your body, however, and - at whatever age you do it - your horizons will expand further than you can imagine.
Meanwhile, back to Canute. In one sense it's all over, the waves have won, that is to say the cosmetic surgery industry - currently valued at £2.3 billion and growing - rolls on and will certainly not be stopped by articles on this web-site. Maybe in the future there will be removal of wrinkles without the removal of human-ness - Look back on Androids? - but for now that certainly isn't the case.
So the plea is, instead of acting as promotional outlets for just one way of ageing , let the media play a part in also promoting the benefits of maintaining your physical capabilities from head to toe as you age. The benefits may be more evident in real life activity than they might be on a head shot on a TV screen. But that's no bad thing, after all, that's where most of us live our lives.