Life Course Scholar
This past week in class, a few of the Life Course Scholars prepared a book presentation on Selling the Fountain of Youth: How the Anti-Aging Industry Made a Disease Out of Getting Old and Made Billions by Arlene Weintraub.
Weintraub looked into how the "anti-aging" industry came into place and investigated the legitimacy of the industry, pointing out many of the errors made by the corporation. It all began when two somewhat young men were afraid of growing older and were desperate to slow or even reverse the process. This led them to inject human growth hormones and other types not limited to, but including testosterone. They eventually attracted numerous doctors to join them, not only because they liked the possibility of feeling younger, but because of the financial potential the business possessed. The two men's seemingly innocent desire to simply reduce their insecurities on aging quickly escalated into a booming and exponentially growing business: the anti-aging industry.
In their presentation, the LCSers discussed many important points that they took from reading the text. One was that society really has stigmatized the aging process and there is a general perception that growing older is a bad thing; this fact is clearly made evident by the implementation of the anti-aging industry and the popularity of their services. We can see this stigmatization in society through the lack of older adults on the cover of magazines, the many creams to prevent wrinkles, the popularity of Botox, the use of hormones to slow down aging effects, etc. They also noted that we cannot believe everything we hear from our doctors and/or from a research publication. Many of the studies in the anti-aging industry were conducted without placebos, an adequate sample size, and were not double-blind, therefore making the results ultimately useless. This leads into another point made by the LCSers: the influence of advertisements and whether or not the facts are actually true. The anti-aging industry, like other large corporations, has the power and money to aggressively campaign and mask certain facts from the eye of the public, therefore keeping their interest. As a result of this, consumers are often missing important pieces of information. As a group, we decided a strong solution to this would be, as was done by the anti-aging industry, to utilize those same marketing tactics to instead promote the knowledge found in research that the public was not aware of. This proposed solution also included modifying existing research papers to be more understandable to the general public through simpler vocabulary, photographs, shorter phrasing, etc.
Arlene Weintraub showed that the anti-aging industry, like most others, is only concerned with making a profit, not the health of their customers. They have greatly contributed to the false idea that aging, a natural process, is not normal or okay. As a result, many believe that, being young, or at least looking younger, puts you at a higher place in society. It is heart breaking to me that businesses are making a profit from the serious insecurities and fears of those who are reaching, or are already at, old age. It is also shocking to me that the industry was able to be successful without much true, scientific evidence that showed that any of their products were actually beneficial or safe. This goes to show the strength in using powerful advertising, having a large amount of money, and having celebrity support.
Our society is becoming growingly obsessed with youth and appearance, thus continuing to increase the stigmatization of aging. This is especially true as we are in a time of advancing technology and can clearly see the strong strong influence of the media. With the growing amount of people reaching old age every day, it is important that we continue to spread awareness on dangerous and non beneficial health practices, and try to educate the public more efficiently so they can tell the difference between true and "alternative facts." Although it will take a lot of time and effort, I hope that the negative perceptions of aging will be addressed and reversed so that people will feel more comfortable in their own skin as they go through the aging process and will not feel the need to turn to health procedures to "reverse" the natural process.