.Gauging aging: ‘maturity’ isn’t for amateurs

For most of my adult life, I had the good fortune of looking younger than my age. Until now.

I’m not going to tell you how old I am, but it begins with a six and ends with a zero. Healthwise, no complaints. Yet, I suffer—from wrinkles and zits at the same time.

Unbeknownst to me, this phenomenon probably started a while back, although I only realized it a couple of weeks ago, after I picked up my new eyeglasses with a much stronger prescription. With my newly discerning eye(s), I noticed that many of my girlfriends seem to be weathering the sexagenarian tsunami better than me. 

Enter Dr. Faye Jamali, of Belle Marin Aesthetic Medicine in Mill Valley, who enlightens me about some of the non-surgical treatments that my friends might be having. Of course, there’s Botox, a muscle relaxant used to soften lines and wrinkles. But Jamali’s anti-aging tool kit contains far more than that old standby.

Jamali describes a smorgasbord of services available, including injectable fillers to replenish lost facial volume; microneedling, which stimulates new collagen and elastin production to address hollowing and sagging; and laser therapies to improve skin tone and texture.

Maintenance visits are required to keep what Jamali calls a “better rested and more youthful appearance,” because the measures are temporary. Still, Jamali emphasizes that she’s performing medical procedures.

“This isn’t a makeup counter,” Jamali said. “You don’t want to go for a Groupon for these treatments.”

Hmm. Now that I give this more thought, it is my more affluent friends who look decidedly unaged. So, can a reporter afford to look younger?

The price for Botox and dermal fillers depends on the number of units needed. For example, to treat frown lines, the forehead and crow’s feet with Botox, Jamali estimates the cost at $600 to $750. That investment lasts about three months.

Maybe what I need here is an attitude adjustment, so I call my friend who is brutally truthful, Rachel De La Montanya. Also, she’s a hair stylist, and I need to tell her about the new feral gray hairs sticking out from my head at right angles. And my mane is thinning. Double whammy.

First, De La Montanya reassures me that gray hair is a marker of genetics, not age. Hair loss, on the other hand, could indicate an underlying medical condition or simply that I’m old. Off to Kaiser I go.

The good doctor, a man half my age, orders blood work. The following day, he calls to cheerfully provide the diagnosis for my thinning hair: “maturity.” 

Speaking of mature hair, De La Montanya says, “A lot of women are choosing to let their gray hair come in, and they have way less maintenance.” She adds, “Women can achieve that balance of looking good for themselves and feeling comfortable. I honestly don’t understand how women spend as much time as they do in a hair salon. It’s my business, but it’s not my value.”

I could go kicking and screaming into the process of growing old, but where will that get me? My sage father was delighted to age. “It beats the alternative,” he always said.

Sherri Franklin, the founder and director of Muttville, is well-known to dog lovers. In 2007, Franklin, 67, founded the Bay Area nonprofit, which is devoted to rescuing and finding homes for dogs seven years old and up. When it comes to matching senior dogs with people 62 +, she’s the expert.

One of Franklin’s first “senior for senior adoptions” was for a grandfather with early-stage dementia who had to move into a senior living community, where he had become agoraphobic. His family decided to adopt Rocky, a 10-year-old Pomeranian, for the grandfather.

Suddenly, the grandfather was taking Rocky out on walks every morning and getting to know the neighbors by name. By virtue of socializing again, his dementia seemed to diminish, according to the family.

“This is not a one-off,” Franklin says. “I hear stories like this all the time. There is science behind it.”

Indeed, there is. Studies show that having a pooch companion boosts a person’s mood and helps those who are isolated, according to the American Heart Association. In fact, the organization’s website lists more than a dozen other health benefits, including that dog owners are 31% less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than non-dog owners.

Check. I have a dog. A senior dog, I might add. And with this info, I always will.

Oops. I apologize for using the word “senior,” which sets Dotty LeMieux’s “teeth on edge.”

“I’m on a campaign to get rid of it for anyone not about to graduate—and I don’t mean from this world into the next,” LeMieux, a 74-year-old firecracker, wrote on my Facebook page.

It’s not only LeMieux who’s particular about the terms used to describe humans of a certain age. Pamela Weintraub, an award-winning author, chimed in, too. “Older people” is correct, while “elderly and senior” are both bad.

“What is an “older person?” asks Marcia Thomas, a local artist. “To a teenager, it can be someone over 40. To someone 80, that number could be very different.”

Thomas is decidedly against using subjective words, preferring to identify a specific age range, such as “people over the age of 65.” 

I’m OK with that for the time being. But when I turn 65 and a young person lumps me in with centenarians, I’ll probably whack them with my walker.

Linda Wosskow, spunky and fiercely independent at age 76, has no fear of dying.

“It’s going to come sooner or later,” Wosskow says. “My only concern is that I want to die peacefully and quickly. I don’t want to be dependent and need medical attention.”

Wosskow’s outlook on aging is absolutely refreshing. She travels alone, won’t go out sans lipstick, loves her “silver” hair and has no regrets about her life, although the former dancer sounds wistful when she mentions that she used to have great legs. I’ll bet her gams still look gorgeous.

While there’s a plethora of perspectives about moving into the last decades of life, I’ll close with wisdom from Bay Area sailor Jim Rohrsson, 65, who prefers to stay active and optimistic.

“I get up in the morning and I’m like, ‘Wow. Another day!’” Rohrsson says. “Killing time or being bored? I’m going to wait until I’m dead to do that.” 

Nikki Silverstein
Nikki Silverstein is an award-winning journalist who has written for the Pacific Sun since 2005. She escaped Florida after college and now lives in Sausalito with her Chiweenie and an assortment of foster dogs. Send news tips to [email protected]

6 COMMENTS

  1. My mother liked to quote I’m not sure who “too soon old, too late smart”. Aging is not for the weak!

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  2. At 50 the letters from AARP to join start coming with great frequency.
    No Way
    Not me
    I am not part of that demographic
    (Never will be – wink)

    Only in Marin would a profile on aging focus on body improvements. It’s just beyond unnecessary.

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    • Hi Mark,

      I think it’s absolutely necessary to include “body improvements” in an article on aging – especially in Marin. People here can afford to avail themselves of anti-aging procedures, and it appears they do so. According to Dr. Jamali, the aesthetic medicine physician quoted in the article, her Marin business is not impacted by economic downturns. Clearly, there is an interest and demand for these services.

      Personally, I have not had any of these procedures; however, I believe if a person’s self-esteem is improved by softening their wrinkles, they should go for it.

      Best,
      Nikki

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  3. I would love to have you interview people with declining health. In wheelchairs or walkers with or without cognitive impairment. What keeps these people going. Another topic would be spousal caregiving.

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  4. I’m like Linda Wosskow- dancing keeps me young at 76 and vibrant without ‘fixes’ to face if body. Also since J teach Qigong Movement Meditation in Marin at several local community centers I see women who absolutely look a decade younger! We should talk about healing through movement at deeper levels.

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  5. One of my favorite quotes about dying (old age) is an old one from Woody Allen:

    “It’s not that I’m afraid of dying, it’s just that I don’t want to be there when it happens.”

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