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A Little Nip and Tuck
Hazel Marshall

A Little Nip and TuckThere is no doubt that there are men around at the moment who don’t want to sleep with women over the age of thirty, never mind over the age of eighty. So I guess that means that we have about fourteen years (between sixteen and thirty) when men really want to sleep with us and another eighty-six on the scrapheap. We may still get to sleep with them but we know that they really want someone younger, with firmer flesh and their own teeth.

Okay, so not all men are like that. But it does make a point - and that is, the society in which we live is one which worships youth. And yet at the same time we live in a society that wants to live forever - or at least as long as is humanly (or technologically possible). And yet why? If youth is best why do we want to prolong those other years?

Of course, when people talk about wishing to live for ever they are talking about how it would be if they still had the body that they had in their twenties, the sassiness of their thirties, the earning power of their forties and, well, there’s no point going much further than that, is there? Combine those three and I think we would all happily live for ever.

At the moment, though, if we were to keep living until we reached 100, we’re going to be doing it with the bodies that we have now. We may be able to slow the ageing process to some extent, we may be able to cure some of the ailments of old age but we can’t actually reverse the process yet. So what we’re talking about now is prolonging life with a body that we maybe don’t want to keep.

Even now people try to look younger all the time (except, of course, for those who are young who are trying to look older). So what is the future of old age if we carry on along the course that we are now on, i.e., trying to look younger while getting older.

Well, the answer is fake. False teeth, wigs and plastic surgery. It is an undoubted fact that things fall out as we get older - our hair and teeth - or they fall down - most of our face and the rest of our body starts heading south. So is our future one of constantly placing ourselves on the plastic surgeon’s table and having just one more nip and tuck?

Things stop working too - our joints, for example. So, now we have to replace them too. So now you’ve got new teeth, new hair, a new face and new joints. Oh, but now your back’s gone and your bones are quite brittle and you keep breaking them. So what good is the perfect young looking face now if you can’t walk?

What if you were too poor to get any of this done in the first place, as the majority of us probably will be? What if you’re too poor to even leave your house? Do you really want to live those extra few years just so that you can sit in your tiny, unheated flat eating cat food? Like most things in life, living to 100 only sounds good if you’ve got money.

Another problem is that we live in a society which doesn’t respect old age. It’s a frightening prospect that when you’ve been respected throughout most of your life, you’ve been in charge of people in the latter stages of your life and then, suddenly, you hit a certain age, say that you’ve retired and no one wants to listen to you any more. What does that do to your self worth?

Actually for my generation and the ones following me this lack of respect and power may change because the generation above mine is the post war baby boomer generation and they are pretty active at looking after their own self interests. They are politically active and will soon be too large a number and have too loud a voice to ignore. So maybe things are looking up.

My generation will probably live at least until our eighties and nineties. In our sixties we will probably look as previous generations did in their forties or fifties. Technology and medical advances will make our ageing process easier. We won’t have to replace so much, we will look younger even because of such simple things as our diet and we won’t suffer so much from diseases of old age. But until we rid ourselves of the notion of the cult of youth I’m not sure that I want to live so long. Unless I have enough money to at least still feed and entertain myself (and considering that half, if not more, of all women who have pensions are on or below the poverty line), have all my friends still around, be physically fit and not be written off as someone who doesn’t count any more I’m not so sure that I want advanced medical technology on my side.

Live to 100? Ask me again when I’ve made my first million.

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