Aging successfully appears on the surface to be pretty simple. Take for example the summary advice from years and years of interviewing older adults.

In an article dealing with the world’s most comprehensive and longest running longitudinal examination of human aging (it began in 1958), NIA’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) recommends the following for a long life: Be tobacco free, be physically active, eat a healthy diet, if you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation and have regular and appropriate health screenings. (Found at These recommendations also based on information provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; based on research findings from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.)

These recommendations that are the essential distillation of over 50 years of research echo the words of a character from the 1937 film version of James Hilton‘s 1933 novel Lost Horizon, “To put it simply, I should say that our general belief was in moderation. We preach the virtue of avoiding excesses of every kind, even including the excess of virtue itself. … We rule with moderate strictness and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. As a result, our people are moderately honest and moderately chaste and somewhat more than moderately happy.” (

In addition, the moderate folks of Shangri-La (The location of Lost Horizon) lived a very, very long time and did not look older than their early 20’s. They kept a young appearance all of their very long lives. Of course, if you left Shangri-La you quickly assumed the appearance of your age. One of the consequences of fantasy.

Debra Harry
Debra Harry of Blondie

In our world no matter how moderately successful is our aging, we tend to look our age and that comes with some social disadvantages. I saw a picture of Debra Harry, the lead singer from the group Blondie. Her shirt had a motto on it that encapsulates how we regard the prospect of aging, “Die young. Stay pretty.”

Where did we get the notion that youth, or some definition of beauty characterized by youth, was life’s’ desired state? The popular press supports the notion. Look at this title from a recent article: “What really stops ageing and why looking young is every woman’s holy grail?” (Frith-Powell, Helena. London Daily Mail, March 2008. And I would hypothesize that women are not the only gender caught up in agelessness.

Right, men too have lots of support in this quest. For example, a book, by Michael Lafavore, Men’s Health: Staying Young Looking Great (1997, Rodale Press). It’s not that people are not trying to counter this trend. Television shows (Today Show: Why Are We Obsessed With Looking Younger? Feb 9, 2011) and other media offer advice in this area. They stress the need to know your own self-worth, to realize your family still loves you, to seek inner beauty, etc. Still for all the talking the perception still stays; beauty lies in being thin, rich and young.