The term ‘anti-aging’ almost suggests that getting older is considered to be something to avoid at all costs. We're told to prevent and erase wrinkles; that someone looks good for her age and we’re provided with miracle beauty products that can reverse the hands of time. But the term could be phased out soon if the recommendations of a new report come into effect. The Royal Society for Public Health, Vision, Voice and Practice (RSPH) is calling on retailers and major beauty brands to take action against the use of the term anti-aging and instead focus on the positives of getting older.
Their new report examines how attitudes to aging can affect our health and wellbeing. The findings of their new report ‘That Age Old Question’ reveals that ageist views are held across the generations, and that an aging society is viewed by many as a challenge rather than something to be celebrated. The RSPH are making a number of recommendations aimed at addressing some of the key drivers and negative consequences of societal ageism as a result.
The research looks at how attitudes to aging affect our health and wellbeing and found that women were more than twice as likely to feel pressured to stay looking younger for longer. Toby Green, a Policy and Research Executive from RSPH, explains, ‘We came together and discussed something that hadn’t yet been addressed, about how we’re actually living in an ageist society today. How the world views age has an impact on all of us, and not just through the discrimination that undoubtedly occurs at a structural and individual level, but also the way people think about themselves and how it affects individual behavior and their life choices as they move into older age.’
The RSPH believes that the negative outlook on the term ‘anti-aging’ and the way in which age is viewed as something that is undesirable is negative to our well-being. One of the focuses the RSPH concentrated on in their report was a call to rebrand, or rethink the use of anti-aging as a description in beauty products. ‘The call against the term anti-aging was one of many suggestions. We identified this as a specific issue, and how ageist language has adversely affected our culture.
‘We’re not the first to point it out. But we saw it as symbolic, and overall we want to lead the narrative away from anti-aging and towards a culture of looking at aging as a positive process and recognising that we all do it and it’s not something that should be treated as a disease that needs to be delayed or cured,’ says Toby.
Allure magazine is one of the first beauty outlets that has decided to stop using the term ‘anti-aging’, something Toby hopes other major beauty brands and publications will follow. ‘We’d love to see major beauty outlets implementing their own policies around the matter. It’s great to see that they’re using much more positive words to frame aging.
‘There's no reason why such products shouldn't exist,’ Toby says. ‘We think that they can make reference to people’s skin but what we object to is the way in which they are labelled alongside products like anti-fungal creams, anti-depressants and antimalarials – they're all ways that we describe things that are negative. We’re putting anti-aging beauty products in the same bracket linguistically and that’s a risk. There should definitely be a focus on something more positive in aging. It’s not a problem to be solved.’
The Royal Society for Public Health