FLAKES: Aging gracefully


Fifty years ago, it was fashionable to fortify your wardrobe with so-called ‘crease-proof’ fabrics such as crimplene. These fabrics recently made a short-lived comeback, which surprised me in this age when we worship anything ‘natural’.

However, I can’t help wishing that someone would invent a crimplene face.

Those of us who are old enough to know what crimplene is, are also old enough to indulge in a daily ‘wrinkle watch’. This is the few minutes one spends every evening examining one’s face using a brightly illuminated mirror in order to check for any new cracks and creases. It is a particularly futile exercise because, like pesky relations, once wrinkles are in they don’t get out, despite all the extravagant promises of expensive super-creams!

Of course I try to comfort myself that the lines are caused by laughter rather than age, but the truth is that it is a long time since I have laughed at my face.

It was Pam Brown who said that middle age is that time when you get white hairs from worrying about your wrinkles! Of course this autonomous hair colour change is one of the most obvious signs of aging.

They say that the facial collapse that comes with age is caused by the departure of the scaffolding that holds the face together, a protein called collagen.

Why this protein should wave “Sayonara!” just when I need it the most is something that can only be understood by housemaids and boyfriends.

Cosmetologists often mention this protein as a special ingredient in their anti-wrinkle creams, without telling you that slapping collagen on top of wrinkles is about as effective as trying to fix a pothole by filling it with mud! Actually the best way of dealing with facial creasing is to smile so broadly that very little face can be seen beyond your lips.

But the premature departure of collagen may be the least of the problems of aging. It often happens that a crucial part of the leg, namely the knee, decides to accept an early retirement package.

This means that the normal actions of sitting down and standing up become a scientific challenge. Suddenly, I understand why it was necessary to study physics in high school.

Concepts such as “centre of gravity,” “lever,” and “friction” become critical to moving up and down without the knee. Actually, much like Nairobi junctions, the places where parts of the body join up are the main cause of movement problems in the elderly.

All middle-aged people know what it is like to be in a jam even without the traffic.

Which is why it is so sad that age also causes a decrease in muscle tone. (I did not even know that my muscles had any musical talents until they stopped singing!)

In a particularly unfair twist of fate, this means that no matter how hard you exercise, the muscles just don’t firm up as they used to. Instead, they just yawn and turn over. So when the young and the firm sneer at the wobbling extremities of the older ones, they should remember that one day, their muscles too shall rebel.

Indeed the only substance that appears to thrive in the elderly is fat, especially a quilted type of fat known as cellulite. Probably this is nature’s way of compensating for the failing knees and wobbling muscles – by providing a cushion in case you fall down.

But worse than losing your body, which is just vanity, there is the terrible fear of losing your mind.

It starts when you continuously find yourself in various parts of your house without being able to remember why you went there. It continues when you tell the same story to the same audience on four different occasions. It gets really serious when you can’t remember where you parked your car, or indeed whether you have a car to park!

This Saturday I am sure there is something positive about growing old but I can’t remember what it is.