Event Report: "Questioning 'Anti-aging': Wrinkle Reduction without Getting Old? How Should We Think about Aging?"

published: 2015-10-19

“Questioning 'Anti-aging': Wrinkle Reduction without Getting Old? How Should We Think about Aging?,” an event organized by the Research Center for Ars Vivendi, was held on July 14th (Tuesday), 2015.

“Anti-aging,” with which we are familiar as a concept that stands in opposition to aging, has penetrated our lives to the point that not a day goes by without seeing it referenced on TV, in magazines, or in other mass media. So how is this word “anti-aging” seen in the daily lives of older people and in the lives of all of us? For this lecture event, we invited Professor Masami Takahashi (Northeastern Illinois University) to speak about the origins and transformations of anti-aging, prejudice, and alternative ways of looking at the aging phenomenon.

At the start, on the basis of the “aging as a winner versus aging as a loser” dichotomy that arose in aging research in the 1960s, “anti-aging” took on the role of preventing the latter and turned its attention to the positive aspects of aging. Research on Successful Aging then flourished, and today the hierarchical model developed by Rowe and Kahn* has become the mainstream approach. In this model, Successful Aging is defined as being without illness or disease, possessing high levels of physical and cognitive capabilities, and being active.

This line of research is problematic, however, insofar as it incites discrimination between “winners” and “losers” and abstracts dynamic aging processes and diverse lifestyles. It also excludes from the Successful Aging inquiry older people with an illness or disease.

So what kind of view of the phenomenon of aging can be taken if we go beyond this kind of paradigm based on selective privilege? Professor Takahashi pointed out that we need to change our point of view regarding how aging is addressed. For example, people who are alone because of their own preference can be viewed as “solitude” rather than “isolated.” He also pointed out that since “function” and “quantity” lead to the idea of “losing” to young people, it is also necessary to examine “structure” and “quality”.

Next, using the example of “wisdom,” he proposed another paradigm to replace special privilege — a paradigm that includes both Western analytic wisdom and Eastern synthetic wisdom. He asserted a need for the accumulation, based on a comprehensive paradigm, of research on the “meaning of life,” and the reinterpretation of aging by older people themselves.

During the Q&A and information exchange sessions, the debate on the topics being addressed at this event (aging, anti-aging, the nature of wisdom, etc.) was expanded further, with Prof. Takahashi. The debate also included future medicine and welfare as participants consisted not only of researchers but also of various people such as a doctor, professionals on bullying and the issue of abuse.

Host: Research Center for Ars Vivendi, Ritsumeikan University
“Study Group on Narrative and Qualitative Studies concerning Ars Vivendi” (Project for Enhancing Research Quality of Young Researchers )
Co-host: A Society for Narrative and Qualitative Studies of the Japanese Psychological Association
A Special Interest Group for Narrative and Qualitative Studies of the Japan Society of Developmental Psychology

*Rowe J. W., Kahn R. L (1987). Human aging: Usual and successful. Science 237, pp143-149. Rowe J. W., Kahn R. L. (1998). Successful aging. Pantheon/Random House: New York.

(The original report in Japanese is prepared by Dr. Mami Kanzaki, PD of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Research Fellowship for Young Scientists/ Graduate School of Letters at Ritsumeikan University. It is translated into English by the Research Center for Ars Vivendi, Ritsumeikan University.)