Prime Living

Prime Living: Looking good is feeling good

By Beth Bond | Jul 19, 2019
Personal hygiene goes a long way toward maintaining self-confidence and aging gracefully.

“Keeping Up Appearances” is more than the title of a televised British sit/com. It really means maintaining the minimum physical appearance that our friends and family expect.

In fact, part of the criteria for recognizing early dementia is when the individual doesn’t bother with even a basic daily routine, like brushing teeth, clipping nails or regular shampoos. It would be easy to say, “Why bother, no one cares anyway, I’m retired and only do what I want.”

But simple hygiene is important, for one’s health, personal self-confidence, and in respect for others.

We don’t have to be reminded that as we age, physical changes occur, (just look in the mirror!). We lose hair, the skin layers are thinner, and even the teeth yellow with age.

Daily shower and scrubbing with a heavy-duty bar of soap can actually irritate the aging skin. But a soft cloth with warm soapy water to gently cleanse the body is as important as ever. Do use caution with scented soap or deodorant, which can be offensive to others. Although some senses diminish with age, like hearing and taste, the sense of smell remains as sharp as ever. Volunteers at hospitals and rest homes are cautioned not to wear perfume on duty.

The AARP organization now recognizes the term “Elder Self-Neglect” as the behavioral condition when an aging person fails to attend to the basic needs of personal hygiene. This should ring alarm bells for the family, and it is time to see the health care professional.

Since aging gracefully is the goal, what is the plus side?  The Seattle Times recently featured an article by Ruth La Ferla promoting the advantages of face-lifts and spa retreats as part of a program of “doing all you can with what you’ve got.”

She points out this is not a sin of vanity but a sign of vitality. Dr. Marc E. Argonina, a geriatric psychiatrist in Miami points out, “It gets to the core of one’s identity, how people feel about themselves, how they see themselves changing, or not changing over time.”

The Census Bureau is predicting that by 2030, people over 65 will make up 19% of the population. Alan Matarasso, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, has patients of age 85 coming in for face-lifts!

This may be a little over-the-top for some of us, but we can and should keep up basic grooming. Don’t dye the hair pink like the granddaughter, but do keep it clean and trimmed regularly. Nail salons now have as many male customers as female, but not everyone goes for “Rose Red” polish!

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