Oct 21 2012

Mixed feelings about Botox

I was still raw with grief over the premature death of my eldest sister three years ago when I stumbled into a dermatologist’s office in Ottawa. Sally had lost her life at 55 to malignant melanoma, leaving behind a loving husband, two adult daughters, who spent the last weeks of her life sleeping on gurneys in the hospital corridor, and a 12-year-old son.

And you thought the target market for Botox was middle age! Is the young woman featured in this Botox ad out of her teens?

Although my skin is quite different from Sally’s, a precautionary visit to have my moles checked seemed like a smart thing to do. I anticipated the feelings of vulnerability that I experienced as I entered the discouragingly full dermatologist’s office at 8:30 a.m.; what I couldn’t have predicted, however, was the rage that I felt when confronted by posters celebrating the 20th anniversary of Botox.

My fury was not solely about the popularity or promotion of an injectable toxin that aging women — and, increasingly men — are encouraged to believe they can’t leave home without, although now that you mention it, yes, I do resent that. But on this particular occasion it was heightened by the fact that I’d waited six months for an appointment, and was now about to have to wait another 45 minutes, despite being on time, first thing in the morning.

Earlier this week I received an email from Sandi Berwick, who’d come to the launch of I Feel Great About My Hands in Halifax. A grad student in the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology, she’s currently doing supervised academic research into women’s experiences with injectable facial procedures.

As someone who’s not immune to the wrinkles I see reflected in my mirror (see previous post), I’m interested to learn more about how this phenomenon affects women, and offered to try to help Sandi and her colleagues find additional research subjects. I’ve pasted the text of her notice below.

If you are a woman aged 35 – 65 who has had injections to reduce the signs of aging to your face but have mixed or negative feelings about your experience (for example, maybe you didn’t like how you felt emotionally or physically afterwards, you didn’t like how it looked, or other reasons),

 You may be interested in participating in this study on

Women’s experiences with injectable facial procedures

Participants will be Interviewed Privately and

Confidentially (in person, on-line Skype, or by telephone)

To find out more about the study or to participate, please contact: sandi.berwick@msvu.ca  (Dept of Family Studies and Gerontology)

OR call 889-4130 and leave a confidential message


Jan 27 2012

Wanted: Aging Role Models

This week Toronto artist Meri Collier, whose beautiful line drawings of older women grace a few pages of the book, sent me the link to a 4-minute video featuring Maia Helles, a 95-year-old former Russian ballet dancer. It’s a lovely tribute to a woman who clearly lives by the dictum of use it (or should that be “move it”?) or lose it…

And it reminded me of another inspirational woman who seemed not to let growing old interrupt her rich, creative way of being in the world.

I only got to know Doris Shadbolt during the last few years of her rich and extraordinary life, but she left an indelible impression on me and remains a role model for how I’d like to live out the end of my own. Curator, writer, philanthropist, gracious host, inveterate traveler, and recipient of the Order of Canada, she had enormous grace, intelligence, energy and spirit. Although her physical capacities diminished in her later years, making movement and therefore travel more challenging, her frailties were never the focus of her conversation; she remained completely engaged in the world of art and the art of the world until the day she died. Even though she’s been gone now for seven years, I think of her often and the impact she continued to have on people well into her 80s.

Are there any things that you imagine you’ll stop doing once you get to be a certain age?

Which aspects of aging do you genuinely appreciate in yourself or others?

Can you think of examples you’ve experienced of the phenomenon noticed by researchers that older people are better at managing their emotions?

Among the older people you know, who do you find the most inspirational? Why?

Reading the pieces in I Feel Great About My Hands, do any of the contributors strike you as likely role models for aging? Which one(s) and why?

Can you think of any older people whose ways of resisting or dealing with the aging process serve as cautionary tales — roads down which you don’t want to travel?

What’s your favourite memory of the parent, grandparent or other older role model to whom you feel or felt the closest?

How would you like the young people in your life to describe you to their friends?