Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's Your Age?

I've never been to a carnival where I haven't stopped to watch that amazingly talented man who guesses a person's age or weight. How does he do it? And where the heck does someone learn that talent? How can he possibly come within five pounds of guessing that woman's weight, the one with knee dimples, chubby pinky fingers and five chins?

I don't give myself much credence for estimating a patient's weight. The margin of error is too big for my comfort. A patient's age, though? One through a hundred? Bring it on! One paramount rule must be followed, however, if you are going to partake. You must underestimate their age by five years of what you really think. Trust me, that rule saves a lot of hurt feelings.

By far, the hardest population for me to guess accurately is the older woman who looks years younger than her stated age. All natural. No surgery. And just a few shifts ago, I was surprised, once again, by yet another of these youthful patients.

I walked into a room to treat one Mrs. Smith. She was in our ER for a minor illness and, prior to going into her treatment room, I was able to review her chief complaint as well as her demographics. Her age was listed at 74.

I clearly walked into the wrong room. The room I walked into had a woman lying in the cot who was, at most, 50 and not a day older.

"I'm sorry, maam," I said, "I must have the wrong room. Have a nice day."

I walked back to my computer and rechecked Mrs. Smith's room number. What? I was in the right room after all? Impossible!

I walked back into Mrs. Smith's room. "Maam," I said, somewhat confused, "are you Mrs. Smith?"

"That would be me," she said, sharing her big smile with me. Real teeth and all.

I decided to have some fun with her. "Are you sure, maam? Because the person I am supposed to be treating is 74. May I take a look at your wristband?"

Mrs. Smith giggled like a six year-old school-girl as she held out her left wrist. Yes, this was the real Mrs. Smith. "Wow," I continued, "I'm sure you hear it all the time, but I have to tell you--you look wonderful! I would have never come close to guessing your age."

Mrs. Smith, in her girlish way, added a blush to her giggling. I didn't care, though, she deserved to hear how good she looked. She obviously did something right in her self-preservation, and I wanted to know what her secret was.

"Honey," she said, pondering my question, "I think it would have to be the fact that I've never used soap on my face before. Well, that," she continued, now wistful, "and having a good man by my side for 50 years."

It turns out that her husband died just a year ago. And suddenly, through her sadness, she looked much older.

Just like with Mrs. Smith, though, I am always excited to meet a patient who looks much younger than their stated age. Good for them! When I eagerly ask them what their secret is, how the heck they stay so young-looking, I tend to get one of five following answers:

1) "No soap has ever touched my face" or "I only wash my face with water."
2) "Genetics--you should have seen my parents."
3) "I drink a lot of water."
4) "I stay out of the sun."
5) "I use moisturizing lotion on my face every day."

Of all the moisturizers, the most commonly mentioned is Oil-of-Olay (sorry Ponds and Vaseline). A few years ago, in one of my health magazines, I read a letter of testament to the editor from a seventy year-old guy who, thanks to his daily use of Oil-of-Olay, claimed that he looked like a forty year-old. And, one of our nurses, Sue, tells the story of treating an eighty year-old woman who, she swears, looked like a forty year-old hottie, her skin smooth and clear, glowing and wrinkle-free. Her secret, Sue said, was Oil-of-Olay.

"But," Sue continued, lowering her voice to deliver some obvious bad news, "this woman was wearing a scarf around her head, tied under her chin, and I asked her to take it off. Well, let me tell you, this woman definitely had an eighty year-old neck, wrinkled and loose. She was embarrassed by her neck and told me that she had never put cream on it. It was terrible!"

"What did you say to her?" I asked.

"I told her, 'Yeah, honey, maybe you should have put some cream on your neck.'" I loved Sue's honesty. "I'm not kidding, though," Sue finished, "it was unsightly. I don't think that woman could go anywhere without her scarf. I know I sure wouldn't." Careful, Sue (who in her own right looked fantastic), I think I see your cat claws coming out. Meow!

Well, after seeing Mrs. Smith and hearing Sue's story, I reviewed my own chances for aging gracefully. Let's see, I have good genetics (thanks Mom and Dad!). Check. I drink a lot of water. Check. Unfortunately, my face and soap are intimately familiar with one another, so that was out. And, I love the feel of the sun on my face. Stike two.

Which left me one last thing. After that shift ended, on my drive home, I swung my car into Walmart's parking lot. Stay out of my way, people, I was on a mission. I walked into the store and quickly found the cosmetic aisle. Glancing around to make sure I didn't know anybody (since real men don't wear face lotion), I knelt down and grabbed two bottles of the liquid gold everybody had been touting. "Um, it's for my wife," I stammered to the cashier as I checked out. She couldn't have cared less. If I had known she would be this apathetic, I would have bought my wife a box of tampons. And the bulk package of toilet paper, too.

Since purchasing the lotion, I have been using it religiously, every morning without fail. And guess what? After a few months, I must admit that I am probably the best-looking 84 year-old you will ever see. Unfortunately, I'm only 42.

Maybe someday I'll head back to the carnival, pay the guessing-guy my $5, and win me a stuffed animal. Or, maybe not...maybe I'll just use my Oil-of-Olay money to buy one at Walmart. That would be much easier.

What's your secret? As always, big thanks for reading. Next post will be Friday, February 12.

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Anonymous said...

I am 45 and am regularly mistaken for much younger. Which I think is pretty amazing for a mom of nine and grandmom of two! Just last year I was mistaken for my 22 yod sister.

I've never really thought about why I look so young. It's definitely not genetics. I have terribly dry skin. I try to drink enough water but probably succeed only half the time. And being a fair red-head, I just don't get out in the sun often. I don't wear makeup though and therefore don't use soap on my face. But I also don't put lotion on my face. I am very careful with what I put onto my body as it is absorbed into the skin. So I am concerned for all the ingredients in face creams. I don't know though. I'd like to keep looking young. Maybe I will give Oil of Olay a try.

BTW, kudos to you if you were able to walk into a store and quickly pick up two bottles. It used to just be one choice, then two ... scented or unscented. Now the line is so expanded that it's too confusing to figure out what to use. I think that is another reason why I don't. Too complicated.

Christina said...

Great post! The aging issue is something everyone can relate to. I have to admit though, I like it when people have little wrinkles around their eyes and mouths... it means they've been doing a lot of living and smiling.

Katie said...

Wrinkles? Not a problem. Dry skin? Yes, sir! Sometimes I wonder if my face and hands are going to fall off because they're so dry. There's nothing like sitting in class and noticing a bit of blood on your notes and pondering where it came from before realizing the back of your hand is bleeding... My favorite products this winter are Aveeno for the face, Aveda for the hands, and periodically some Cetaphil. Although, now I'm going to have to make sure I put it on my neck, too.
<>< Katie

Canuck said...

Water and Oil-of-Olay. Though, I do use Tea Tree wipes sometimes too, if I'm feeling slightly blemished. But really, less is definitely more!

Carolynn said...

I'm 48 and am routinely told I look 35. So...add another 5 years to that for the fudge factor and I'm still doing alright.

My secrets?

1. I use glycerine soap & water on my face and I never go to bed with my make-up on.

2. I always moisturize (no Oil of Olay though...I've actually avoided it all these years...)

3. Excellent genetics. My Mom is 77 and is often mistaken for a woman in her late 50's. She's still working full time, as a nurse, btw...(she's setting a very bad example for me.)

4. I drink hot water.

5. I don't frown. The wrinkles I have are from smiling and I wear those proudly.

6. I've never had kids.

7. I dye my hair to cover the gray. Cheating? Yea...what's your point...?

I had the same thought as Cynthia with regard to choice of product. Too much. Just give me the original, not improved, we got it right the first time version, please.


Memune said...

I'm 50 and regularly pass for 32-33. My secrets:

1. Genetics. Grandparents still around at 95. Grandpa still does concrete work every day.

2. Don't smoke, drink moderately, avoid sun (I burn under a 100-watt bulb, so that's not hard).

3. Use suncreen.

4. Use moisturizer. I don't like Olay, prefer the generic version of Vaseline Intensive Care. Avoid stuff with perfume. Use it all over and don't forget your feet.

5. Stand up straight.

6. Move around.

7. Drink a lot of water. Eat a lot of plants.

Cal said...

Too many years as a teenager living practically at the beach for many months of the year with excellent sunshine have spoiled my chances of looking younger!
Even on schooldays, we tried to squeeze a few hours at the beach, this was southern Europe, and we had at least a good six months of nice weather.
So no secrets from me... I am now in damage control mode!
I like the story, and I think genetics and avoiding the sun are probably key.

Every man is embarrassed of buying tampons, but I never understood why!

Laura Hegfield said...

my great aunt bebe was a devoted oil of olay fan and her skin, even on the day she passed (at 89) was soft as a baby's. And do I use the stuff? I'm thinking it's time to get some of that liquid gold as my 45th bday approaches.

Chris said...

Had to take my 90 year old grandpa to the ER once....triage nurse called his name, and he stood up and walked over to her. She said, oh no, I'm sorry, the chart must be wrong, the gentleman I'm looking for is 90.....he said, that's me. Looked like he was 65. Must have been genetics, because I know Grandpa wasn't using Oil of Olay.....

Tonjia said...

oh goodie!! I seldom use anything but water on my face! and I Have decent genes, drink water like a fish, so 3 out of 4 aint bad, right? I have to admit I do love that sun. Although not as much now as when I was in college.

I am off to buy me some O of O!!! :-)

Marie said...

42?! Oh my goodness, you are just a baby!! Too young to worry about being old.

I am also always told I look young for my age (55). Listening to Bruce keeps me young. lol I use the same stuff my beautiful grandmother used, Ponds. I use it mostly because the smell reminds me of her. It is the scent of love and safety.

As one of your other readers pointed out, not smoking is one key to preserving your skin.

My grandfather didn't use anything, but was one of the most handsome men I ever saw, right up until he died at 96. Here is the link to a post I wrote about him for his birthday, you can see how he looked at 80, strong and healthy and handsome:

But Oil of Olay, huh? They are going to wonder about a sudden spike in their sales. lol

Anonymous said...

I have to say that good genes are my secret; however, I drink a lot of water and only wash my face with gentle soap and water. I NEVER wear make up and I use sunscreen religiously ever since they took a precancerous growth of my mom's nose when I was 16. Being a soccer mom, I spend LOTS of time in the sun, but I don't want to end up with skin cancer just to see the state championship game.

terri c said...

These days I think I look every year of my age and then some! Economy stress probably... But I do have lots and lots of laugh lines and I'll keep every one of them.

mommy-medic said...

Never had kids? Well there you go!

I'm 31, dunno how old I look. Never wear makeup, it's too much of a hassle. I pluck the two stray grey hairs that have started to sprout in that one spot.

I stink at guessing people's ages, but am incredibly good at guessing weights! That 74lb little old lady and the 325lb guy we had to carry down four flights of stairs all stick in the ol memory bank and give one a good scale to go from. I have learned to remember the ABCs. Not Airway, breathing, circulation, oh no. Save your back and Ambulate Before Carry!!!

Persephone's Maiden said...

I am going to be 30 and regularly get mistaken for a 19-20 year old.

I don't have kids, don't smoke, use sunscreen every day and was blessed with my grandmother's good genes. I drink alcohol sparingly, a glass of wine every couple of months or so if at all. No partying--much rather read a book.

Jacqueline said...

That's like my mom...she's 51 and looks about 25. As for me, people always ask me when I'm going to graduate - high school, and I'm a couple years from 30. I don't have any secrets. I know my mom moisturizes like crazy and that I should, but I forget to 75% of the time...although I am going to look into this Olay business. And the neck....ALWAYS moisturize the neck...I learned that from my aunt who is a Mary Kay consultant...hell...moisturize the whole could help :)

Anonymous said...

Id just like to say that I LOVE your blog! It brings a ballance to the med. blogs. Most of them are full of ranting and raving, and lots of snark.(not that I dont enjoy them) Your kind nature is a breath of fresh air.

Anonymous said...

You didn't buy any for your wife- shame- lol..

Good to know the secret of Oil of Olay! Especially for preventing tire neck- LOL- that sounds funny.. I laugh too much at my own jokes..

t. said...

I'm with you Doc: I'm a GREAT looking 70-something (as I quickly approach 40)!

Oil of Olay, huh? Well, I know what's going on my shopping list!

As always, a pleasure reading your posts. Have a great day!


IrishPoet said...

thanks for the tip doc...I just turned 50 and have been told I don't look a day over 55 (big mistake as an Irishman was going to school in Tuscon and the living in south Florida for 4 years?!) But what the heck, I' rushing down to Walgreens for my first bottle of Oil of Olay TODAY! BTW, can I get her number...I really find hot looking older women very attractive (who doesn't ;)

SeaSpray said...

Love the post ..but since it's 03:23 and my eyes look like to pee holes in the snow ..well they feel like it ..well not that I know that exactly ..but they feel and look what I imagine 2 pee holes in the snow to look like.

Gee .guess I could've commented. nah ..i didn't have to think to write this.. can you tell? ;)

back tomorrow.

Have a great day!! :)

SeaSpray said...

Well being overweight helps to smooth out any lines. ;) True!

Okay ..genetics, a lot of water, sleep, oxygen-exercise, good daily skin care program ..find products that work for you (Jafra for me :),sun screen (Sun is BEST way to get vitamin D, which does great things for the body), faith in God - talk with him, POSITIVE attitude, don't sigh and laughter ..lot's of laughter and find little miracles every where you look amazed at the gifts surrounding us ..butterflies, flowers a snowflake ..someones smile ..or how you brought a smile or love to another.

I have been thought of as younger and I know it was genuine because the nurses couldn't believe I was a grandmother or just my age when I told them ..commented I couldn't be and quickly looked back down on my chart. :) I became a grandmother at 45. :)

Funny how our brains don't catch up to our bodies aging.

Ever think the class mate you ran into after 20 years ..REALLY aged and forget they may think the same about you?

My m-i-l tells me she wonders who is looking back at her in the mirror. :)

SeaSpray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SeaSpray said...

Marie - I am touched by what you said about Ponds. My mother used ponds too. If I smell Tabu perfume is Mom. I kept her bottle. It was her signature scent and she loved it. I hated it because to strong for my taste. Funny how now that she's gone ..It doesn't bother me anymore but just causes me to feel hugged by her when I smell it. Bittersweet.

There is a saying about skin:

At 20 you have the skin you've inherited.
At 40 you have the skin you've made.

And at 60 you have the skin you deserve.

Peter said...

Whispering ever so softly so as not to be overheard, “Nothing wrong with moisturiser, even us tough Aussie blokes use it.”

Now, please don't let anyone tell you that it's all about getting in touch with your feminine side as it's only common sense and us blokes have plenty of that, don't we?...NOT

Right then, off to the pub to have a few jugs with me mates!

Take Care,

MissCherryPi said...

The thing about Oil of Olay and a lot of other moisturizers is that the contain parabens - chemicals used to preserve cosmetics which act as endocrine disruptor in the body and might cause cancer, and also "fragrance" a word that is meaningless - it substitutes for a proprietary mix of ingredients that aren't required to be revealed, the actual essential oils used to make it smell nice are not listed.

Moisturizer can be good for your skin, but use one that won't hurt your body. Check out the campaign for safe cosmetics for more information.