September 16, 2004
Suzy Allegra doesn't buy into the myth that only the young have value. She holds dear the wisdom acquired in her 55 years, even if the price paid is morning stiffness.
"We are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual beings," Allegra says. "The only one that goes downhill is the physical one."
At one time, even Allegra was depressed about her advancing age: She noticed her skin sagging, lines appearing on her neck. But when two strangers complimented her aliveness, openness and caring, the Scottsdale woman realized that "genuineness of being" transcends the physical.
An ageless person "is someone who is excited and enthused about life, mindless of their chronological age and what society says they should be doing at that age," Allegra says. "It is someone who continues to grow and learn every day."
Poet and historian Maya Angelou tops Allegra’s list of people who are ageless; other examples would be the 70-year-old triathlete, the 60-year old college student or the 50-year-old corporate "lifer" who starts her own business centered around something she loves.
Allegra, in her book "How to Be Ageless: Growing Better, Not Just Older!" (Ten Speed Press, $14.95), discusses another characteristic of agelessness: The ability to appreciate and live in the now, and not pine for what was or project what might be. That includes accepting inevitable physical changes.
"When you accept that aging is a natural process, it’s easier to stop worrying about the wrinkles," she writes. "You know they are natural. You stop worrying about slowing down. It will happen, and it will be OK. It is when you live in denial of your aging that you suffer."
That’s not to say it’s fruitless or vain to take care of yourself.
"Hey, I wear makeup, but I have friends that don’t," Allegra says.
Of plastic surgery, she says the motivation is more important than the act.
"Are you trying to be something you are not? Because it won’t change your life." (It may, however, help with self-esteem or, as one of her friends once said, "I want my face to keep up with my body.")
Wisdom, confidence, deep joy: All have come to Allegra only as she grew older.
"What we gain with age, we can’t hope to have in youth," she says. "In China you are not considered a master until you are 60. I love that."
But most other countries have begun buying into the youth mentality, Allegra says. Much of it is product- and service-driven, the struggle to sell an ideal that exists only in a computer photo shop.
"Do we droop and sag?" she asks. "Yes. But that doesn’t make us less than a wonderful being."