PG NewsPG delivery
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Home Page
PG News: Nation and World, Region and State, Neighborhoods, Business, Sports, Health and Science, Magazine, Forum
Sports: Headlines, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Collegiate, Scholastic
Lifestyle: Columnists, Food, Homes, Restaurants, Gardening, Travel, SEEN, Consumer, Pets
Arts and Entertainment: Movies, TV, Music, Books, Crossword, Lottery
Photo Journal: Post-Gazette photos
AP Wire: News and sports from the Associated Press
Business: Business: Business and Technology News, Personal Business, Consumer, Interact, Stock Quotes, PG Benchmarks, PG on Wheels
Classifieds: Jobs, Real Estate, Automotive, Celebrations and other Post-Gazette Classifieds
Web Extras: Marketplace, Bridal, Headlines by Email, Postcards
Weather: AccuWeather Forecast, Conditions, National Weather, Almanac
Health & Science: Health, Science and Environment
Search: Search by keyword or date
PG Store: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette merchandise
PG Delivery: Home Delivery, Back Copies, Mail Subscriptions

Headlines by E-mail

Headlines Region & State Neighborhoods Business
Sports Health & Science Magazine Forum

Graying baby boomers fuel new 'anti-aging' market

Tuesday, July 06, 1999

By Ellen Mazo, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

"Youth comes but once in a lifetime." -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The 19th-century American poet has never been alone in grieving the passage of time.

Yet as we move into the 21st century, those lyrical laments may soon become fascinating historical curiosities.

    Related article

The promise of longer life grows, but 'eternal youth' remains out of reach


Scientific advances are creating ways for us to recapture our youth and live well into our 100s -- or so the plethora of reports and studies indicate.

As fascinating as the discoveries may be -- isn't there a hint of science fiction appeal to it? -- the findings are not occurring fast enough for the 77 million baby boomers in the United States.

What has resulted is a marketing boom in anti-aging -- foods, products, services and medical procedures -- that is appealing to the insecurities of a graying population that only 25 years ago declared itself so invulnerable it dared to adopt the maxim: Don't trust anyone over 30.

"Now it's becoming, don't listen to anyone under 50," says Jane Singer, senior vice president for Marc Advertising, a local marketing firm.

"They're a completely self-absorbed generation; they have a sense of entitlement that they're going to stay young and live forever. They don't see a place where they're ever going to be old," she says.

"They are a captive market."

Just look at the latest cover of Modern Maturity.

Published by the American Association of Retired Persons, the magazine put supermodel Cheryl Tiegs (age 51, but looking 25) on its cover -- a clear message to its 20 million readers from age 50 and up that getting old can be beautiful.

Astute manufacturers have been packaging herbal products -- all along part of the alternative or complementary medicine trend -- as anti-aging products:

Flaxseed oil for bones and joints; vitamin E and other anti-oxidants for heart and circulation; ginseng for energy; St. John's wort for depression; saw palmetto for prostate; evening primrose for perimenopause.

"It's holistic medicine, really," says Dr. Valerie Donaldson, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center emergency room physician who runs an Aspinwall coffee shop with Therapeutic Alternatives under the same roof

Donaldson, who describes herself as a "healthy 49-year-old," has become a member of the Chicago-based American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, a specialty that she describes as being "on the cutting edge."

"It's all very physiological," says Donaldson. "It's not magical. When you eat right, drink the right water and take growth hormones on top of it, then you're given a chance to have a new lease on life.

"I think aging can be reversed, definitely."

Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Dominic Brandy is so convinced of the trend that in February he opened the Anti-Aging Centers of America in Pine -- one storefront on Route 19 for now.

A cosmetic surgeon in Scott who has made a name for himself in the area of hair replacement, Brandy had the name trademarked and packages all of the products with the Anti-Aging Centers of America logo.

With no apologies, he acknowledges the anti-aging buzzword is a good marketing tool, yet one that incorporates alternative medicine with the traditional.

"What we try to do here is put science into it," says Brandy. "Many people don't have the scientific background that we can provide so they can understand what they're doing."

While only 46, Brandy could be the poster child for the generation that wants to stay perpetually young. He downs about 25 different herbs and vitamins a day, pumps iron and jogs, has had liposuction to get rid of excess fat in his waist, and follows a healthful diet.

For fees ranging from $25 (for body fat analysis) to $400 (for cardiovascular disease risk profile) to $1,250 (for a comprehensive aging profile), Brandy offers a variety of tests to help patients understand just where they are in the aging process. Men seem to be more interested in nutritional supplements, Brandy finds, while the women want to eradicate wrinkles.

The so-called "biomarkers" help him and his staff devise a treatment plan.

The hype is there, but beneath it all neither Brandy nor Donaldson promise anything more than to give their customers a chance "to enjoy longer, healthier lives."

"When I try to explain what aging is," says Brandy, "I ask my patient to peel an apple and let it sit out overnight. You know how it turns brown, and shrivels up. Well, that's essentially what happens to people over the years. But we can now slow the process down."

Not so fast, says Dr. Lewis Kuller, chairman of the epidemiology department at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

"The truth of the matter is, we don't have the answers on longevity. People are legitimately concerned about this, and they want hope. They come to me, and I'm honest. They don't want that. They want someone to tell them that if they take this supplement they'll live to 105."

Adds nutritionist Leslie Bonci: "Your body should not be viewed as a receptacle to keep dumping supplements. This just plays up to the fears of people. The truth is, if you eat right you're going to feel physically better."

Part of the problem, Kuller says, stems from the Food and Drug Administration's inability to regulate the potions sold over the counter.

"The ones who sell these pills and powders are perpetuating quackery. And yet, it's an important field. Getting old is a messy business, and people don't want to hear that there's nothing we can do about it," he says.

"It's all very fascinating," says Bonci. "Maybe someday we'll discover the key to keep people living longer and healthier. But is there a magic formula? I don't think so."

bottom navigation bar Terms of Use  Privacy Policy