Welcome to Part 5 of this short series on the myths of aging. In Part 4 we briefly introduced two theories of aging. One was the free radical theory, a physical theory with a large body of evidence to support it. The other was disengagement theory, a psycho-social theory of aging that happens to have a good fit with observable behavior.

In Part 3 we made five useful observations about aging. Of those, we noted that the details of aging observed in both physical and mental function (items 3 and 4 on our list) were so thoroughly observed and documented as to provide a detailed normative data set that describes what occurs at different ages.

This detailed description has such strong statistical support that it is taken to provide age-related normal values or measures of performance. To give one classic example with which many people will be familiar, consider the measurements of reading skills. Reading performance is usually reported as being at a "reading age" and this age is compared with prior and subsequent reading test results and with the chronological age of the reader.

For example, it is possible for a strong reader aged 9 to have a reading age of 12 and for a weaker reader aged 12 to have a reading age of 9. What this reveals is an underlying notion of normal age-based performance in the wider population with which particular measures in an individual may be compared.

This basic approach can be applied to a very wide variety of performance measures. This is how we can measure the effectiveness of anti-aging interventions. Essentially, if something is measured and then compared with the normally expected value for a person’s age, one can immediately determine if on this measure the person is "younger than their age" or "older than their age" as predicted by the "normal values". Does this make sense?

So if on a variety of measures a person is shown to be below what would be predicted from the "normal" data based on chronological age, that person is effectively aging more slowly than "normal" or more slowly than most. Something, or perhaps many things, the person is doing, or not doing, amounts to anti-aging.

One of the enticing aspects of anti-aging is being able to, in effect, roll back the clock. That is, a set of measures taken at one point in time may actually be improved upon over a period of time. This is real anti-aging or actual rejuvenation.

So, how is it done? Well, I’ll tell you if you will just send me the amount of $… No, I’m only kidding. I couldn’t resist the temptation to tease you a little. The answer is, it is done in many different ways. Given that I have already said that aging can only be understood from an holistic perspective, it should come as no surprise that anti-aging is multifaceted.

I think I’ll give the prescription for anti-aging in the next and final Part of this little series on the myths of aging. One myth we can dispense with right now though. There is no single "magic bullet" type of solution. No matter what you read in some magazine or heard at the hairdresser’s or chatted about while fishing, the truth is anti-aging involves a few different things, and we’ll consider them next time.

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