Health and beauty by Caplin/Chapter X
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OLD AGE, AND ITS REQUIREMENTS.
There is always something harsh and painful in the manner in which the anatomist and physiologist has to develope the characteristics of old age. The rude rending of all the drapery, the removing of the veil from the fading brow and bringing out with microscopic precision every furrow that time has made there, seems unkind and almost cruel. There is a natural desire in every woman to retain to the last the charms of her sex; the dread of the isolation of age makes her battle with time and gratefully receive any aid that may be offered to her—this aid it is our mission to impart. We have not only studied the characteristics of her declining days, but have paid special attention to the support which nature requires when she has passed into the sere and yellow leaf. To us there is something unkind and ungrateful in the contempt bestowed upon the epithet "old woman." We love and venerate those who have battled nobly with the storms of life, and as they draw near to the "land of promise" the exhaustion of earth seems only to ripen them for the skies, and although we are in the course of our vocation obliged to look closely upon the skin, and even beneath it to the shrunk and contracted muscles and shrivelled vessels, we never forget that that failing body is the temple of a noble soul, and requires to be treated kindly, almost reverently.
"In the third age of woman," says Walker, "generally extending from forty to above sixty, the physical form does not suddenly deteriorate; and, as has often been observed when premature infirmities or misfortunes, the exercise of an unfavourable profession, or a wrong employment of life have not hastened old age, preserve many of the charms of the preceding one.
At this period, in well-constituted women, the fat being absorbed with less activity, is accumulated in the cellular tissue under the skin and elsewhere; and this effaces any imperfections of the skin, round the outlines anew, and again restores an air of youth and freshness. Hence this period is called" the age of return."
This plumpness, though juvenile lightness and freshness be wanting, sustains the form and sometimes confers a majestic air, which in women otherwise favourably organised still interests for a number of years.
The shape is no longer so elegant; the articulations have less elasticity; the muscles are more feeble; the movements are less light; and in plump women we observe those broken motions, and in others that stiffness which mark the walk or the dance at that age. The alteration of the voice which occurs at this period is well known.
When women pass happily from the third to the fourth age, their constitution, as everyone must have observed, changes entirely; it becomes stronger, and nature abandons to individual life all the rest of existence.
Beauty now begins to fade, form and shape disappear, the plumpness which supported the reliefs has abandoned them, sinkings are visibly multiplied, the skin has lost its polish, colour and freshness depart for ever.
Those changes of time begin by the abdomen, which loses its polish and its firmness, the hemispheres of the bosom no longer sustain themselves, the clavicles project, the neck becomes meagre, all the reliefs are effaced; and all the forms are altered from roundness and softness to angularity.
That which amidst these ruins still survives for a long time, is the entireness of the hair, the placidity or firmness of the look, the air of sentiment, the amiable expression of countenance, and in women of refined mind and great accomplishments, pleasing manners and charming graces, which almost make us forget youth and beauty.
But as every object of nature must utterly decay, this downward tendency goes on. The want of vital energy in the limbs is followed by a diminished activity of the senses and impaired vigour of the brain and all the internal functions. As a consequence of this the volume of the whole body is reduced, the softness of the flesh and skin departs. The hair participates in the same changes, and turns grey or falls off. The cornea of the eye is rendered flatter, so that its power of reflecting the rays of light that come from near objects is diminished. The vision of distant objects, however, is still preserved, and the convex glasses supply the imperfection of the organ.
The arteries are not exempt from the general decay; the larger trunks are dilated, their coats are more or less converted into a substance of cartilagenous or bony hardness, and assume a brittle texture. The process of ossification in the smaller tubes reduces their calibre. The capillaries are greatly diminished in number. This change affects the organs of every description. The same parts which exhibit innumerable blood vessels in the growing body, possess now but few and scattered ramifications. The veins are enlarged and varicose.
The muscles also are changed-fat is deposited amongst their fibres, and the tendonous parts increase in their proportion. They feel, however, at this time, soft and relaxed.
The bones receive an undue deposition of earthy matter, lose their cohesion, break very easily, and unite after fracture very slowly and imperfectly. The cartilages become brittle, and in many instances are ossified; the ligaments are rendered harder, but are less capable of resisting extension.
The organs of motion lose their vitality in an equal degree with those of sensation and volition. The movements are slow, tremulous, and uncertain. The erector muscles of the trunk can no longer support it in an erect posture; hence the body is bent forward, and the legs fail in giving their proper support. The intervertebral fibro-cartilages are compressed and reduced in size, and the stature consequently experiences a real diminution.
Such is the description given by physiologists of advanced age. It is our business to soften down those excrescences, to prop up the reclining figure, and retain to the last the appearance of middle life.
Before we advert to the nature of our adaptations for this period of life, we must draw a distinction between age and "premature old age." The former is the decline of nature, which must always take place, whilst the latter is the result of disease or improper habits. What we mean by improper habits is such, for instance, as tight lacing or the wearing of an ill-constructed corset. When this pernicious practice is persevered in for any length of time, decrepitude is sure to set in early. The unnatural pressure to which the internal viscera have been subject has cramped and reduced their energy; and, the resources being exhausted, nothing remains but gloom and misery: when, however, proper care has been exercised in early and middle life, old age may be rendered cheerful and lovely. Nature has made a due provision for all circumstances, and provided the sustaining nutrition for advanced age. This was accomplished in the "change of life;" and, as we before remarked, nothing but its premature exhaustion can render declining life painful. What different ideas are suggested to the mind on meeting with an elderly person whose gentle life is the centre of a family's tender care and affection, blessed and cherished by the circle of her friends: or to see a woman still in middle age, bed-ridden, anxious, desponding, and wretched; oppressed by the recollection of her early habits, when, by irrational dressing, her lungs were deprived of their proper supply of air, the stomach was compressed, and digestion and circulation impeded; and now to mark the result in the debilitated constitution which is broken down with suffering, is a contrast as great and as painful as it is possible to meet with.
It is difficult to convey in writing a proper idea of what we can do for sufferers of this kind. Cases vary so much that no general principles, except those already laid down in preceding chapters, can ever be applied. But of our success thousands of witnesses are now living. Many who were confined to their bed or room have, through the support which they have received by our adaptations, been enabled to take a moderate amount of exercise, and to enjoy a state of comfort to which they had been for years strangers. They were returning to a second childhood; and as in the earlier stages of life we had to sustain the debilitated or yielding part, so in the decline of the body we perform the same duties. In some cases a simple bandage is all that is required, in others a more complicated contrivance, such as our invisible supports; but in all cases, even the most desperate, we can afford relief, and can give that relief too in many cases in which medicine is useless or positively injurious. This is the reason why we always have the patronage of medical men. We never meddle with physic; but, when this is inappropriate, practitioners are always glad to refer to us.
MADAME CAPLIN has, during a number of years, been collecting Specimens for the purpose of forming a Gallery, which should be especially devoted to the instruction of ladies in a knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology. Her purpose being now amply accomplished, she is in the habit of giving weekly explanations to those ladies who choose to avail themselves of the opportunity of visiting her, and thus affording them the means of becoming acquainted with the structure and functions of the human body and the laws of life and health, which we believe is not offered to them elsewhere.
All the Preparations are especially designed for the instruction of ladies, and will therefore exhibit the whole history and every phase of woman's life from the cradle to the grave, embracing gestation in all its stages, and all the wonderful phenomena of parturition, which have ever been regarded as the supreme mysteries of organic life.
It is hardly necessary to say, that the greatest care has been taken in the selection of the Specimens which are collected in this Gallery, so that whilst nothing is admitted that can offend the most sensitive, nothing is omitted that is necessary to be seen by the class of visitors who patronise this establishment. The well-being of the mother and her offspring often depend on a knowledge of the laws which govern the human organism, and it is precisely that knowledge which Madame Caplin desires to impart in her Physiological Gallery.
As a work of art, Madame Caplin's Venus, prepared especially for her by the celebrated artist M. Guy, of Paris, stands unrivalled; and the whole ensemble will impart a lesson on the means of preserving life, health, and beauty, such as nothing but the organs of life, the most wonderful of all the works of the Creator, can teach.
For Cards of Admission apply, either personally or by letter, to 58, Berners Street.