The latest viral fad flooding Facebook and Twitter is a Microsoft-created app that guesses how old you look (how-old.net), after uploading a selfie photo. The app is still in development, so it is not too accurate. Thankfully so, for those people who are assessed a decade older than reality.
Some of the funny how-old photos are the ones where grandma is assessed to be 33 years old, and the 20-year-old son is assessed to be 50. Of course, with photoshop, anyone can smooth out their skin, hide wrinkles and droops, to look -- at least via how-old -- a couple of decades younger. Much easier than a facelift!
This how-old app, however, would most certainly be inaccurate in judging the ages of people living on the streets.
Jennifer has been living on the streets for nine years, and has had continual contact with one of our street outreach teams. The wrinkles on her forehead, the puffy eye bags and sagging chin and cheeks make her look like she is 60 years old. Her hair is thinning and eyes are cloudy. She even walks with a bent back, and shuffling feet.
If her photo was on how-old, I would have bet money she was carrying an AARP card.
In reality, however, she is in her late 30s.
Her advanced-looking age was not due to bad family genes. It was due to living on the streets. Her skin endured the harshness of sun-baked heat in the summer and dry cold air in the winter. Her frequent bouts with flu often turned into pneumonia, and her concrete sidewalk-turned-bed battered her body.
Living on the streets for years at a time can rapidly increase one's age, turning any young adult into middle-aged or elderly. And, Jennifer is no exception. Most of those elderly-looking people on the streets are, in reality, decades younger.
Sure, photoshop could smooth out their skin and disguise their wrinkles, but in reality their bodies have been battered by street life.
There is a solution, however, that is much better than photoshop. In the agency I lead, we have seen people's looks change dramatically. Their skin becomes fresher, cleaner, more young looking. Their eyes become clear, more alert. Their hair is conditioned. They walk taller, with a jump in their stride.
They look and act decades younger. There is no photo-editing software that is used. No botox or face lifts. No new fangled diet. No reality show make-over.
They would certainly reduce their age-looking selfie on how-old.
So, how are we able to see such age-reducing effects on people who are homeless? We house them. We take them off the streets, and move them into apartments.