The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age

Monday, February 07, 2011

Susan Jacoby discusses the recent idea that the baby boom generation will experience a radically new kind of old age—unmarred by physical or mental deterioration, financial problems, or loneliness. Her book Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age raises the fundamental question of whether living longer is a good thing unless it means living better.


Susan Jacoby

Comments [10]

bob from Manhattan

It appears increasingly disturbing how discussions about aging Americans are so negative. The Pentagon does not receive entitlements. But older Americans do. The writer is correct all Americans wish to live to 99 - have a martini for dinner followed by steak and potatoes -- go to bed and silently without pain or previous medical conditions. -- fall asleep and not wake up

yes there those Americans with resources to reduce the problems of old age -- and then there are the rest.

I know this comment is not quite on topic -- It would be interesting to explore the increasingly insulting references to older Americans

Feb. 07 2011 02:13 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Dana, there's nothing new about women having children in their 40s. What's new is women having their *1st* child in their 40s.

Feb. 07 2011 02:13 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I doubt there'll be a single drug against old age, because it's not a single process. Even if a drug that preserves telomeres is developed, other aspects of old age will need to be combated in different ways.

Feb. 07 2011 02:11 PM

A few years back Scott Simon was interviewing a former member of Kennedy's cabinet. He was in his 90's. I alway remember Mr. Simon asking the gentleman what he thought about reaching his age. The man replied quickly "Wouldn't recommend it"

Feb. 07 2011 01:58 PM
Sarah from LES

Can she speak about "mind-uploading" or digital immortality?

Feb. 07 2011 01:54 PM
Louis from Bayside

I love Susan's basic argument because in our modern culture there is a profound aversion to looking at the sufferings of old age. In my observation there is a related phenomenon where we ship our aging parents off to an old age home (out of sight, out of mind).

I think its wonderful (Susan seems to agree) that we are becoming more aware of beneficial lifestyle habits and that this makes the ageing process less painful but that doesn't change the fact that old age isn't pretty.

Feb. 07 2011 01:50 PM
joel hubbard from Long Island

"We are turning into a nation
of whimpering slaves to Fear—fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random
terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy,
fear of getting evicted for bad debts or suddenly getting locked up in a
military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist
...sympathizer." —"Extreme Behavior in Aspen," February 3, 2003
Hunter S. Thompson said, and he's officially dead. Fear of our own
mortality is our new reality. I'll be walking down the avenue when some old
white haired fat man with a cane comes into view, reflected in the glass I see
that fat old man is really me. ''I see old people I exclaim!" my body
akimbo is time to blame or is it me. The only solace I can see is I should have
been dead years ago in reality.

Feb. 07 2011 01:46 PM
Dana from NJ

Isn't this similar to the myth promoted to women that they can put childbearing off until their forties - then low and behold, we are shocked to find that after 38, the chances of having a child statistically fall off a cliff. Are we just lusting after immortality?

Feb. 07 2011 01:44 PM
a g from n j

it would be nice if this were discussed with honesty. 1)- a lot of the longevity stats, from the turn of the previous century [19 to 20 th], are skewed by people who died in infancy or as young children.
2)- many of those deaths, had to do, with diseases that were caused by lack of public sanitation, and hygiene. contrary to the biggest myth of all,it is not modern medicine that improves lives.

there were people who lived a more robust life and lifestyle. it was closer to nature. it did not have the industrial toxins in the enviornment. [i'm not talking about idealizing the politics of that time,so please don't go down that road in trying to refute my argument.] to even desire a life without worry,or lonliness as goal, to to be sought, is nothing more, than that good old american comodification of everything. this is extremely troublesome. not much different, however, from trying to instill, "self esteem" in children,without any moral or social context. we don't need, a "brave new world", version, of any coming age.

Feb. 07 2011 11:21 AM
Ed from Larchmont

In Tokyo there are (I hear) stores and stores that cater to the needs of older people: an aging society.

Feb. 07 2011 08:21 AM

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