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1 Hawthorne Health and Medicine- Aging

Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age

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Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age Cover

ISBN13: 9780307377944
ISBN10: 0307377946
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"In separate books, Ted C. Fishman and Susan Jacoby both cry crisis, but in different registers of alarm. Their common theme is the disruptive effects, on nations and individuals, of the coming worldwide increase in the ranks of the aged. Fishman tends toward dispassion; Jacoby, toward exasperation. He's a better guide to the scale of the changes; she's more adept at making them painful and personal. Both sound wake-up calls that go on till afternoon, long after they've made their points. But their troubling message needs to be heard. Take it in perhaps with a glass of aged scotch." James Morris, The Wilson Quarterly (Read the entire Wilson Quarterly review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Susan Jacoby, an unsparing chronicler of unreason in American culture, now offers an impassioned, tough-minded critique of the myth that a radically new old age — unmarred by physical or mental deterioration, financial problems, or intimate loneliness — awaits the huge baby boom generation. Combining historical, social, and economic analysis with personal experiences of love and loss, Jacoby turns a caustic eye not only on the modern fiction that old age can be “defied” but also on the sentimental image of a past in which Americans supposedly revered their elders.

Never Say Die unmasks the fallacies promoted by twenty-first-century hucksters of longevity — including health gurus claiming that boomers can stay “forever young” if they only live right, self-promoting biomedical businessmen predicting that ninety may soon become the new fifty and that a “cure” for the “disease” of aging is just around the corner, and wishful thinkers asserting that older means wiser.

The author offers powerful evidence that America has always been a “youth culture” and that the plight of the neglected old dates from the early years of the republic. Today, as the oldest boomers turn sixty-five, it is imperative for them to distinguish between marketing hype and realistic hope about what lies ahead for the more than 70 million Americans who will be beyond the traditional retirement age by 2030. This wide-ranging reappraisal examines the explosion of Alzheimer’s cases, the uncertain economic future of aging boomers, the predicament of women who make up an overwhelming majority of the oldest — and poorest — old, and the illusion that we can control the way we age and die.

Jacoby raises the fundamental question of whether living longer is a good thing unless it means living better. Her book speaks to Americans, whatever their age, who draw courage and hope from facing reality instead of embracing that oldest of delusions, the fountain of youth.

Review:

"'I am about to present a portrait of advanced old age,' Jacoby (The Age of American Unreason) warns, 'that some will find too pessimistic and negative.' Her portrait of the emotional, physical, fiscal, and mental problems debunks popular myths about life in our 80s and 90s, 'the worst years of lives.' Jacoby locates American youth culture from colonial days, when, in 1790, 'only about 2 percent were over sixty-five.' By 2000, those over 65 were 12.4%, thanks to modern medicine and the benefits to well-being coincident to the economic prosperity of the 1950s and '60s. Jacoby cautions that marketing has deceived the public by suggesting that 'cures for mankind's most serious and frightening diseases are imminent and that medical reversal or significant retardation of aging itself may not be far behind.' As she attends to the 'genuine battles of growing old,' Jacoby is both moving and informative about Alzheimer's costs to the psyche and the purse of sufferer and caretaker, and eye-opening as she reframes impoverished old women as 'a women's issue.' She raises timely and 'uncomfortable questions about old age poverty, the likelihood of dementia, end-of-life care, living wills, and assisted suicide.' (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Review:

"In Never Say Die, Susan Jacoby confronts the unhappiest of truths: many of us will live too long — both for our own good and for the good of others. This is the darkness that looms over us at the intersection of medical ethics, social justice, economics, and our midnight fears. Never Say Die is a beautifully written, clear-eyed, and deeply compassionate book." Sam Harris, author of The Moral Landscape and The End of Faith

Review:

"For those of us who are old, Susan Jacoby's candor about old age is bracing; for those not yet old, Never Say Die should provide an unsentimental education for the years to come." Philip Roth

Review:

"Susan Jacoby, a sworn enemy of irrationality of every form, has some shockingly bad news: We will all die, and most of us will get old first — not 'older' but actually old. In this beautifully crafted book, she punctures the promises that aging will eventually be 'cured' either by a wonder drug or though positive thinking. The good news is that if we wake up from our delusions we may be better able to grow old with dignity." Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

Synopsis:

Jacoby raises the fundamental question of whether living longer is a good thing unless it means living better. Her book speaks to Americans, whatever their age, who draw courage and hope from facing reality instead of embracing that oldest of delusions, the fountain of youth.

Synopsis:

From the author of the best-selling The Age of American Unreason: an impassioned, closely reasoned critique of the myth that a radically new old age — unmarred by physical and mental infirmity, financial problems, or loneliness& mdash; awaits the baby-boom generation.

In a narrative that combines the intensely personal with social, economic, and historical analysis, Susan Jacoby turns an unsparing eye on the marketers of longevity — pharmaceutical companies, lifestyle gurus, and scientific businessmen who suggest that there will soon be a “cure” for the “disease” of aging. She separates wishful hype from realistic hope in a wide-ranging appraisal of subjects that include the explosion of Al­zheimer’s cases, the impact of possible cuts in Social Security on the economic future of aging boomers, and the fact that women make up most of the “oldest old.” Finally, Jacoby raises the fundamental question of whether living longer is a desirable thing unless it means living better, and she considers the profound moral and ethical concerns raised by increasing longevity.

Never Say Die is a lucid, provocative, and powerful argument that Americans, no matter their age, are doing themselves no favor by buying into the myth that they can stay "forever young."

About the Author

Susan Jacoby is the author of nine books, most recently The Age of American Unreason, Alger Hiss and the Battle for History, and Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. She writes The Spirited Atheist blog for On Faith, a website sponsored by The Washington Post. She lives in New York City. For more information, visit www.susanjacoby.com.

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OneMansView, March 9, 2011 (view all comments by OneMansView)
The myths of being forever young

There is a belief that has gained prominence in the US over the last couple of decades that growing old has been overcome, therefore unnecessary, even inexcusable, through healthy living, self-transformation, and the utilization of medicines and treatments. Sympathy for those persons who have noticeably aged is in short supply; they too could be part of the “newly young” had they adopted healthy lifestyles or had the financial responsibility to pay for life-enhancing products. No longer are there justifications for aiding “new fifty” seniors. This book is a thoroughgoing repudiation of such imaginings. Perpetual youthfulness has not suddenly come to be. The reality, that the author carefully and at great length shows, is that the vast majority of elderly people are beset by intractable health and financial difficulties. Distorting the realities of aging justifies the inadequate responses of the US social, economic, and political systems in addressing the needs, conditions, and policies surrounding the elderly. Of course, the myths of aging would have little currency without the marketing arms of pharmaceutical and other beneficiary companies relentlessly bombarding the public.

There is a grain truth to the impression that many elderly people lead enhanced lives. The author does not deny that a great number of people do lead very active, contented, healthy lives well into their eighties and beyond. Except for the few genetically lucky, the dark little secret is that class standing has much to do with that. Those of upper middle-class standing with professional or semi-professional occupations, that provide high salaries, independence, and non-strenuous work, have the extra income and/or retirement savings to receive the best of treatments and medicines, not to mention a demand for their services well beyond typical retirement age. That is not the reality for the vast majority of the elderly, which consists most typically of single females barely surviving on a monthly social security check.

One of the biggest myths that the author takes on is the one holding that we as a society venerate the old. That is a definite, even cynical, overstatement, including the nostalgic idea that families were the primary caregivers for the elderly. It is the rare individual who was or is cared for in a multi-generational household. The cold fact is that in America the old are invariably shunted aside to fend for themselves on what meager resources they may have. The lie that the wisdom of the elderly is valued is readily seen in the rampant age discrimination practiced in American places of employment. For a variety of reasons: obsolescence, slowing down, too high wages, increased medical costs, except for the most exceptional or highest level of jobs, older workers are shed for the younger. Of course, the same forces are at work when older workers apply for jobs. In no way does the author contend that mental capability does not deteriorate with old age, especially for those over eighty. In fact, the possible onset of dementia may be the biggest fear of the elderly. But that is not an argument for discriminating against those with many good working years remaining.

The harsh reality is that probably a majority of older retirees simple do not have the resources to meet all basic needs, let alone being able to fund an adventurous life style. And as the author suggests those numbers are going to increase. Those who worked in large corporations in the three post-WWII decades did well economically, many being covered by retirement plans. Since then, many more workers are having their earning years shortened, as well as retirement plans and benefits slashed. Given such relentless forces, it is doubly cynical to suggest that the impoverished elderly have only themselves to blame. Few people regardless of age can transcend powerful economic forces that prevail in a society.

America has not always been so callous towards the elderly. As the author points out, the first widespread payment of pensions was directed to Civil War veterans. The passage of Social Security in the New Deal was an acknowledgement that economic forces often left the elderly in dire circumstances. But social Darwinist thinking has returned with a vengeance. How convenient that those who have made it economically ��" in their eyes, the survival of the fittest - are now the poster examples of the newly, forever young. They deserve their new healthy status, jetting off to ski resorts, leaving the “undeserving” behind. That is the thinking with which those with a sense of community responsibility must contend: the elderly who are poor and/or in bad health equally “deserve” their situation.

As the author shows, those promoting this new fountain of youth have no qualms in presenting a fantastical picture of the “new-young.” Who hasn’t seen in various media the well-tanned, tight-skinned couple, obviously no more than fifty, with perfectly cut, silvered hair luxuriating in retirement? It could be on a first-rate golf course, or perhaps it is around home ready to respond “when the time is right” with the aid of pharmaceuticals. The fact is that such idylls have no relevance to what life is like for most over-eighty seniors. Where is the small, totally gray lady, her body bent with osteoporosis, who lives in a one-room apartment and is definitely not waiting “for the right moment” in the advertisements? Such exaggerations are not harmless. When real lives are hidden under an avalanche of distortion, how can needed support from younger people or the political system be obtained? In fact, according to the author, such marketing gives credence to the contention that the elderly are “rich old geezers.” If that were true, perhaps Social Security and Medicare should be cut back. The reality is that for most elderly people, those programs provide the only lifeline that they have.

The book is most definitely not a “how to” book on overcoming aging. It is a densely packed, slow reading thorough examination of convenient, opportunistic myths about aging. The book would perhaps have more appeal to a broader audience if it were halved; the author discusses far more than what this review suggests. Indirectly, the book could be helpful to those approaching or in old age. It is far easier to counter pressures, demands, and expectations when the misinformation and deliberate distortions on which they are based are brought out in the open. One of the more pernicious demands placed on the elderly is that should be happy, cheerful, and optimistic. Complaints of infirmities or being cantankerous violate the simplistic concept that old age is some sort of tranquil, golden period in life, a notion that simply does not comport with the realities of being old in America.

In the author’s sobering words,

For too many Americans, old age ��" especially advanced old age ��" means a sharp and unwanted transition from a sense of themselves as people valued by family and community to a diminished sense of themselves as burdens who serve no purpose. It is a shift from active to passive, from being a caretaker to being a care recipient, from independence to dependence, and it is experienced as a personal loss at the deepest level, regardless of outer circumstances. This unwanted transition can be delayed but not denied, unless one dies in vigorous young old age [before eighty], in full command of one’s life.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307377944
Subtitle:
The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age
Author:
Jacoby, Susan
Publisher:
Pantheon
Subject:
Gerontology
Subject:
Death & Dying
Subject:
Older people - United States -
Subject:
Old age -- United States.
Subject:
Sociology-Aging
Publication Date:
20110201
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9.54 x 6.4 x 1.25 in 1.38 lb

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Related Subjects


Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Aging
History and Social Science » American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Aging
History and Social Science » Sociology » General

Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age Used Hardcover
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$13.95 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Pantheon - English 9780307377944 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "'I am about to present a portrait of advanced old age,' Jacoby (The Age of American Unreason) warns, 'that some will find too pessimistic and negative.' Her portrait of the emotional, physical, fiscal, and mental problems debunks popular myths about life in our 80s and 90s, 'the worst years of lives.' Jacoby locates American youth culture from colonial days, when, in 1790, 'only about 2 percent were over sixty-five.' By 2000, those over 65 were 12.4%, thanks to modern medicine and the benefits to well-being coincident to the economic prosperity of the 1950s and '60s. Jacoby cautions that marketing has deceived the public by suggesting that 'cures for mankind's most serious and frightening diseases are imminent and that medical reversal or significant retardation of aging itself may not be far behind.' As she attends to the 'genuine battles of growing old,' Jacoby is both moving and informative about Alzheimer's costs to the psyche and the purse of sufferer and caretaker, and eye-opening as she reframes impoverished old women as 'a women's issue.' She raises timely and 'uncomfortable questions about old age poverty, the likelihood of dementia, end-of-life care, living wills, and assisted suicide.' (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review A Day" by , "In separate books, Ted C. Fishman and Susan Jacoby both cry crisis, but in different registers of alarm. Their common theme is the disruptive effects, on nations and individuals, of the coming worldwide increase in the ranks of the aged. Fishman tends toward dispassion; Jacoby, toward exasperation. He's a better guide to the scale of the changes; she's more adept at making them painful and personal. Both sound wake-up calls that go on till afternoon, long after they've made their points. But their troubling message needs to be heard. Take it in perhaps with a glass of aged scotch." (Read the entire Wilson Quarterly review)
"Review" by , "In Never Say Die, Susan Jacoby confronts the unhappiest of truths: many of us will live too long — both for our own good and for the good of others. This is the darkness that looms over us at the intersection of medical ethics, social justice, economics, and our midnight fears. Never Say Die is a beautifully written, clear-eyed, and deeply compassionate book."
"Review" by , "For those of us who are old, Susan Jacoby's candor about old age is bracing; for those not yet old, Never Say Die should provide an unsentimental education for the years to come."
"Review" by , "Susan Jacoby, a sworn enemy of irrationality of every form, has some shockingly bad news: We will all die, and most of us will get old first — not 'older' but actually old. In this beautifully crafted book, she punctures the promises that aging will eventually be 'cured' either by a wonder drug or though positive thinking. The good news is that if we wake up from our delusions we may be better able to grow old with dignity."
"Synopsis" by , Jacoby raises the fundamental question of whether living longer is a good thing unless it means living better. Her book speaks to Americans, whatever their age, who draw courage and hope from facing reality instead of embracing that oldest of delusions, the fountain of youth.
"Synopsis" by , From the author of the best-selling The Age of American Unreason: an impassioned, closely reasoned critique of the myth that a radically new old age — unmarred by physical and mental infirmity, financial problems, or loneliness& mdash; awaits the baby-boom generation.

In a narrative that combines the intensely personal with social, economic, and historical analysis, Susan Jacoby turns an unsparing eye on the marketers of longevity — pharmaceutical companies, lifestyle gurus, and scientific businessmen who suggest that there will soon be a “cure” for the “disease” of aging. She separates wishful hype from realistic hope in a wide-ranging appraisal of subjects that include the explosion of Al­zheimer’s cases, the impact of possible cuts in Social Security on the economic future of aging boomers, and the fact that women make up most of the “oldest old.” Finally, Jacoby raises the fundamental question of whether living longer is a desirable thing unless it means living better, and she considers the profound moral and ethical concerns raised by increasing longevity.

Never Say Die is a lucid, provocative, and powerful argument that Americans, no matter their age, are doing themselves no favor by buying into the myth that they can stay "forever young."

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