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Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the…

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

by Susan Jacoby

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What a fantastic get-a-hold-of-yourselves-people book. Centered and rational, mature and eloquent, Jacoby gives the best honest assessment of aging that I have not seen anywhere else. "Anywhere else" being mass media, who continues to hawk old age as utopia, less free of infirmities than actual reality. Very impressive in this book as well is that any time research or findings are cited, she puts it in proper context by revealing what salient questions were not asked, what missing data implies, etc. An excellent read that never becomes treacly despite her mention of sad personal experiences. ( )
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
Really good read. Reflects fully my experience as a chaplain where patients struggle to reconcile their experience with the frankly offensive "boosterism" of the culture. Busy blaming themselves for aging, or feeling guilty because they can't see the bright side of suffering, all distract from an ability to approach what are dwindling opportunities for integration and peace. I think I'll own that anger as Jacoby suggests and see if I can do something with it! ( )
  Anraku | Jun 4, 2012 |
This book stands out as being both extremely disturbing and extremely important. It argues that aging is not, in fact, enjoyable. The societal myth that turning 65 will usher in the Golden Years if only you do things right only makes it more difficult economically, socially, emotionally, and physically, for both the old and their caretakers, when that inevitably turns out not to be the case.

My big take-aways from this book are the following: (1) No matter how physically and mentally spry you are, you will start watching more and more of the people you love die, more and more often, right up until you yourself die. I need to be emotionally prepared for that eventuality, and sensitive to it as a very real cause for depression in the old. (2) Dementia is a disease of old age -- and if you live long enough, it is very likely you will get it. Half of people over 85 have dementia. I should live as if I will become demented in time, and I should *expect* one or both of my parents to lose their minds as they age. (3) It is very hard and very rare to successfully exert control over your death, especially as your caretakers further infantilize you (whether warranted or not). I should make plans now, to avoid burdening my caretakers with what often amounts to an emotionally exhausting decision topped off with medical debt.

Scary, intimidating stuff. But important. And highly recommended for that reason. ( )
  pammab | Feb 26, 2012 |
Susan Jacoby believes that aging Americans have been led to seriously underestimate the financial and health problems they may face as they age. An emphasis on the relatively healthy young/old encourages them to think that normal health and activity levels can be maintained into later life. The truth, according to Jacoby, is that nearly 50% will suffer some degree of dementia as they age and that many will outlive friends, spouses and siblings to face a life restricted by societal barriers such as lack of suitable housing and transport, health problems and finances.
  ritaer | Sep 25, 2011 |
Excellent corrective to the media/advertising blitz encouraging people to think they are going to live forever, or worse, live until 100 and feel like 30 up to that time. Those of us who are 50+ know from our own experiences that the sheer unpredictability of aging mitigates against the idea that ingesting anti-oxidants or other potions will ensure a smooth ride. Those of us with aging parents further understand the profound limitations of reaching 80 and beyond, notwithstanding the very few outliers who beat the odds. Problem is that we all think we will beat the odds. Jacoby is a long overdue wakeup call on that sort of fallacious thinking. ( )
  craigkay | Aug 17, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
It is Jacoby’s mission to deflate the exaggeration and to expose all that she considers humbug. She wants to be sure her readers are aware that—hope as we might—aging inevitably brings on a series of gradual, and sometimes rapid, debilitations that are physical, mental, financial, and social, especially for the great majority of Americans who do not fall into the category known as upper middle class or higher. Very appropriately and with forceful emphasis, she points out that “inflated expectations about successful aging, if the body imposes a cruel old age, can lead to real despair.”...

Statistics supporting Jacoby’s viewpoint pour forth from the pages of her book, sometimes so relentlessly on the heels of one another that they make for difficult reading and tempt one to skim sections of the arguments that she presents. The result, unfortunately, is a volume far less powerful than it should have been.
added by atbradley | editThe New Republic, Sherwin Nuland (pay site) (Feb 17, 2011)
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Can you imagine old age?  Of course you can't.   I didn't.  I couldn't.   I had no idea what it was like.  Not even a false image--no image.  And nobody wants anything else.  Nobody wants to face any of this before he has to.  How is it all going to turn out?   Obtusenes is de rigeur.

--Philip Roth, The Dying Animal
In memory of Dr. Robert N. Butler

First words
Anyone who has not been buried in a vault for the past two decades is surely aware of the media blitz touting the "new old age" as a phenomenon that enables people in their sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, and beyond to enjoy the kind of rich, full, healthy, adventurous, sexy, financially secure lives that their ancestors could never have imagined.   (Preface)
The last time I saw my grandmother Minnie Broderick, in the summer of her hundredth year, we sat on a riverbank, ate turkey sandwiches, and watched children playing on the grass.  (chapter one)
And those who live in the kingdom of the well cannot even be certain about the unawareness of a terminal Alzheimer's patient.  "At least she doesn't know" is the conventional salve applied to those grieving for someone who has lost all powers of communication but is still technically alive.  It is indeed terrible to suspect that, in the broken synapses of a broken mind, there might still be seconds or moments of reconnection in which the person is aware of helplessness--rather like those rare patients who become conscious in the middle of surgery but are unable to move or cry for help.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307377946, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:23 -0400)

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In a narrative that combines the intensely personal with social, economic, and historical analysis, 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.… (more)

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