Scientists are a cautious bunch, but the latest study, out yesterday from researchers from at Trinity College, Dublin, is unequivocal: "Attitudes to aging can have a direct effect on health." (Not quite "Ageism makes you sick," but close.)
Stuff I'm reading
Stuff I'm reading in the mags, books and the blogosphere.
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Concerned about an onslaught of enfeebled old people? Don’t worry, robots will take care of them! American techno-optimism knows no bounds, and so-called “age-independence” technologies are proliferating like crazy. But in a profoundly ageist culture, the implications can be disturbing.
The WHO's new 2015 World Report on Aging and Health offers a practical roadmap for reframing public health policies to accommodate population aging—“ageing,” that is. As the foundation for its recommendations, it identifies the first priority as “Changing perceptions of health and aging.” Rather than paraphrase, I’ll let a few excerpts speak for themselves.
We’ve known for quite a while that some people seem to escape cognitive decline well into their nineties and beyond. Intriguingly, the brains of these sharp olders often reveal the extensive abnormalities like the “plaques” and “tangles” seen in people with Alzheimer’s. We think it’s because they’ve built what scientists call “cognitive reserve.”
“There is also something profoundly liberating about aging,” Dominique Browning wrote in the New York Times. “Only when you hit 60 can you begin to say, with great aplomb: ‘I’m too old for this.’” That’s her new mantra, and the title of her essay, which lingered on the Times’s most-emailed list for days. Why? People want stories that ring true to their experience of growing older because they include its welcome aspects.
Growing old isn’t new. What’s new is how many people routinely do it. The institutions around us were created when lives were shorter, and the culture hasn’t had time to catch up. The way we respond to this demographic shift has critical social implications.
"Could the current cohort of eminent women in their 60s herald an era when aging, for women, ceases to be an enemy, and even becomes a friend?” asks Liza Mundy in the current issue of the Atlantic. (And could that magazine actually be taking a progressive position on aging?) As she observes, it’s an intriguing idea and also a profoundly counterintuitive one, given the notorious dearth of women in the halls of power.