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.
Stuff I'm reading
Stuff I'm reading in the mags, books and the blogosphere.
"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.
I've been buried in book-proposal purgatory. Here's how the Introduction kicks off:
It doesn’t make much sense to go through life pretending that something that’s definitely going to happen to you isn’t going to happen to you unless you die. Yet that’s how most of us behave when it comes to getting older. “Hey, it beats the alternative,” we manage weakly. What does that old saw actually mean? The only thing worse than being old is being dead.
Last month the Atlantic magazine’s cover story described living past 75 as pretty darn inadvisable. Now, in quite the about-face, the December cover story champions the Happiness U-Curve (or “U-shaped Happiness Curve," as I’ve been calling it, or “U-bend” in Britspeak): : the growing body of research showing, in writer Jonathan Rausch’s words, that “we reliably grow happier, regardless of circumstances, after our 40s.”
Caption: An analysis by the Brookings scholars Carol Graham and Milena Nikolova, drawing on Gallup polls, shows a clear relationship between age and well-being in the United States. Respondents rated their life satisfaction relative to the “best possible life” for them, with 0 being worst and 10 being best.
Writing in the new journal Age Culture Humanities, Chris Gilleard of London's University College salutes the cultural turn in age studies and its attendant view of aging as socially and culturally constructed (along with race, gender, disability, and sexuality). Within this broader framework, aging studies "queers" its older and more established partner, gerontology, Gilleard observes.
It's a long way from first to final, but I'm happy. Feels appropriate for the first day of spring.