It wasn’t the well-worn topic of a recent New York Times lifestyle article that struck me. (White-collar baby boomers, dubbed the “Encore Generation” by Marc Freedman, are staking out do-gooder second careers.) It was the matter-of-fact way this trend was presented within a radically new demographic, biological, and cultural landscape.
Stuff I'm reading
Stuff I'm reading in the mags, books and the blogosphere.
A lovely piece in the Science section of this week’s New York Times talks about what William James called the psychologist’s fallacy: “assuming incorrectly that one knows what someone else is experiencing.” Meeting a woman who had just lost her husband of 70 years, Dr. Marc Agronin presumed that she would be grief-stricken. Just the opposite, in fact.
In his op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, David Brooks points out that conceiving of old people as detached, depressed, and ineducable is not just outdated but wrong. “The research paints a comforting picture,” he writes. Then the editorial runs into trouble, starting with its title, “The Geezers’ Crusade” — and not the geezer part.
That’s the subtitle of a Newsweek article by contributing editor Eliot Cose, which cites bleak employment statistics for workers over 55, a jump in age-discrimination complaints, and a recent Supreme Court ruling that weakens the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
Judith Warner’s “I Feel It Coming Together” post on her "Domestic Disturbances" blog, excerpted in Sunday’s New York Times, bemoans the fact that it’s all downhill after age 44. “I now see the passage of time more as a kind of bell curve,” she writes. “Years of ascension, soaring anticipation, followed by a plateau — which is not so bad, really — and then, no way to sugar coat this: a rather precipitous decline.” So long forever to “excitement, discovery, intensity.”
I’ve blogged several times about “U-shaped happiness curve” studies that show Americans to be most content at the beginning and end of their lives. Another one, the “August National Well-Being Index,” was released by Gallup on September 10th. (Great news: Americans’ grip on their flotation cushions has relaxed by .07% since January!)
Yay for the Center for Retirement Research, which is doing its part to rectify the dearth of research on workers age 65 and up. Dubbing their subjects “the elderly,” a paper by economists Steven Haider and David Loughran titled “Elderly Labor Supply: Work or Play?” looks at who in this group works, at what, and why they stop. Here are some of their findings, some predictable and some considerably less so: