A profile of the actor Laura Linney in the New York Times magazine portrays her as a guileless enthusiast, but one whose optimism is tempered by the very conscious awareness of how lucky we are simply to be alive. One catalyst was the sudden death of close friend and fellow actor Natasha Richardson at 45 in a skiing accident. Another is her starring role in a Showtime cable series called “The Big C,” about a woman with incurable cancer.
Stuff I'm reading
Stuff I'm reading in the mags, books and the blogosphere.
This week the science section of the New York Times had a big feature on "Secrets of the Centenarians." It was full of the inevitable truisms about the secrets of a long life, this time summed up by Jane Brody as the Three R’s: resolution, resourcefulness and resilience. Importantly, it emphasized the fact that genes account for only about 20 to 30 percent of how long we live.
Last Sunday the New York Times commemorated the 40th anniversary of its OpEd page with a wonderful selection of artwork and excerpts. Titled Lighter with Age, this is by May Sarton, and was published on January 30, 1978, when the poet was 66.
That was the title of a really excellent piece in the Sunday New York Times the week that Ringo Starr celebrated turning 70 on stage at Radio City (and that gerontologist Robert Butler died) . Mercifully, the point of the article was that boomers need not aspire to rocking and rolling their way though old age — “a stereotype almost as enduring as ageism itself.”
From health to home ownership, here’s a one-page statistical snapshot of what it’s like to be an American in your 70’s. Overall, a far brighter picture than a few decades ago, according to Dr. Marie Butler, deputy director of the National Institute on Aging.
A large Gallup poll of more than has found that “by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older.” The tone is skeptical: “[Getting old] sounds miserable, but apparently it is not.” The methodology is impeccable: researchers surveyed 340,000 Americans aged 18 to 85. The conclusion is clear: “good news for old people, and for those who are getting old.” In other words, for everyone.
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.
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.