Social Security

“Live too long” or “cost too much?” And who makes the call?


In a New York Times op-ed titled “On Dying After Your Time”, prominent bioethicist Daniel Callahan concludes that we should help young people become old, but that when it comes to the old “our duty may be just the reverse: to let death have its day.” It provoked these rebuttals from me and from my colleague Elizabeth Schneewind:


ageism makes it onto the radar at this year’s Age Boom Academy for journalists

Over the years I’ve attended a number of Age Boom Academies—seminars for journalists co-hosted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the Journalism School, and the International Longevity Center. The speakers are always impressive and it’s provided an invaluable overview of the evolving economics, logistics, and science of the longevity boom. As my own focus has sharpened I’ve enjoyed them more, and this year’s seminar, which wrapped up on Tuesday, September 10 at the office of the Atlantic Philanthropies, was the best yet.

Is “retirement age” an anachronism?

Yes. And it’s a good thing, because people the same age can function very differently, and functionality should trump chronology. But that makes it harder to wield the blunt instrument of public policy fairly, and the shifting landscape of retirement makes doesn’t help. Some people are cutting cut back on their hours, some retire and then return to the workforce, and some just keep working—some by choice and others out of necessity—and their stories are all over the media this week. 


manifesto, tweaked

This weekend I presented my work for the first time, at the annual conference of the Council on Contemporary Families, a group of social scientists and practitioners whose work I greatly respect. The title of the talk was “The Value of Work in Late Life,” but I pulled a slight bait-and-switch, because it turns out that this project isn’t about work any more. It's about ageism, starting with our own internalized biases.  Here’s the ten-minute talk I gave:

A safety net woven with very big holes

Looking forward to cashing that Social Security check? For many of the people I’ve interviewed it’s a primary source of income. In 1935, just as they were beginning to enter the labor force, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law as part of the New Deal. Although this universal retirement program had precedents in Europe and in a system of Civil war pensions, it generated plenty of controversy — and continues to.