Shinynickel's Reviews > Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age

Never Say Die by Susan Jacoby
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's review
Feb 12, 2011

bookshelves: to-read, soon

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Jacoby, who tended her lover through Alzheimer's disease and watched her spunky grandmother, almost 100, grieve because she could no longer do "most of the things that had given her life meaning," has no illusions about what she regards as the dubious blessings of longevity. She is enraged by the self-help gurus and the drug companies that merrily market an age-defying old age, in which octo- and nonagenarians are flourishing teachers, composers, skydivers or richly blessed with the "wisdom of old age." These exceptions can be admired, but they aren't how most stories will end.


Jacoby adds, "Only when we abandon the fantasy of beating old age . . . will we be able to develop more humane ways of caring" for the oldest members of our society.

She recommends a number of social policy changes - more accessible and affordable housing for old people, public subsidies for services that would allow many more of them to remain in their homes - that could significantly improve the life of the elderly. She also has some words of advice for those who are, or will be, the old old. Don't retire to one of those car-dependent resort communities; live instead in a city where you can get where you want to go even via a wheelchair or a walker. Do some kind of useful work - paid or volunteer - as long as you can. Don't feel that aging successfully requires you to be a serene, above-it-all, smiley-faced optimist. If what you really are is a "discontented work in progress," go for it.

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