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"Rubin, in her early 80s and a very good writer, explores the good news/bad news about greater longevity of today's Americans." —David Mehegan, September 4, 2007 (Boston Globe)
"We end with a book that sounds interesting and hard to categorize. What does it mean that Americans now want to retire early, but typically live into their 90s? Psychotherapist Lillian B. Rubin, whose best-selling book about marriage was "Intimate Strangers," reflects on later life in "60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in America" (September). Rubin, in her early 80s and a very good writer, explores the good news/bad news about greater longevity of today's Americans." (Boston Globe)
Books about aging fall into two categories: gloom and doom (like Mary Pipher's Another Country) and chirpy and cheery (like Marc Freedman's Encore).
Rubin's book falls mostly in the gloom and doom category. She seems determined to debunk, "Sixty is the new forty."
Sometimes she misses the mark. "When I was forty my friends weren't dying," someone says. But in fact,we're not comparing our 60-year old selves with our 40-year old selves. We're comparing with 40 year olds of an earlier generation, who often watched their friends die at the same rate as 60 year olds do now.
The best part of the book was the section on retirement. I once knew a 64 year old man who had retired from a demanding, prestigious profession. He claimed to be happy with his hobbies, but his neighbors knew he was bored. Sadly, they saw him as a crankly old busybody who pried into everybody else's affairs with unwanted advice. He deserved more.
As Rubin points out, sixty-somethings aren't taken seriously in the working world. Regulations and laws limit meaningful volunteer work. Not everybody wants to be a greeter at Wal-Mart, a job happily espoused by an ex-executive in Marc Freeman's Encore.
I also appreciated Rubin's frank discussion of friendships that become harder with age. After years of enjoying friends who were 20 years younger, she herself finds common interests disappear. I've found that as I work on the Internet, I have less in common with many women my own age. After a classmate invited me to bring "samples" of my ebooks to a college reunion, I decided to forego future gatherings with my age-mates.
The real lesson of books on aging is that cohort groups become more diverse as they age.Read more ›
This fairly short book is part lament by the author of getting old [83 and counting] and a reality check on the notion that people can choose to not get old, that 60 is really 40 or that 80 is the new 60, or that the olden years will be a time of continued development and exciting living. The book is part personal reflection and experience, what is known by experts, and the views of many older people without the hype.
Because we live longer, many of the traditional sequences of life have been significantly altered. For example, the newly pregnant forty-year-old lives beside those who have adult children at the same age. Or some through personal habits are undoubtedly far healthier than their peers entering old age. Witness the seventy-something marathoner compared to the stooped shuffling of a peer. Old age for the author begins at sixty-five with more advanced levels about every ten years. Yet despite these exceptions that lend credence to the hard sell of perpetual youthfulness, it is clear that many at age sixty or so have not escaped the ravages of time, suffering from any number of physical and mental maladies.
Older people are often encouraged to "disengage" or retire only to find that idleness, golf, or the like gets old very fast. Yet even for those with advanced learning and the retention of skills, re-employment in our society is often very problematical. As the author points out, the older citizen found working at Home Depot or Wal-mart may well be vastly over-qualified for their job, but simply have no other place to turn.
Other areas that need a strong dose of reality injected are those of finances and sex.Read more ›
Lillian B. Rubin tells it like it is when it comes to growing old. I am impressed by her fair-mindedness and her scientific efforts to look at the many dilemmas of aging, based on both personal experience and interviews.
We are frantic to turn back the clock. Dr. Rubin quotes geriatrician Kate Scannell, who says, "We are regularly consumed with commercial messages that promote an experience of aging that is far more possible on billboards than in the three-dimensional lives of most elderly people. . . . Our culture's compulsive spinning of old age into gold can inflict pscho-spiritual harm when it lures people into expecting a perpetually gilded existence."
While she favors our remaining active as long as possible, Rubin notes that not only aging, but old age, is inevitable, and often brings with it problems such as outliving savings and pensions, losing social connections, having to care for even older parents when we ourselves are old, and spending our children's intended inheritances. Even those happy, active seniors living in retirement communities often reach a point when they need to slow down and relax.
Originally planning to use Dylan Thomas' poem "Do not go gentle into that good night" as her book's epigram, Rubin learned that "it's one thing to 'burn and rave' at old age and another to do so 'against the dying light.'" She came to understand "how much our fight against the 'good night' costs, how our fear of death imprisons us . . and contanimates our life, how our denial of it closes us off from the full affirmation of the life we could be living."
This book should be "must" reading for everyone over 50 and for all those who study us, advertise to us, or oversee our care. While the realities presented are not, in general, pleasant ones, those of us over 70, at least, are likely to react with "How true!"
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