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Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World's Population and How it Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation [Kindle Edition]

Ted Fishman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $11.02
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc


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Book Description

The New York Times bestselling author of China, Inc. reports on the astounding economic and political ramifications of an aging world.

The world’s population is rapidly aging—by the year 2030, one billion people will be sixty-five or older. As the ratio of the old to the young grows ever larger, global aging has gone critical: For the first time in history, the number of people over age fifty will be greater than those under age seventeen. Few of us under­stand the resulting massive effects on economies, jobs, and families. Everyone is touched by this issue—parents and children, rich and poor, retirees and workers—and now veteran jour­nalist Ted C. Fishman masterfully and movingly explains how our world is being altered in ways no one ever expected.

What happens when too few young people must support older people? How do shrinking families cope with aging loved ones?

What happens when countries need millions of young workers but lack them? How do compa­nies compete for young workers? Why, exactly, do they shed old workers?

How are entire industries being both created and destroyed by demographic change? How do communities and countries remake themselves for ever-growing populations of older citizens? Who will suffer? Who will benefit?

With vivid and witty reporting from American cities and around the world, and through compelling interviews with families, employers, workers, economists, gerontologists, government officials, health-care professionals, corporate executives, and small business owners, Fishman reveals the astonishing and interconnected effects of global aging, and why nations, cultures, and crucial human relationships are changing in this timely, brilliant, and important read.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Armageddon looms thanks to increasing longevity, according to this fretful jeremiad. Fishman (China, Inc.) visits a number of locales--luxury retirement communities in Sarasota, Fla.; the rust-belt city of Rockford, Ill.; a village in Spain; Beijing--and everywhere finds a skyrocketing population over 65 with attendant problems: soaring medical costs, overwhelmed caretakers and government pension systems, and oldsters who feel sad and neglected. Fishman weaves these findings with all manner of demographic, economic, and cultural discontents, including plummeting birth rates, environmental degradation, underpaid immigrants, American industrial decline, globalization, and outlandish teen fashions. Unfortunately, conflating all this under the rubric of aging's "shockwave" obscures more than it reveals; while focusing on an unsolvable existential predicament--you can't keep people from aging--Fishman avoids investigating solutions to specific problems he raises, which are mainly issues of trade, industrial policy, and economic inequality, not necessarily longevity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Who would’ve thought that America’s aging population has spurred globalization? Ted Fishman’s exciting book–a series of stories really–knocked me off balance as I learned what’s in store for us as the world’s populace grows older and older. The observations in Shock of Gray are not just revelatory but profound.” -Alex Kotlowitz

"In 20 years, there will be 1 billion people over the age of 65, and China Inc.'s Ted Fishman has found the current examples that, along with an inexhaustible supply of demographic trends, illustrate the knotty-and at times terrifying-issues of global aging that await us. A must-read for young and old alike." - Fast Company

"The Chicago journalist behind China, Inc. is back with an investigation that’s both timely and terrifying. The subtitle—“The Aging of the World’s Population and How it Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation”—says it all. (Though with his characteristic smarts, Fishman says it with a lot more nuance.)"

Product Details

  • File Size: 2127 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 19, 2010)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003UV8SNW
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,726 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Look at Our Future November 7, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book does not present a lot that is new unless you are new to the subject. I thought to myself as I read that it was a Cliff's notes version of year's worth university study in gerontology. The book is good for a beginner, or as a refresher, but does not have a lot to offer to someone already familiar with the discipline.

The book is strongest in its examination of the economics and sociology of an aging world population. It looks at Spain and Japan, because the problems of an aging population have already arrived there. The problems in those country foreshadow our own. Fishman looks at China because that country is a powerful economic engine, and looks at the United States because we live here.

The discussion of the physiology of aging is shorter but interesting. The chart of normal physical decline by decade accurately summarizes current thought and makes for entertaining reading. No discussion of the physical side of aging is complete without looking at what lets us live longer. The book delivers again the message that most of the decisions which determine how long we live are made at the societal level (pure water, uncontaminated food, decent sewers, and literacy). Some were made by our parents, but for those of us who don't smoke or go to war, there isn't much we can, as individuals, do about our longevity.

Fishman writes well about the social and economic aspects of aging. I think he gave the short end of the stick to the psychological aspects. He talks a lot about dementia and loss of cognitive capacity, but doesn't address any of the theories of adult development. He talks about the physical declines we see in our thirties, forties, fifties, but does not talk about the psychological responses and defenses that we use to adapt to the physical decline.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it or be left behind! October 22, 2010
Fishman has brought his characteristic reporting and analytical skills to one of the most important population trends of our day. What makes the book of note is the fact that it is written by a journalist rather than a gerontologist or any member of the gerontological establishment, who have been unwilling in the past to cast aging as a problem.Important also for business-minded folk who want a leg up on the future. Get the book!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Research October 27, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ted Fishman established his reporting prowess, trend recognition ability and story-telling flair with his excellent book, "China Inc."
"Shock of Gray" is an even more important work as it brings to life one of the most important issues of our time--the aging of the world. Most of us would like to live longer, healthier lives but what does that mean for our economy? For the legacy we leave our children? For the chances that we'll be able to live out our retirement? Mr. Fishman takes us around the world as he answers these questions with graceful clarity. We will be referencing this book for many decades to come. --Dan Buettner
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Thoughtful but confusing January 17, 2011
By L. Lieb
In "Shock of Grey" Ted Fishman examines the implications of the collective aging of the world. Fishman looks at aspects ranging from the medical implications to the policy implications. He explores the economics of age discrimination, as well as the dynamics of aging in the context of the decline in U.S. manufacturing. Moreover, he also explores the implications of advances in medicine that have made it possible to live longer than before, both in terms of healthcare as well as economics. The chapters on Spain and Japan describe how both countries have seen such significant declines in population that there will soon be an insufficient number of working-age individuals to provide enough revenue for the country. In the absence of a sudden increase in population growth, the only solution is to allow more immigrants into the country. As controversial as immigration can be , the Spain and Japan are case studies in what may lie ahead for the United States. Finally, Fishman makes a provocative point that China has the potential to incur the problems associated with an aging population: i.e. the percentage of the population aging could outnumber the young people on a short enough timeframe to prevent China from becoming the next world power.

There were plenty of interesting case studies and examples in "Shock of Grey," including many with relevance to the United States. However, these case studies and examples were arranged in a rather disorganized and non-linear fashion. It was often unclear what one chapter had to do with the book and with other chapters. The topic of aging is a broad one in scope and it is difficult to cover everything in 300 pages. The author should have narrowed the scope--each chapter could almost be a book in itself--to write a more organized, coherent book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Ted Fishman has a knack for tackling enormous topics. His first book, "China Inc.," gave us ways of thinking about the greatest engine of economic change today. "Shock of Gray" is even more ambitious. The aging of the planet affects everything and does so in ways most of us have never stopped to think about. Fishman explains, for example, how aging rich countries like Spain siphon young caregivers from poor countries, leaving less support for elderly in parts of Latin America. Elsewhere he draws attention to the global impact of national social security decisions. If China scrimps on providing for its old, then competing economies have a hard time meeting Chinese prices while saving for their own elderly.

But the book is not only - or even mainly - about macro-economics. It also investigates the personal and social dynamics of aging. How do we react to the gradual depredations of time and to each others infirmities? Sarasota answers the question differently than parts of Tokyo. Fishman explores how a wide range of communities, families, and individuals around the world try to cope with giving care, addressing isolation, using the residual talents of the old. He tells stories from dozens of these individuals and communities.

He also displays prodigious research into the literature on aging. The book is full of apt and intriguing statistics. Sometimes the numbers take the anecdotal to the general, and sometimes they outline the global phenomenon before coloring it in with personal stories. Only half of the 6.6 million Americans over 65 who want to work were employed in 2009. Fishman delves into of both lucky and unlucky examples in Rockford, Illinois. He helps us consider China's challenges.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Birth of a Notion
The stats are hard to deny; there may not be enough young people to care for the elderly. Governments must wake up to the idea that we must increase the birth rate and immigration.
Published 1 month ago by Dennis A. Siracusa
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Fishman did a great job with this one. Loved the merge of demographics, politics and personal. Totally relateable with lots of important trends and implications to make sense of... Read more
Published 11 months ago by jessica tice
5.0 out of 5 stars Go read it
Even if you-- at the beginning-- feel it is not for you.
If you are the least bit interested what the future holds
this is a MUST read. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Lore Grossman
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
For anyone interested in the aging population of our planet and its ramifications on everything from the workplace to its impact on young people this book is a must. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Shirley M. Corbin
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake up and smell the Bengay
Thought provoking look at how the face of the world is changing. Reminded me of my Fathers favorite saying "Make reality your friend". Read more
Published 16 months ago by Rhett McSweeney
2.0 out of 5 stars Good at the start but gets repetitive
I liked this at first, some good information and thought provoking for what the future will hold with population shifts. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Zelda
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting read!
a very interesting book about the aging of populations everywhere in the world..the trend will continue to get worsen. Author uses quite a few examples on the generation "gap"... Read more
Published on July 10, 2012 by David Ip
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking look at the graying of the planet
If age is just a number, then that number is about to present enormous global consequences in the next few decades. So says veteran journalist Ted C. Read more
Published on September 29, 2011 by Rolf Dobelli
1.0 out of 5 stars very poor audio engineering
Might be good, don't know. I couldn't get past the narrator gasping for breath after every phrase. Did the anyone listen to this before publishing it? Too bad.
Published on September 4, 2011 by B. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Senior Wealth & Spending
Shock of GrayI must admit that I have not yet read the book. However, I did view the author being interviewed on C-Span's Book Review. Read more
Published on August 14, 2011 by Dan Darrel
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More About the Author

Ted C. Fishman's essays and reports have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Money, Harper's, Worth, Esquire, USA Today, GQ, Chicago magazine, and Business 2.0. A former floor trader and member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, he ran his own trading firm until 1992. A graduate of Princeton, he lives in Chicago.


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