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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Look at Our Future
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...
Published on November 7, 2010 by Orrin R. Onken

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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Thoughtful but confusing
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...
Published on January 17, 2011 by L. Lieb


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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Look at Our Future, November 7, 2010
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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. I think that the book would have been better with more discussion of current thought in that area.

Fishman is a reporter, not an academic. Attempting to make the facts and statistics palatable he uses case studies--beginning with a person, or a family, or country--thereafter expanding from the specific to the general. After a few chapters of that, I found the technique tedious. I didn't want to meet another fascinating elder, or interesting town, or developing country. I wanted to get to the facts and figures.

I was generally pleased with the book. The subtitle is inflammatory--to sell books I suppose--but the text is not. We are facing problems as our population ages, but they are problems that arise from our self-interested decisions to quit living in poverty and seek fulfilling lives. The problems will require solutions that will change the societies we live in, but in many respects those changes will be for the better.
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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
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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
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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
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars How to think about a global cultural and economic phenomenon, June 5, 2011
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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. China's One Child Policy prevented the addition of 400 million to the population. From 1963 to 2003 the number of children born to a woman in China fell from about six to about 1.5. To what degree will six older people (four grandparents and two parents) have to rely on one child as they grow old? Can China age gracefully? Probing these questions, Fishman relates interviews from Chinese ranging from academics to grandmothers scarred by the Cultural Revolution.

Shock of Gray is more than a book about demographics and its implications. It is a multifaceted story about a global cultural and economic phenomenon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope I Die Before I Get Old, January 29, 2011
One of the most frightening yet illuminating books that I have read in years, Fishman describes how we are living longer in an era where the young and cheap are valued over the old and expensive. Yet, ironically, birth rates dive in the industrialized world (kids are expensive and get in the way of career) so we turn to the developing world for an infusion of youth. All of this as governments strain to provide social security payments (or, like China, just don't--helping to make it the powerful engine of capitalism that it is today), as older people find that they can't `extend their careers.'

Who is going to support all of the old people?

This book has been criticized for not providing answers to this question. Perhaps it does not, on a macro-economic, government policy level, but it does give some helpful advice to individuals like me:

"When experts with years of advanced training in multiple disciplines cannot come close to an agreement on what makes a workable system for an aging society, that fact seems like a good argument for socking more money away, and maybe for hiding at least a little gold under the floorboards. Or failing that, developing the intellectual capital of one's children, and one's self, to the hilt, so that the family possesses valuable, portable assets at all times." - pp. 354-5

And learn to live humbly--VERY humbly.

Excuse me, but I have to go sign up for a class in Mandarin right now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fallout, December 8, 2010
More than 40 years ago, Paul Ehrlich predicted that unchecked human fertility would result in catastrophic famine. That didn't happen. The Population Bomb produced a different fall out. Today's 6.7 billion humans are alive and well--and living longer than any generation in the history of the planet. They will enjoy 250 billion years more of life than the generation born a century ago. Ehrlich did alter the world: because of family planning (either voluntary or state mandated) and modern medicine the aging will soon outnumber the young. Fishman examines the many challenges created by an aging world--in cities as diverse as Sarasota, Florida (where the gray migrate by choice), and Rockford,Illinois (where the elderly are abandoned by the exodus of youth). His gift: he knows that a trend is more than a formula on a chalk board or graphs flashed in a power point presentation. He fleshes out the phenomenon--with humor and an eye for detail--collecting stories from China, Spain and Japan. Some anecdotes are hilarious (a Germana state recruits sex workers to care for the elderly (they have good people skills, arene't easily disgusted and have zero fear of physical contact). Other images are haunting: in Siquenza, Spain a school that a generation ago housed 2000 native Spanish children stands nearly empty. It now now serves just 200 students, half of those the children of immigrant workers who came to attend to needs of an aging culture. Fishman tackles a huge topic with unflinching curiosity. This book will change your lunch conversations for weeks, if not years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complete book on a comming revolution, March 2, 2011
I think Ted Fishman's book is right on the money. For a 79 year old man with 12 children, 26 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren so far, I can see that the largest social upheavals in the new millennium, for at least the next 10 to 30 years, will be between the generations for asset and time allocation.
Mr. Fishman's book is wonderfully researched and well written and should be a must read for any age group.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting read!, July 10, 2012
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"...in various countries and taking on the problem of the system in USA..globalization and the speed of technology is pulling family apart not just on income gap, cultural gap, and the age gap..a very good insight on what are going to happen in the next 30 years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking look at the graying of the planet, September 29, 2011
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. Fishman in his around-the-world study of how an aging planetary population will affect all aspects of society, including business, government and family life. Fishman's in-depth study leans heavily on stories, anecdotes and conversations, backed by extensive statistics and impressive academic research. His tales are as entertaining as they are illuminating, pointing out the contradictions, foibles and hard realities of life lived on a graying globe. getAbstract highly recommends Fishman's all-encompassing look at old age - not just to older people or the middle-aged, but also to members of younger demographics, who are about to embark on an unprecedented journey with their elders into the future.
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