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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 Hardcover – October 19, 2010

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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.
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"Far-reaching and highly relevant...[with] a fast pace, global scope and jaw-dropping facts...Fishman has a keen ear...and he motors enjoyably through a huge quantity of date and anecdotes, sending out provocative flares along the way." -New York Times Book Review

"Readers should consider its messages and economic implications. What do we really want for ourselves, as individuals and a nation, as we age....The true mission of "Shock of Gray" is to confront the demographic drama now unfolding in many middle- and high-income countries, not to proffer solutions." -Los Angeles Times

“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.)"

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416551026
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416551027
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,447,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Orrin R. Onken on 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 By G. P. Critser on October 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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 By Dan Buettner on 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 By L. Lieb on January 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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 By Amazon Customer on June 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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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