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Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0307377944
ISBN-10: 0307377946
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I am about to present a portrait of advanced old age," Jacoby (The Age of American Unreason) warns, "that some will find too pessimistic and negative." Her portrait of the emotional, physical, fiscal, and mental problems debunks popular myths about life in our 80s and 90s, "the worst years of lives." Jacoby locates American youth culture from colonial days, when, in 1790, "only about 2 percent were over sixty-five." By 2000, those over 65 were 12.4%, thanks to modern medicine and the benefits to well-being coincident to the economic prosperity of the 1950s and '60s. Jacoby cautions that marketing has deceived the public by suggesting that "cures for mankind's most serious and frightening diseases are imminent and that medical reversal or significant retardation of aging itself may not be far behind." As she attends to the "genuine battles of growing old," Jacoby is both moving and informative about Alzheimer's costs to the psyche and the purse of sufferer and caretaker, and eye-opening as she reframes impoverished old women as "a women's issue." She raises timely and "uncomfortable questions about old age poverty, the likelihood of dementia, end-of-life care, living wills, and assisted suicide." (Jan.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* As the older members of the baby boom generation approach 65, marketers are at the ready with an abundance of “age defying” products and services. But is aging as trouble free as marketers tout and aging consumers would like to believe? For her part, journalist Jacoby, herself in her 60s, admits to rage at the efforts to redefine old age without facing up to the unavoidable realities. For example, after age 65, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s doubles every five years. She focuses on distinctions between the young old (60s and 70s) and the old old (80s, 90s, and the few 100s) as well as the very different prospects for the elderly who are poor or minorities. Jacoby explores social, cultural, economic, and political changes in the concept of old age, from passage of the Social Security Act to extended life expectancy and retirement, from the activism of the Gray Panthers to the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Drawing on research, personal experience, and anecdotes, she offers an important reality check for Americans enamored of the images of healthy, active seniors featured in advertisements. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307377946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377944
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #953,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Seriously! Never Say Die is an excellent analysis of the realities of growing older in America, with its disappearing wealth, health, and social network.

Anyone who has taken care of their own parents knows what an enormous lot of crap is currently being peddled about "third careers" and "active aging" and "age-fighting cosmeceuticals." If you haven't known a lot of older people in your younger life, you are in for some big, big surprises as time goes by. Jobs, money, and looks don't last--everyone "knows" this but believes they'll be some kind of magical exception. But if you live long enough (and many of us might)--not so much.

Jacoby brilliantly eviscerates the happy myths of how "80 is the new 30" with what struck me as deadly accuracy. She shows with compelling clarity the mathematical impossibility of today's wage earners saving "enough" to fund a comfortable (or even decent) retirement. She points out that life's last viable decades or so are especially bad times to move to places where residents MUST drive, after many of them won't be able to. She shows how hard it is to have a decent death in the American medical system--and why.

I'm well over 50, and this book confirmed much of what I suspected was bogus about what our culture has decided to think about aging. Things that might actually help? Walk more (maybe a lot more), buy less, work more, connect more with your children, and DON'T move to the stereotypical retirement "dream home" on a Florida golf course. Easier said than done, as we all know, but that's a "retirement plan" no Wall Street wizard or wing-nut politician can destroy.

If you're making big decisions about the last future you'll ever have, this book could well be the best adviser you'll find.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Susan Jacoby has written of the "new" old-age in her book, "Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age". As a journalist, Jacoby has taken both personal and societal events and woven them together to produce an uncomprimising view of how Americans - and the first Baby Boomers just hit 65 - have tried to redefine old-age to make it - well, almost..."inviting".

Of course, she knows - and writes - that all the psycho-babble and advertising gimmicks cannot make our graying hair, our ever-growing bellies, and our arthritic knees any more acceptable to us by trying to say that "60 is the new 40" or even "90 is the new 50"! We are getting older and old age - which is acknowledged as beginning at 60, can be divided up as "60 to 80" as "young old age" and "80 and above as "old old age". As one who at 60 has just gone from "old middle age" to "young old age", I'm trying to see where I am on the continuum of the aging scale of my peers.

Well, Jacoby notes - and takes to task - the hucksterism of those hawking both the promise of eternal youth and the perceived yearning for eternal youth. Do you really want to live to be 120? I certainly don't; not with the problems of out-living my coin, my health, and my friends and family. Life IS finite, and it's a good thing it is.

Jacoby does an excellent job at highlighting the way the elderly are treated in our society. Yes, we're "wiser", but does that always make us respected by others? Are the problems of health care going to be fixed - Richard Nixon declared "war on cancer" in the 1970's but we're not winning that war just yet. Alzheimer's enfeebles many of our seniors; we're not making great progress - no matter what the drug companies promise - at helping those who suffer from it.
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Format: Hardcover
Undoubtedly, Susan Jacoby has a brilliant mind. Likewise, Never Say Die is a brilliant book. My only criticism is that Susan Jacoby could have used a brilliant editor; this book is overly long, and (not occasionally) tangential. But that's not reason to avoid this book. Quite the opposite, it's part of her charm -- the fact that the narrative is meandering, but always gets back to the point: old age, and how it kind of sucks for a lot of people, despite what the media would have us believe.

I am probably not (or maybe I am exactly?) the audience Susan Jacoby had in mind. I am 37 as I write this. I am interested in the topic of old age after watching my once vibrant and fun grandmother descend into a terrible depression that lasted nearly a decade. She died sad. Worse, no one seemed to have compassion for her perpetual bad mood (including myself). At her funeral, people lamented her bad attitude, and seemed to have forgotten that she was, in her younger days, imperfect (like all of us) but charming.

I didn't really understand what happened to my grandmother. It never occurred to me that maybe it simply sucked not being able to do everything she enjoyed doing. She often said she was ready to die, but instead was hooked up to machines, took lots of pills, descended into bitterness.

As always, Jacoby is a voice of reason and sanity. She writes with honesty, clarity and ultimately a lot of compassion. The fact that Jacoby is able to take such a cold, hard look at getting old while being old (or young-old, as she calls it) herself is quite moving. And while I am not a fan of using this term to describe books or Hollywood acting performances, in this case it's apt: Jacoby's book is quite brave.
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