The book follows the journey of a writer in search of wisdom, as he encounters twelve distinguished American men over 80 — including Paul Volcker, the former head of the Federal Reserve, and Denton Cooley, the world’s most famous heart surgeon. In these and other intimate conversations, the book explores and honors the particular way that each man faces four challenges of living a good old age: Am I still a man? Do I still matter? What is the meaning of my life? Am I loved?
We aspire to live in a country where old men are celebrated as vital elders but not demeaned if they become ill and dependent. We aspire to maintain health as well as maintain dignity and fulfillment in frailty. Old Man Country helps readers see and imagine these possibilities for themselves.
Readers will come to see how each man — even the most famous — faces universal challenges. Personal stories about work, love, sexuality, and hope mingle with stories about illness, loss and death. This book will strengthen each of us as we and our loved ones anticipate and navigate our way through the passages of old age.
“many people are poorly prepared for unexpected expenses” in later life, the study notes. Even worse, about one in five retirees (19%) and one in four retired widows (24%) experienced four or more shocks during retirement. The good news: Many older adults who get hit with stealth expenses appear to bounce back.
• Replacement costs. Big-ticket buys—a new furnace, updated appliances, a fresh coat of house paint—can put sizable dents in your nest egg. But most people don’t consider that these outlays can follow them into later life or that such costs can continue to add up for decades. A contributing factor: Many retirees underestimate their life expectancy.
• Relatives in need. This can hit you from two sides: aging parents feeling a financial pinch and younger family members who suddenly find themselves in a bind. With the latter, perhaps it can be an adult child who gets laid off or divorced, or a grandchild who needs help with tuition.
• Required distributions. Most people know that, after reaching age 70½, they must begin withdrawing funds from tax-deferred accounts (like IRAs). What they fail to understand are the ripple effects from these payouts. Required minimum distributions can, first, push you into a higher tax bracket and, second, translate into increased Medicare Part B premiums (which are tied to annual income).
From an Aeon.co online article by Bioethicist Joona Räsänen:
Age change should be allowed when the following three conditions are met. First, the person is at risk of being discriminated against because of age. Second, the person’s body and mind are in better shape than would be expected based on the person’s chronological age (that is, the person is biologically younger than he is chronologically). Third, the person does not feel that his legal age is befitting.
Let’s say that on average you are in better shape than other people of your age. You are more able than them: quicker, sprightlier, livelier. You feel and identify as younger than your official age. However, despite all your youthful energy, you are also discriminated against because of your greater age. You cannot get a job – or, if you do, you might earn less than some of your younger coworkers simply due to your advanced years. The question is, should you be allowed to change your ‘official’ age in order to avoid this discrimination and to better match how you identify and feel?
Engaging older people in designing for older people “is a good thing,” says Smith. “Because younger people do tend to have this picture of designing things that are functional for older people, but not really understanding what makes them happy.” Presented with products that are “brown, beige, and boring,” many older people will forgo convenience for dignity.
It’s a familiar tune to engineer Ken Smith, director of the mobility division of the Stanford Center on Longevity. He says one of the biggest mistakes designers make is to assume that around the age of 60 people lose interest in aesthetics and design. This can have dire consequences for products meant to help people with their health. No one wants to stick a golf-ball-size hearing aid the color of chewed gum in their ear, any more than they want to wear a T-shirt that reads “SENIOR CITIZEN.”
From an MIT Technology Review article by Joseph F. Coughlin:
Technologists, particularly those who make consumer products, will have a strong influence over how we’ll live tomorrow. By treating older adults not as an ancillary market but as a core constituency, the tech sector can do much of the work required to redefine old age. But tech workplaces also skew infamously young. Asking young designers to merely step into the shoes of older consumers (and we at the MIT AgeLab have literally developed a physiological aging simulation suit for that purpose) is a good start, but it is not enough to give them true insight into the desires of older consumers. Luckily there’s a simpler route: hire older workers.
Of all the wrenching changes humanity knows it will face in the next few decades—climate change, the rise of AI, the gene-editing revolution—none is nearly as predictable in its effects as global aging. Life expectancy in industrialized economies has gained more than 30 years since 1900, and for the first time in human history there are now more people over 65 than under 5—all thanks to a combination of increasing longevity, diminished fertility, and an aging Baby Boom cohort. We’ve watched these trends develop for generations; demographers can chart them decades in advance.