Rubin, Lillian B., Ph. D. 60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in America. I've put off reviewing this one partly because I continue to think about it. Lillian Rubin doesn't gloss over anything; she tackles the problems of aging with energy, intellect, and emotion. The book provides an honest, but not always encouraging, examination of what it is like to grow old, to be old.
"Getting old sucks! It always has, it always will," says 83-year-old Dr. Rubin. Those are the first two sentences in the book. Forget about the media's rosy picture of "the new old age, " she says. She's right, of course, in the sense that while we live longer and are healthier longer... the years of really old age are longer as well, and since we live in a culture that celebrates youth and beauty, those years can be lonely and frightening. Old age may come to us later than it did to our parents and grandparents, but with each year on that latter part of our journey, we will face the decline of our physical abilities, perhaps of our mental abilities. Rubin believes the pretense that age does not bring decline is a disingenuous view.
There are consequences to living longer, and these consequences are not always positive. Rubin's examination of old age, her interviews, her evaluation of her own situation are honest and informative, but honest appraisal and information can be troubling. Rubin wants us to think about what we will do with the additional years; about social policies that need to be in place for the large section of our aging population; about our emotional, economic, physical, and spiritual needs.
She is addressing those who are 60 and up, but she is also looking at those who are younger, and who suddenly have the responsibility of caring for illl or elderly parents. We are all attempting to negotiate changes for which history has not yet prepared a template. We live longer and healthier than ever before, but our extended life spans present new difficulties that were not always anticipated.
Dr. Rubin has an engaging, down-to-earth style; she writes with insight and clarity, compassion and humor. She has no answers, but she warns us that we should be asking some questions--of ourselves, our families, our governments.
I think Rubin has addressed the subject thoughtfully. In many ways, however, it is very discouraging, and many will probably say that Rubin is depressed about her own old age. However, denying that illness and dementia and loss of contemporaries are more likely after a certain age is to stick our heads in the sand. Not a comforting read, but a compelling one. Rubin addresses the realities of many, though certainly not all, of the elderly.
Nonfiction. Psychology/sociology. 2007. 172 pages.