Growing Older Without Growing Old
On vitality and ageing
If we look at how the course of human life has changed, two recent developments stand out: more people than ever are growing old, and far more people than ever are growing older. What are the causes of these new developments? Has modern science found the key to eternal life? And what do longer life spans mean for the way we organize our societies? How can older people best prepare themselves for living considerably longer?
Growing Older Without Growing Old is a fascinating study by one of the Netherlands’ most prominent experts in geriatric medicine. By combining medical, biological, economic and sociological insights, Rudi Westendorp manages to answer the above questions in a single coherent argument. He covers practically all relevant topics: the rhythm of life, ageing as illness, increasing life expectancy, the quality of life in old age and what to expect in the future.
All kinds of diverse factors including genetic disposition, lifestyle, chance and fate cause us cumulative damage, ultimately resulting in death. Healthy ageing is a myth; almost without exception we grow older from the age of seventy, suffering two or more ailments. In passing, Westendorp dispenses with fables about nutrition, cosmetics and growth hormones. It is the fantastic ability of modern medicine to repair us that is helping to limit the damage for longer and longer. Barring accidents, a child born in the West today will easily reach the age of a hundred or more.
We need to be prepared for this, both as societies and as individuals. Only an integrated approach by government, industry and science will allow us to tackle the huge challenge that is now upon us: the ageing of the population. Westendorp makes a number of suggestions regarding reforms to the labour market, housing policy and the provision of care. ‘But our most important task is to support the organizational capabilities of older people themselves,’ he writes. The secret of the art of growing older is to stay active, maintain social networks and keep setting goals for yourself.
- A navigation system for the extra lifetime that lies ahead.
- Argues that since we wanted it and have made it happen, ageing is something we can be proud of and need to turn to our advantage.
- Challenges assumptions about old age, such as the belief that dementia is an escalating problem.