Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why Zeke is wrong about aging


The Atlantic is wrong about aging: Why our anti-elderly bias needs to change

“Seventy-five. That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.”
– Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel
At Town Hall a few weeks ago, I was able to ask Michael Kinsley what he thought of Ezekiel Emanuel’s article in The Atlantic. He wryly replied, “Well, I’d like to see Zeke’s response when he’s 74.” Indeed, 
According to Holland and Greenstein, “Self-reported well-being starts relatively high for people in their early twenties, after which time it starts to steadily decrease, particularly for the “sandwich generation.” Well-being plummets to its lowest level for people in their early fifties. After this trough, well-being starts to increase again, and keeps increasing over the years, until, by age 85, it’s even higher than it is for those in their twenties.
“If Dr. Emanuel looked more closely at older age, instead of fearing it, he might find that along with the negatives are many positives. The functional limitations he cites — decreased ability to walk a quarter of a mile, or climb 10 stairs, or stand without special equipment — are only part of the picture. It can be hard for overachievers to see these positives, especially if they confuse professional esteem with quality of life. And so, he is proud of a father who is ‘the prototype of a hyperactive Emanuel,’ but also weary when his father slows down in his 80s, even if he says he’s happy. While Emanuel seems to acknowledge the huge importance of mentorship, a role that the elderly can and do play, he devalues it nonetheless as a ‘constriction of our ambitions and expectations.’”

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