60 on Up: The Truth about Aging in America

60 on Up: The Truth about Aging in America

60 on Up: The Truth about Aging in America

60 on Up: The Truth about Aging in America


The Golden Years? You've got to be kidding... Part serious, part comic, these words reflect our ambivalence about aging in the twenty-first century. Is it a blessing or a curse? With refreshing candor and characteristic wit, best-selling author Lillian Rubin looks deeply into the issues of our graying nation, the triumph of our new longevity, and the pain, both emotional and physical, that lies right alongside it.

Through thought-provoking interviews, research, and unflinching analysis of her own life experience, Dr. Rubin offers us a much-needed road map for the uncharted territory that lies ahead. In a country where 78 million baby boomers are moving into their sixties and economists worry that they are "the monster at the door" that will break the Social Security bank and trash the economy; where 40 percent of sixty-five-year-olds are in the "sandwich generation," taking care of their parents while often still supporting their children; and where Americans eighty-five and older represent the fastest-growing segment of the population, we cannot afford to pretend that our expanded old age is just a walk on the sunny side of the street, that "sixty is the new forty," "eighty is the new sixty," or that we'll all live happily ever after.

In this wide-ranging book, Dr. Rubin examines how the new longevity ricochets around our social and emotional lives, affecting us all, for good and ill, from adolescence into senescence. How, she asks, do sixty-somethings fill another twenty, thirty, or more years post retirement without a "useful" identity or obvious purpose? What happens to sex as we move through the decades after sixty? What happens to long-cherished friendships as life takes unexpected turns? What happens when, at seventy, instead of living the life of freedom we've dreamed about, we find ourselves having to take care of Mom and Dad? What happens to the inheritances boomers have come to expect when their parents routinely live into their eighties and beyond and the cost of their care soars?

In tackling the subject of aging over a broad swath of the population, cutting across race, class, gender, and physical and cognitive ability, Lillian Rubin gives us a powerful and long-overdue reminder that all of us will be touched by the problems arising from our new longevity. Our best hope is to understand thoroughly the realities we face and to prepare-as individuals and as a society-for a long life from sixty on up.


Getting old sucks! It always has, it always will. Yes, I know about all those books and articles extolling the wonders of what the media call the “new old age.” I’ve been reading them for quite a while now and can only conclude that they’re either written by forty-year-olds who, like children afraid of the dark, draw rosy pictures as they try to convince themselves that no unknown monsters await them. Or they’re lying. Is that too harsh a word? Perhaps. Maybe it’s not a lie but a wish, a hope, a need to believe there’s something more to this business of getting old than we see around us.

I recall Betty Friedan’s visit to San Francisco shortly after the publication of The Fountain of Age, a book proclaiming old age as a vital time of life at the same time that she herself was unable to walk the two blocks from her hotel to the restaurant where we were to have lunch. As I helped her to her chair, I said, with all the irony at my command, “The Fountain of Age, huh?” She shrugged, “What would you want me to write, that it sucks? There’s got to be more than that.”

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