Aging, Death, and the Quest for Immortality

Aging, Death, and the Quest for Immortality

Aging, Death, and the Quest for Immortality

Aging, Death, and the Quest for Immortality


Aging is a fact of life, and issues surrounding it are hot. There are currently 35 million Americans over the age of sixty-five -- more than ever. This demographic shift is noteworthy not only because the ranks of the elderly will continue to swell in coming years but also because it is taking place in what the editors of this book call an "ageist society," one that increasingly loathes every facet of aging. Indeed, the ethical issues associated with aging are among the thorniest in medicine and public policy today. Aging, Death, and the Quest for Immortality is a timely volume by physicians, health-care professionals, pastors, and ethicists who explore the experiences, dilemmas, and possibilities associated with aging. The book opens by offering three distinct perspectives on aging; this section includes practical suggestions for dealing with retirement, disability, healing, and death. Several contributors then analyze controversial ethical issues raised by aging and health care, including medical decision-making, the moral standing of patients with dementia, health-care rationing, and assisted suicide. A third group of essays applies a theology of care to ministry to and through older adults, the counseling of seniors, and the application of palliative care. The book closes by discussing some of the emerging technologies and interest groups aimed at achieving immortality, also asking, appropriately, what insights the Christian faith brings to the discussion. Reflecting much wisdom and sensitivity, this book will give welcome help to care providers and to those who are themselves in the later stages of life.


Let’s call her “Betty.” She is a 75-year-old, married, mother of four children. Each of her children now is a married adult. She grew up in a small town, had a rather unremarkable childhood and adolescence, and married a man she met on her job. They fell deeply in love and together had what could only be described as a normal, middle-class life. They worked hard, raised their children well, contributed to their community and church, and put aside money for their long-anticipated retirement years.

Like thousands of retired Americans, they bought an RV and started to travel around the country, never straying too far on the tether from their hometown. The children were happy for their parents, though from time to time they worried about them as they traveled. Mom and Dad could never get the hang of a cell phone and forgot to turn it on more often than not. They would be a thousand miles away, and no one knew where they were.

Still living in the general vicinity of their parents, the children popped in and out of their parents’ home, dropped off the grandchildren to be watched, and life was nearly idyllic. Birthdays and holidays were wonderful family occasions. In a very real sense, the center around which the family orbited was “Mom and Dad’s” place.

One day, one of the daughters noticed that Betty forgot that she was going to babysit one of the grandchildren. No worries. She took the baby with her to the doctor’s office and didn’t think much about it after that. It was a little inconvenient, but everyone forgets now and again. But over time, everyone noticed that Betty was becoming more and more forgetful. She would not only forget appointments like babysitting. She forgot to take her medicine for her blood pressure. She had developed high blood pressure about ten years . . .

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