"There is a wicked inclination in most people to suppose an old man decayed in his intellects. If a young or middleaged man, when leaving a company, does not recollect where he laid his hat, it is nothing; but if the same inattention is discovered in an old man, people will shrug up their shoulders and say, 'His memory is going.'"
-- Samuel Johnson ( 1709-1784)
In the preceding chapters you learned about the physical and behavioral difficulties that beset the elderly, and you read some examples of how old people are sometimes ridiculed. Advanced age is not, we know, always a joyous time. The health and emotional problems that face the elderly are very real ones, as we have seen. Even some of the jokes about old people, cruel as they may be, may have a grain of truth in them.
But though the old may be prone to physical and mental decline, that does not mean every old person is confined to a wheelchair or an institution. We know that is not the case. Not all old people sit around and do