Never Say Die -- The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age

Susan Jacoby. Never Say Die -- The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age. Pantheon Books. New York, NY. 2011. 332 pages. $18.45 on Amazon.

Living longer is supposed to be better, but that's not the reality in most cases, argues the author of this thought-provoking book that examines the way the media portrays aging in America -- and how that portrayal is lulling us into complacency..

Written by journalist Susan Jacoby, Never Say Die posits that the media's portrayal of old age makes it difficult to deal with the realities of old age. Longevity is seen as a good thing, and the media uses healthy 60-year-old models to paint a picture of an energetic old age.  But in real old age, Jacoby contends, most people experience a period of extended frailty and disability. The reality of living longer is that individuals are more likely to run out of money and get a debilitating disease like cancer or Alzheimer's disease.  

Jacoby warns that our unrealistic picture of old age means that we aren't paying enough attention to the needs of the very old. She claims that the boomer generation is in denial that severe disability in old age is a real possibility, so boomers are failing to plan for this eventuality. Jacoby advocates for better home care for the frail and disabled elderly as well as for the legalization of assisted suicide. "Only when we abandon the fantasy of beating old age . . . will we be able to develop more humane ways of caring" for the aged, she argues. 

While not an optimistic book, Never Say Die forces us to confront some grim truths about aging in the United States, and may help foster changes, both on the personal and the policy level, that could improve the lives of those who make it to their late 80s and beyond.