Aging ... But Not Getting Old

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland is famous for a book he wrote over a decade ago, called How We Die: Reflections On Life's Final Chapter. His frank take on death became a bestseller and won a National Book Award, and now he's back with a wholly optimistic look at getting old, The Art of Aging: A Doctor's Prescription for Well-Being. So what is his prescription? It's threefold — stay — or get — connected to others, stay fit and active, and exercise your creativity. If you're a boomer, are you taking your medicine? What do you do to stave off feeling old, and what IS old anymore, anyway?

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There is the apocryphal story of a woman asking Winston Churchill how he found the prospect of getting old.
"Considering the alternative," he replied "I find it just fine."

I love that story.

Sent by dana minor | 3:11 PM | 3-14-2007

My major concern is paying increased health care cost because of those who don't take care of themselves. The smokers, the obese, and the heavy drinkers. I have noticed that when I go to the doctor the waiting room has a lot of these people there. What can we do about this?

Sent by Ron | 3:18 PM | 3-14-2007

Dr. Nuland's attitude is wonderful. I'm listening now and I wish that he'd talk more about the spiritual aspect of aging. In the late '80s I created the term "soul-and-mind-inseparable-from-body" in order to encompass the reality of how all of these "parts" are really a whole. I'm a writer, an artist, and a scholar, so his dealing with creativity and its importance makes lots of sense!

Joanna Frueh
Distinguished Professor
School of Art
University of Arizona

Sent by Joanna Frueh | 3:49 PM | 3-14-2007

I loath and avoid exercise, I am sarcastic, abit angry, (ok some would say angry white woman) don't eat well and my hobby is sleep. So I guess I am a goner by Dr. Nuland's subscription!! Oh well, believe I will go with a smile!

Sent by Debbie Comstock | 3:53 PM | 3-14-2007

What about the poor? Even if they have their health at age 60, if they are struggling to make ends meet, it cannot be easy to follow this regimen, can it? They won't have a pass to the gym or a vacation to Europe to keep their spirits up. And like the previous commenter noted, health care costs are going up so fast that if you can't afford meds for something simple, your quality of life could be severely compromised.

Sent by Susan Todd | 3:57 PM | 3-14-2007

My mother was almost as vital as Dr. Nuland is when she was 76. At age 80 she fell apart, body and mind. Despite excellent insurance and regular doctor visits, she was never offered any functional, helpful treatments, such as knee replacement even as she developed end-stage knee arthritis. Her COPD was not even diagnosed until she was a psychiatric in-patient with a broken hip. Her stupid general physicians simply told her that aging was normal. They would dismiss her complaints or recommended only the currently popular pharmaceutical palliative instead of genuine medical care. Now that she's feeble and fully disabled, palliatives are all that can be provided.
She exercised, socialized, read, wrote letters, had heated political and social discussions and visited out-of-town frequently until her sudden, unexplained, tragic decline. It can happen to you, Dr. Nuland and to everyone of us. If an instantaneous death doesn't get us first, old age will and it will be painful, humiliating, undignified, ugly, smelly and tragic. Stop being smug. Didn't Atkins of the Atkins ("heart-healthy") Diet die of heart disease?

Sent by Emily L. Dye | 4:52 PM | 3-14-2007

Time was, our life, our work was so much more physical and we were naturally challenged every day.
Did people age much better when more of us worked on farms, or walked everywhere?

Sent by Anne Morato | 12:35 AM | 3-15-2007