Literally, thousands of articles about aging are published weekly. Here are a few of our favorites.
This 2014 spread from the New York Times Magazine, titled "Old Masters. After 80 Some People Don't Retire. They Reign," is a fascination. Very brief interviews accompany great photos by Erik Madigan Heck of artists, legislators, financiers, athletes, and others in their 80s and 90s. In his wonderful introductory essay, Lewis Lapham quotes the advice given by the wizard Merlyn to the young King Arthur in T.H. White's novel, The Once and Future King: "Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting." Lapham cites this as "the lesson I’m now almost old enough to learn: that the tree of knowledge and the fountain of youth are one and the same." The interviews with the luminaries in the article certainly seem to validate that lesson.
Psychologist Mary Pipher (author of several books, most famously, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Lives of Adolescent Girls) writes in the New York Times opinion pages about "The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s." Personally, I think Pipher is a little cavalier about the use of "we": not all of 70-year-old women are as sanguine about their age as she describes. Still, it's a good read, and food for thought.
The incomparable writer Maria Popova, creator of the astounding blog, Brainpickings, regularly delivers nuggets of brilliance into the mailboxes of subscribers. Several friends forwarded to me Popova's beautiful brief piece on author and activist Grace Paley (1922-2007), who wrote with piercing intelligence, in this instance on the art of growing older. (In the photo on the left, Paley is in the dark coat in the middle). A warning about Brainpickings: Popova's links take you to the most fascinating places. You might need to schedule some time for wandering . . . .
In "No Country for Old Age," published in The Hedgehog Review, University of Virginia professor Joseph E. Davis nails how badly wrong contemporary American culture is for us as we age. He writes, "Current constructions of old age in individualistic terms of self-reliance, the fit body, productive accomplishments, or an imperative to deny or defeat aging technologically cannot but deepen our predicament and the need to render it invisible. These constructions . . . leave us hemmed in by a predatory commercial culture, a punishing ideology of health, fewer and weaker social ties, an ethic of active striving and mastery, and a mechanistic picture of ourselves." He points toward spiritually healthier directions. This article dovetails perfectly with Dr. Bill Thomas's discussion of denialist, realist, and enthusiast approaches to aging.