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Book Report: A Long Bright Future - Carstensen
Old 12-29-2009, 07:38 AM   #1
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Book Report: A Long Bright Future - Carstensen

I just finished reading/skimming the book title in the thread title: summary is as follows:

The author (PhD Prof of Psychology, Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr Professor in Public Policy and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity) posits there are five myths of aging:

1) Older people are miserable - not true, in fact as a demographic are happier than all others. The aging process allows the sum of experiences to be a better balance from which to adjust one's temperamental state. In other words, we get better at remembering the good times and ignoring the bad ones, in addition, we get better at picking and choosing our battles.
2) DNA is destiny - not true - is one variable which with environment can determine one's life - she reiterates the healthy lifestyle - no smoking, regular exercise, keep weight in check, maintain social interactions
3) Work Hard, Retire Harder - her she posits the current model is broken (retire at 65) and states we should work longer - but do it a la "Work Less, Live More" model
4) Older people drain our resources - she doesn't truly refute this but proposes ways to change the current US social safety net to adjust better to the different resource needs of the elderly
5) We age alone - she breaks the demographic into two: rich and poor, who have very different aging experiences. We tend to value fewer closer relationships as we age.

The author then goes on to describe a 'slowing down' of the life cycle based on the historical lengthening of human lives due to increased preventive health discoveries (food, vaccines, etc). She proposes that the 'adolescent stage' start in the teens and last until 25, the young adult stage from 25-40, the middle age from 40-80 - with retirement being a gradual phase-out at 80.

The author has a socialistic/collectivist bias in her solution set - more governmental or 'outside' assistance in determining what is best. However, her basis for her proposal in terms of the increased longevity is valid. The implementation of her solution set may not be what I would desire, however, she makes some good points. And, some of the cohort here have done just what she advises individually.

I give the book a C - I enjoyed the reading more when she discussed the research results and less when she recited anecdotes and/or her obvious world view infected her proposed solution set. This book might be worth a skim, but not a full, sit-down read.

Why I post this here is that the ideas she has may be anathema to many here in terms of the lifecycle map she has proposed - or it may not be an anathema. Generally, people wish to be productive in one way or another, it's who decides what is productive and how it is done that is in question (i.e. you may believe you are productive golfing, while someone else may not believe that is productive - the key being that is a personal choice and not one that is forced upon you, as can be in a 'work' situation)
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Old 12-29-2009, 09:36 AM   #2
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Thanks, good report.

Quote:
The author then goes on to describe a 'slowing down' of the life cycle based on the historical lengthening of human lives due to increased preventive health discoveries (food, vaccines, etc). She proposes that the 'adolescent stage' start in the teens and last until 25, the young adult stage from 25-40, the middle age from 40-80 - with retirement being a gradual phase-out at 80.
That doesn't sound right. A 19-year-old is going to act immature for another 6 years because people are living until 80 instead of 70?
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Old 12-29-2009, 09:37 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by deserat View Post
5) We age alone - she breaks the demographic into two: rich and poor, who have very different aging experiences. We tend to value fewer closer relationships as we age.
Interesting! Thinking back, I did tend to cultivate more friendships in my 20's than I have time for, now.

Quote:
The author then goes on to describe a 'slowing down' of the life cycle based on the historical lengthening of human lives due to increased preventive health discoveries (food, vaccines, etc). She proposes that the 'adolescent stage' start in the teens and last until 25, the young adult stage from 25-40, the middle age from 40-80 - with retirement being a gradual phase-out at 80.
Oh, I *LIKE* that! Middle aged until 80? Sounds good to me, as long as I can be a retired middle aged person.

Quote:
Why I post this here is that the ideas she has may be anathema to many here in terms of the lifecycle map she has proposed - or it may not be an anathema. Generally, people wish to be productive in one way or another, it's who decides what is productive and how it is done that is in question (i.e. you may believe you are productive golfing, while someone else may not believe that is productive - the key being that is a personal choice and not one that is forced upon you, as can be in a 'work' situation)
Exactly. Many of us worked ridiculously hard as wage slaves for many years, striving for the "carrot" of retirement on the end of that stick. We watched others working less hard or not at all, and consoled ourselves with the story of the grasshopper and the ant, telling ourselves that those people might be enjoying themselves but we would too once we could retire. Now that we are finally retired, we aren't likely to appreciate being told that we still shouldn't enjoy the freedom of doing what we please.

Thanks for the interesting book review!
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Old 12-29-2009, 10:10 AM   #4
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T-Al - she called the teens through 25 Act 2 - the action builds - and she envisioned this as the time when early maturation and education would take place - young people wouldn't embark on a career path at 17-18 but would delay those types of decisions until after they'd explored a bit more. At 25 they would then be educated but work less and pursue part-time work while raising their children - the 25-40 would be an extended period of young adulthood - from 40-80, one would be at their peak and contribute until an expected retirement at 80 (akin to 65 now). Retirement would be something that would be eased into, ala Rich in Tamps with his % retirement approach.

Actually, as I write this, I realize she is describing a very European model - while taking my German class, I was reading articles by contemporary German journalists and they described the societal phenomena as the 'perpetual student' - i.e. someone who is able to live off the dole exploring a profession - waylaying their entry into the working society in which they are expected to work and pay large amounts of taxes. Their college education here is free, although not everyone has the opportunity to go to a university as they are tested throughout their childhood for 'vectoring' into the various educational tiers available here. I believe the word was Bofag or something like that....along with kindergeld and eldergeld.

In any case, thanks for allowing me to clarify - and yes, I don't know if encouraging adolescence over a longer period is beneficial - to me she had a valid point in that we are living older and therefore 'what are we going to do with that time.' (Like the perpetual post here about retirement in general) Her hypothesis is that with extended lifespans there should be this extended lifeplan. How one goes about that is where the different ideas may lie.
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Old 12-29-2009, 10:13 AM   #5
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Totally agree that you should have some part-time work until 80 at least. I'm going for that one, but realize I'm totally in the minority here.
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Old 12-29-2009, 11:29 AM   #6
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And what of those whose DNA will have them crippled by age 70?
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Old 12-29-2009, 08:37 PM   #7
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They won't want to work I'm guessing. And that's why God made both chocolate and vanilla. Not everyone has the same goal in life, thank heaven! As it should be.
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