On Aging: Reality Check

aging in place

“It’s not how old you are, it’s how you are old.”

~ Jules Renard


Aging in Place

Here are some thoughts on acknowledging the realities of aging by gerontologist and author, Dr. Harry (Rick) Moody.

“I am a decaying machine that still feels wonderful. I can’t add a group of numbers remotely as fast as I used to be able to. I can’t remember sometimes why the hell I walked up the stairs. I forget names so easily. I can’t read as fast as I used to read. I can’t hear as well, I can’t see as well, my balance isn’t as good. But it doesn’t interfere with my happiness, my work, anything (Apr. 14, 2022).”

~ Warren Buffett at 91

It’s the sad situation of Sen. Diane Feinstein, age 88, being attacked for her mental failings and being urged to retire.  Others have compared the situation to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was suffering from serious cancer at an advanced age. Yet she Ginsburg refused to retire and let then-President Obama appoint a successor. We are dealing here with “the return of the repressed” (Freud’s phrase) or with “The Shadow” (Jung’s term): namely, denial of aging, which is endemic (isn’t that a word we now use?) in our society, including with anti-ageism campaigns.  Yes, working against ageism can itself reflect ageism and denial of aging.

I’ve already written to Ashton Applewhite about this, urging her to “get out in front” of this issue.  She is an eloquent campaigner against ageism and will be able to show why it’s a mistake to use Sen. Feinstein as an example bad-old-age, as people are likely to do, I’m afraid.  The struggle against ageism isn’t easy. But people know perfectly well that many capacities decline with age. What, they don’t know that? Well, they can talk to me, a gerontologist, who worked for Bob Butler, the man, who invented the term “ageism” and spent his life working against it. I have capacities that decline with age, and so does everybody else.  It’s called “diminished reserve capacity” and it’s the best definition of aging that I know.

We do ourselves no good by subscribing to what I call “gerontological correctness”–that is, a refusal to face realities of life that don’t agree with our prevailing ideological positions.  We need “reality therapy” or something along those lines. People like me, age 77, can say these things. We had better say them, and also talk about positive aging.  Both these things can be true.  At my age, I don’t believe I’m in some sort of terminal decline.  But I have forgotten phrases like “Thomas Merton” or “Esperanto.”  Yes, I couldn’t remember these words in the last few weeks.  What else have I forgotten?  “I think I don’t remember” (as Ronald Reagan said).

So, let’s talk about the Feinstein case– talk about all these things– and share things with others, especially things where there is much to disagree with for any solutions, we come up with. It’s been said in the Gospels (and elsewhere): “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”  The alternative to truth (see Putin, Trump, etc.) is not so good.


Ashton Applewhite This Chair Rocks

This electronic newsletter, “Human  Values in Aging,” edited by Harry (Rick) Moody, is published by the Creative Longevity and Wisdom Program of Fielding Graduate University. The Newsletter contains items of interest about humanistic gerontology; it does not publish original writing but is limited to brief and timely announcements. To submit items of interest or request subscription changes, contact:  [email protected]

Copyright 2022, all rights reserved.

Harry (Rick) Moody Book  Aging Concepts and Controversies 10th  Edition


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