aging and the arts


Living in the Land of Limbo

This is not an impartial review. I’m a great admirer of Carol Levine’s work on family caregiving. Though we’ve never met in person, Carol has written seven terrific posts for Over 65. But despite my conflict of interest, I guarantee that if you read Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family […]

Fathers, Sons, and Books

In November, 2012, I wrote a post about my mother’s hospice care. Mom died peacefully on January 6, 2013 at the age of 93. This post is about my father. Over the past three weeks I have spent more “quality time” with my father than ever before. We have had a lot to review about […]

Robert Frost and the Decline of the Medical Profession

The title of this post is deliberately mysterious, but you’ll understand it at the end. At my 50th medical school reunion in June, my classmates agreed that while the goals of medicine are as valid as ever, the profession itself is in decline. Here’s a quote from the Preface to our reunion book: “A frequent […]

Albert Schweitzer’s Advice about Aging

A friend recently quoted a saying from Albert Schweitzer that was especially meaningful to him as he approached his 70th birthday: The meaning of maturity which we should develop in ourselves is that we should strive always to become simpler, kinder, more honest, more truthful, more peace-loving, more gentle and more compassionate.  This advice captured my […]

Going South

I was 68 and long since retired when I had the pleasure of being an “accompanying spouse” on a junket to a Caribbean island where my wife was attending a business conference. During her meetings I whiled away the time on the beach and simply fell in love with the climate. It was reliably sunny […]

Surrender at the End of Life

First, the problem “Do not go gentle into that good night… Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” So wrote the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. Working intensively over the past seven years in end-of-life care, I have often seen this attitude as a response by good people to the bad things that are happening […]

Aging in Place in a Bleak Landscape

Somewhere near the middle of Alexander Payne’s new movie Nebraska, a young boy rides up on a bicycle to take a photo of Woody Grant for the local newspaper.  Woody has, or so he believes, won a million dollars in a merchandising sweepstakes. He has become a celebrity in Hawthorne, the small fictional Nebraska town […]

Proust on Treating Chronic Illness

The need to control health care cost is a central challenge for health and economic policy. Other than the high prices we pay in the U.S., chronic illness is a main driver of cost escalation, especially for Medicare.  Seventy-six percent of Medicare spending is on patients with five or more chronic diseases, including heart disease, metabolic syndrome, […]

Lucretius and Philip Larkin Talk about Death

I hadn’t read Philip Larkin’s stunning poem Aubade until Sissela Bok quoted it in her post about Seamus Heaney. I found Larkin’s evocation of the fear of death especially chilling. What terrifies him is a vision of nothingness, not any belief in an afterlife of torment: