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A Living Resume

On the occasion of my last birthday, a friend asked how it feels to be growing old? I proffered first, the old bromide that in my head I feelabout thirty, but my body groans a wholly different story. Then I joked that when people intone, “Well, you’re only as old as you feel,” I reflexively […]

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 […]

Arnold Relman: 1923 – 2014

Dr. Arnold (“Bud”) Relman died yesterday at 91. He was the most esteemed leader among those who have been dismayed by the commercialization, fragmentation, excessive cost, and relatively poor quality of the U.S. health “system.” In 1980, as editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Bud sounded the alarm about a danger he fought […]

Shift Retirement Plans Away from Employers

Lots of proposals have been put forth for a new and better retirement system, but they don’t answer the question of how we get from here to there. (For examples of proposals, see the SAFE plan or the Guaranteed Retirement Accounts proposal.) We have a fairly extensive – albeit far from perfect – 401(k) system […]

Is 70 the “Right” Retirement Age?

I keep thinking about this notion that 70 is the “real” Social Security retirement age.  It is the age at which people get maximum monthly benefits, and if they work beyond this age they see their lifetime benefits decline.  But is 70 the right age?  “Right” can mean a number of things.  One issue is […]

Income and Life Expectancy

Today’s New York Times has an excellent article on income and longevity that compares Fairfax County, Virginia, to McDowell County, West Virginia. In Fairfax, median household income is $107,000. In McDowell it’s about one-fifth of that. In Fairfax, the average life expectancy for men is 82. For women it’s 85. In McDowell, the comparable life […]

The Elderly not Resting on their Laurels

On the morning of Wednesday, November 20th, 2013, I was beginning to peruse the article by Dan Gorenstein in the New York Times, “How Doctors Die: In Coming to Grips With Their Own Mortality, They Are Showing the Way for Others”. CNN was on the TV in the background. On came the presentation of the […]

On Aging and Writing a Hard Book

I recently finished a biography of Bertrand Russell, a major 20th century British philosopher who, as his career moved along, shifted heavily toward personal involvement in international political and cultural affairs, most notably arms control and nuclear weapon reduction—but meanwhile, as a kind of relaxation, continuing to turn out a stream of philosophy books. He […]

Coming Out about Age

When I was growing up, every 12 months I got one year older. But my mother, who turned 39 three months after my 7th birthday, remained 39. That puzzled me. My mother explained that for women, by magic, their age never clicked past 40! The French have long dealt with my mother’s reluctance to come […]

Aging, Stereotypes, and Reality

I have heard for many years, informally and in scholarly journals, that ageism reigns in our society, and in particular that employers are biased against older workers. That last point is frequently made by many observers, who can cite a good bit of data showing that those over 50 who have lost jobs in the […]