"Thank you for reminding me that older age can bring many gifts."

Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest on Cavaliere’s Cabaret, a monthly variety show in New Haven’s Lyric Hall hosted by brilliant singer and performer Anne Tofflemire. There was singing, there was dancing, there was comedy, and there was a 10-minute conversation with me about—you guessed it—ageism. The response was terrific, including this lovely follow-up note from a woman in the audience.

What’s behind midlife malaise? The Happiness U-Curve. And an ageist culture.

 Last month the Atlantic magazine’s cover story described living past 75 as pretty darn inadvisableNow, in quite the about-face, the December cover story champions the Happiness U-Curve (or “U-shaped Happiness Curve," as I’ve been calling it, or “U-bend” in Britspeak): : the growing body of research showing, in writer Jonathan Rausch’s words, that “we reliably grow happier, regardless of circumstances, after our 40s.”

 Happiness U-Curve_DecAtlantic.png

Caption: An analysis by the Brookings scholars Carol Graham and Milena Nikolova, drawing on Gallup polls, shows a clear relationship between age and well-being in the United States. Respondents rated their life satisfaction relative to the “best possible life” for them, with 0 being worst and 10 being best.

 

"Ageism is a cultural illness; it's not a personal illness." Frances McDormand

Actress Frances McDormand has always played unvarnished women,  endearing herself to me—and winning an Oscar—for her role as queasy and massively pregnant state trooper Marge Gunderson in "Fargo." She plays another one as the title role in "Olive Kitteridge," a four-part HBO miniseries that McDormand acquired and made happen, and she's been wonderfully outspoken about herrejection of the industry-wide fixation on youth.  "Looking old," she told the New York Times, "should be a boast about experiences accrued and insights acquired, a triumphant signal “that you are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information.

The disastrous consequences of pretending we'll never get old

 “Researching this story about getting old was revelatory thanks to @AndreaCharise and @thischairrocks” tweeted Anne Kingston, Senior Writer at Maclean’s magazine, when “Why it’s time to face up to old age” was published this week. That was gratifying, but reading the article—a sharp and balanced look at the social and economic costs of age denial—was even more so

 

How problematic is the Atlantic cover story about old age? Let me count the ways.

The cover story of the October 2014 Atlantic magazine, “The New Science of Old Age,” features a white-bearded skateboarder careening between two articles that encapsulate American ambivalence about longevity: here’s why our kids could significantly outlive us and how awful that would be. Below, my Letter to the Editor calling out the unacknowledged ageism that saturates both articles, followed by more examples.  

 

Pages