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Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age

By Susan Jacoby Pantheon; 332 pages

It is a baby-boomer article of faith that if you go to the gym religiously, watch your weight and avoid stress, you'll live practically forever. But here comes scholar Susan Jacoby bearing a jarring message: No, you won't, and you may not want to anyway. "We need to face reality and base both our individual planning and social policy on the assumption that by the time men and women reach their eighties and nineties, not the best but the worst years of their lives generally lie ahead," she writes in her cogent new book. "Anyone who lives beyond 85 has about a 50-50 chance of winding up in a nursing home--just as he or she has close to a 50 percent chance of developing dementia." Bummer, right? But Jacoby's tough-minded refusal to buy the rosy image painted by advertisers and the "anti-aging industry"--a greedy crowd that includes bogus health gurus, pill pushers and other medical hucksters--is empowering. Never Say Die is a call for boomers to look at what Jacoby, 65, calls "real old age, as opposed to fantasyland."

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