A short book about aging and baby boomers that mixes memoir and self-help.
One of the highest-profile journalists in America before he made his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease public, Vanity Fair columnist Kinsley (Please Don’t Remain Calm: Provocations and Commentaries, 2008, etc.) feels that he has a head start on the rest of his boomer generation on the challenges that aging brings: “Sometimes I feel like a scout from my generation, sent out ahead to experience in my fifties what even the healthiest boomers are going to experience in their sixties, seventies, or eighties…what I have, at the level I have it, is an interesting foretaste of our shared future—a beginner’s guide to old age.” With a slowly progressing form of the disease, the author still has his wits about him, as this droll, engaging, often self-deprecating confessional attests, but he knows that others treat him differently and that his career has plateaued before it once might have peaked. He takes the long view on some big questions concerning “the age of competitive longevity”—is the goal to live longest? To die when you still have most of your marbles? To leave the best legacy and be remembered longest? He suggests “death before dementia” as a rallying cry: “It is also your best strategy, at the moment, because there’s no cure for either one.” Most of the chapters were originally published in different forms in national magazines and don’t always cohere. The last is the one that fits least, focusing on how the boomers as a whole can counter the narrative that has them squandering the legacy of their Greatest Generation parents by paying down the national debt. As the author recognizes, “besides the tsunami of dementia heading our way, there is going to be a tsunami of books about health issues by every boomer journalist who has any, which ultimately will be all of them.”
An uneven but ultimately satisfying examination of the importance of “long years of good health, not long years simply breathing in and out.”