Thoughts on: Why you shouldn’t fear the gray tsunami, David Rotman, 21 Aug 2019
The above article kept cropping up in my Twitter feed a few times until I finally gave in and read it. It discusses a topic I feel strongly about. Ageism. Rotman’s article makes many great points and made me mull over my own thoughts.
At least in our Western culture we have a strange obsession with youth on the one hand and longevity on the other. However, we haven’t managed to reconcile these desires. No doubt, this is a complex debate. We should wonder why we often times write off not just old people (say retirement age) but also middle-aged folk (say 45+). In doing so, we also write off all their learnings, wisdom and experience. Overall, our intergenerational communication and appreciation is poor. This possibly applies both ways. Yet, we have so much to learn from each other.
In ‘A doctor and medical ethicist argues life after 75 is not worth living‘ Ezekiel Emanuel argues that, overall, people beyond 75 do not contribute enough to the economy to justify the expenditure made on them. One point I appreciate about his stance is the rejection of the pursuit of longevity merely for the sake of a prolonged life with little regard for quality of life. His economic argument is beyond me. To be fair, there are so many questions not discussed in that short interview, which may be in Emanuel’s original work. For example, is the sole justification for human existence to contribute to the economy? How much do you owe the rest of society after a long life of work, contribution and potentially spawning or supporting future generations? Does our society provide sufficient opportunities for old folk to contribute in meaningful ways? What constitutes meaningful contribution? Some activities and effects can simply not be quantified. Lunch at granny’s after school has a higher value than the monetary amount of the ingredients. How do you quantify the potential economic effect of a full tummy and a hug?
Besides that, Emanuel’s point of view raises questions about medical care, especially in critical areas like life support, organ donation and palliative care. It raises questions on our views of death both in the medical profession and as moral individuals.
On another note and with reference to the youth-biased Zuckerberg quote presented in Rotman’s article, watch this TED talk on the evolution of human IQ and draw your own conclusions.