cover image Aging & Old Age

Aging & Old Age

Richard A. Posner, Gerald Posner. University of Chicago Press, $29.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-226-67566-4

In a wide-angled, unsentimental, compelling look at old age, Posner, an economist and federal judge, punctures the widespread belief that the elderly constitute a selfish voting bloc and that the U.S. is becoming ominously gerontified. In his analysis, the alarmists have exaggerated the costs of an aging population and ignored the benefits, which include skills, experience, stabilizing maturity and worker loyalty. Posner's views are often iconoclastic, as when he asserts that old people are more self-centered than the young. He argues that physician-assisted suicide, if legalized for cases of terminally ill, pain-wracked or severely impaired people, might actually reduce the overall suicide rate among the elderly. He further maintains that legislation enacted in 1986 abolishing mandatory retirement at fixed ages in most occupations, harms elderly workers and perversely affects income distribution across the entire population. Posner investigates how economic factors influence a host of behaviors among the elderly, including creativity, automobile-driving habits, residence, voting and jury participation. (Dec.)