The meaning of old age has changed radically in my lifetime. People are living longer and some of us will remain healthy at an age when previous generations would have expected to be infirm or dependent. At the same time, the number of older people with dementia is rising, contributing to a narrative in which age is more than ever something to be feared or denied. Popular culture encourages women to start worrying about the signs of ageing in their twenties, creating a situation in which adults could spend most of their lives fretting over the gradual loss of youth. Wrinkles? Cellulite? It’s never too early to contemplate that first facelift, at least if you happen to be a reader of one of the biggest-selling newspapers in the UK.
This is not a logical response to the prospect of living longer and staying healthier than most of our ancestors. But there are so many paradoxes around the subject of growing older that it is hard to know where to begin. Lynne Segal makes an informed and thoughtful attempt in