15 Jan

Articles Address the Economics, Challenges, and Virtues of Graceful Aging

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 01/15/06

Professor Leon Kass, former chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics and a guest on several volumes of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, has drawn the public's attention to issues of aging in recent months. In September 2005 he oversaw the publishing of the Council's report Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society; two periodicals, Commentary and The New Atlantis, took advantage of the report's appearance in order to attend to the questions an aging society faces. Commentary ran an article by Kass and Eric Cohen (editor of The New Atlantis) that relied in part on Taking Care; The New Atlantis published an excerpt of the report.

In Commentary's article, "Cast Me Not Off in Old Age," Cohen and Kass note the coming of a "mass geriatric society" and the anxieties it will bring with it. "How we age and die are not only private matters," they write, "Our communal practices and social policies shape the environments in which aging and caregiving take place." They examine questions that will confront society as it faces the demands of caring for an increasing number of elderly, emphasizing that the demands will be not only economic in nature, but also spiritual and cultural.

The New Atlantis's "The Aging Self," on the other hand, examines questions of what it means to age in today's society, along with the issues and frustrations concomitant with old age and decline. It states: "But for human beings, aging is not only a biological experience but a psychological, existential, social, and religious one: it involves seeing oneself in a new light as one's life progresses and one's body changes; it involves looking back on one's past experiences and looking ahead to one's shortening future; it involves treasuring life and independence as long as possible and accepting dependence and death when they can no longer be resisted. It involves changes of familial and social roles, changes of responsibility at work and at home, and differing forms of participation in civic and communal life." The excerpt discusses the ethics of graceful aging and encourages the elderly to cultivate courage, wisdom, simplicity, and humor as they age.

The MARS HILL AUDIO Journal has published interviews on the related topics of medical ethics and euthanasia; C. Ben Mitchell discussed the Church and bioethical issues on Volume 70, and there are links to other interviews here and here. [Posted January 2006, ALG]