Author John Robbins discusses aging and remaining healthy. His book, Healthy At 100, is now available in paperback. Read part one of this interview.
Why did you write your latest book, Healthy at 100?
Every one of us, growing older. This is true in every country and among every people throughout the world, but the way different cultures have responded to this reality has varied widely.
For many of us in the industrialized world today, our aging is a source of grief and anxiety. We fear aging. The elderly people we see are for the most part increasingly senile, frail, and unhappy. As a result, rather than looking forward to growing old, we dread each passing birthday. Rather than seeing our later years as a time of harvesting, growth, and maturity, we fear that the deterioration of our health will so greatly impair our lives that to live a long life might be more of a curse than a blessing.
When we think of being old, our images are often ones of decrepitude and despair. It seems more realistic to imagine ourselves languishing in nursing homes than to picture ourselves swimming, gardening, laughing with loved ones, and delighting in children and nature.
In 2005, famed American author Hunter S. Thompson took his life. He was only sixty-seven, and had no incurable disease. He was wealthy and famous, and his 32-year-old wife loved him. But according to the literary executor of Thompson’s will, “he made a conscious decision that he ... wasn’t going to suffer the indignities of old age.”
It doesn’t help to live in a society where there is so little respect for the elderly. Television shows and movies frequently portray older people as feeble, unproductive, grumpy, and stubborn. Advertisements selling everything from alcohol to cars feature beautiful young people, giving the impression that older people are irrelevant. Colloquialisms such as “geezer,” “old fogey,” “old maid,” “dirty old man,” and “old goat” demean the elderly and perpetuate a stereotype of older people as unworthy of consideration or positive regard.
Greeting card companies routinely sell birthday cards that mock the mobility, intellect, and sex drive of the no longer young. Novelty companies sell “Over-the-Hill” products such as ﬁftieth birthday cofﬁn gift boxes containing prune juice and a “decision maker to assist in planning daily activities” (a large six-sided die, with sides labeled “nap,” “TV,” “shopping,” etc.). Gifts for a man’s sixtieth birthday include a “lifetime supply” of condoms (one), Over-the-Hill bubble bath (canned beans), and “Old Fart” party hats.