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Is It Okay To Leave Behind Sick, Aging Friends? Authors Take On Tough Questions About Getting Older

Is It Okay To Leave Behind Sick, Aging Friends? Authors Take On Tough Questions About Getting Older


Saul Levmore, co-author, "Aging Thoughtfully"


Photo credit: Oxford University Press

The book cover for "Aging Thoughtfully" by Martha Nussbaum and Saul Levmore.

Almost 15 percent of the U.S. population is 65 or older, and that’s expected to grow to 24 percent by 2060. But even as the chance of living to old age increases, many people pull back from thinking about old age, afraid of the choices and challenges it presents, University of Chicago Law School professor Saul Levmore said.

“Part of it is they don’t want to see themselves in a new light. Part of it is they think everything will be too personal,” Levmore said. “And I think part of it is they’re just in denial: they don’t want to think about what their retirement income is like. Now some people think about it obsessively, I might be one of those, but we know half the population isn’t saving money.”

Levmore is co-author of the new book, "Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations about Retirement, Romance, Wrinkles & Regret,” which encourages the kinds of conversations about aging that people tend to avoid. It’s presented as a series of dueling essays between Levmore and philosopher Martha Nussbaum, discussing whether it is ever okay to distribute inheritances unequally among children, whether active retirement communities are a hedonist escape vehicle or when it might be appropriate to abandon aging friends who are sick.

Levmore admits these are difficult questions, but hopes the book inspires more people to consider them seriously.

“I trust you to work this out for yourself, but you really have to work it out. You’ve got to think about these things, think about counterarguments, think about things you’ll tell your peers,” Levmore said. “I think that’s very healthy.”

Levmore joins KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday with more of his thoughts on aging, including whether mandatory retirement ages should be legal.

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