"The idea that we can control the future by aggressively focusing on and taking care of ourselves is an article of faith for baby boomers. Yet in many instances, successful aging — or the outward appearance of successful aging — means only that a person has managed to put on a happy face for the rest of the world; present an image of vigor and practical well-being even when bones are aching; smile even though a heart may be breaking with loss; do everything possible to conceal memory lapses; demonstrate a consistent willingness to try anything new; and scoff (with just the right, light touch of humor) at those misguided contemporaries who refuse to 'live in the present.'
"Here's what one cannot do and be considered a person who is aging successfully: complain about health problems to anyone younger; weep openly for a friend or lover who has been dead more than a month or two; admit to depression or loneliness; express nostalgia for the past (either personal or historical); or voice any fear of future dependency — whether because of poor physical health, poor finances, or the worst scourge of advanced old age, Alzheimer's disease. American society also looks with suspicion on old people who demand to be left alone to deal with aging in their own way: one must look neither too needy for companionship nor too content with solitude to be considered a role model for healthy aging rather than a discontented geezer or crone. Successful aging awards are conferred only on those who have managed (often as much by biological good luck as effort) to avoid, or convince others that they have avoided, the arduous uphill fight that eventually consumes all who live too long to retain control over either the mundane or the important decisions of everyday life. It's great to be old — as long as one does not manifest too many of the typical problems of advanced age. The reality evaded by propagandists for the new old age is that we all are capable of aging successfully — until we aren't.
"I hope that this book about the genuine battles of growing old will provide support for all who draw their strength and courage from reality, however daunting that reality may be, rather than from platitudes about 'defying old age.' This commonly used phrase in the annals of the so-called new old age fills me with rage, because the proximity of old age to death is not only undefiable but undeniable. Anger, by the way, is another emotion considered inappropriate in the old; the dubious notion of the 'wisdom of old age' rests on the belief that elders can, and should, transcend the passions, vaulting ambition, and competitiveness of their younger adult lives and arrive at some sort of peace that passeth all understanding."