Our forum on getting old starts with the question whether it would be better to avoid old age altogether and live (healthily) into our thousands or millions. John Martin Fischer wrestles with Bernard Williams’s worries about the tedium of immortality and argues that life is good, even if tomorrow is another day, a million times over. Old age is thus not a byproduct of a welcome finitude. We’d be better off without the finitude.
Alas, we are mere mortals. William B. Irvine writes about getting old – or getting early-old – and discusses whether Stoicism can help with the worries and deficits that come with the territory. Christine Vitrano broaches the question whether life can continue being really good into advanced old age, or decreasing well-being is inevitable.
We often encounter old age for the first time as something our parents are going through. August Gorman talks about his mother’s final days, making the case that the last chapter of life has an outsized importance, considering its length. Joshua Glasgow writes about his mother as well, arguing that adult children derive a gift from their parents’ passing—an awakening to value. In fact, an awakening something like what many have experienced during the pandemic shutdown.
Finally, Gail Weiss celebrates the distinctive strengths of the very old, questioning the “might makes right” message of superhero movies. Paying homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she identifies a kind of strength that coexists with fragility: not invincibility, but endurance.