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Interviews: Nortin M Hadler Shares His Views on Ageing

Rethinking AgingNortin M. Hadler, author of Rethinking Aging: Growing Old and Living Well in an Overtreated Society, was interviewed by The University of North Carolina Press and Johanna Burke of Publishers Weekly.

Hadler expands on concepts covered in his book, such as the difference between screening and diagnostic tests, and comments on the current state of care for the elderly:

Q: In your introduction to Rethinking Aging, you express hope that “a new institution of medicine will soon supersede one that is ethically bankrupt.” In your opinion, what steps need to be taken for this to happen?

A:The status quo underwrites an enormous industry: insurance, pharmaceutical, hospitals and clinics, extended care facilities and nursing homes, manufacturers of devices, many “providers,” and all sorts of suppliers. None suffer assaults on their raison d’être, let alone their profitability, passively.

However, nearly all these “stakeholders” have the same tailor. Once we, the people, are informed adequately, we will recognize their new clothes. All that is required is that we learn to ask two questions: “Is this a disease or just a predicament of life?” and “Will this really advantage me?” My earlier books teach working-age adults how to ask such questions and how to actively and effectively listen to the answers. Rethinking Aging teaches this relevant to life after sixty.

You’ve found 85 to be the current “ripe old age” we can expect. Is that number likely to go up, or are you pessimistic about what we can expect from biotechnology?

That’s the great unknown. The death rate is one per person. And most of our octogenarians would tell you that living that long is not terrific. But this is a celebratory book! We are the first generation in the world that can hit 60 and get to think, “What do I want to do in the next 20 years?” The job of the physician is to help these patients understand the limits of certainty.

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