Jeffrey R. Henig

Smiling in Photos Makes People Look Older, Study Shows

It turns out that when you pose for photos with a wide smile, you're actually making yourself look older. You could have fooled me—and the research subjects, too.
Robin Marantz Henig

A 90-Something's #vanlife

After a cancer diagnosis, a woman chooses a year on the road with her son and his wife, rather than the difficult death she'd just been through with her husband.
Robin Marantz Henig

A Web Site for the Heartbroken

Is romantic love a kind of addiction? And if it is, do other kinds of love -- such as the kind parents and grandparents feel -- make the same imprint on the human brain?
Robin Marantz Henig

The Death of the Telephone Call

With the loss of the spontaneous, friendly telephone call—which Slate says died in 2007—comes another loss: feeling connected to the world at large.

A Billionaire Looks at Death

Finding out by chance George Soros' interest in end-of-life decision-making and why it's important.
Photo by Robin Marantz Henig

Two New Spins On "Never Too Old"

Two newspaper articles appeared last week about late-life transformations that showed that no matter how old you get, you might still be in for more than your share of surprises.
Kevin Dooley/Flickr, available through Creative Commons

Putting It in Writing

My husband and I drew up our living wills recently -- just part of Life in the Sixties, the realization that it behooves us to finally get our house in order.
robin marantz henig

Trying On an Age Suit

Ever wonder how it feels to be really, really old? This empathy suit might help you out.
photo by Robin Marantz Henig

Aid-in-Dying Laws Still Leave Out Many

The new California aid-in-dying law, like similar laws in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont, leaves out a wide range of people who might want to be covered: those with progressive debilitating diseases that don't have an obvious 6-months-to-live prognosis, and people with dementia, the fastest-growing health threat in the U.S. There may be no good way around this.
That's me with my grandparents, photo taken by my father, Sidney Marantz

Reveling in the Grandmother Hypothesis

If the trend is real that grandparents are moving cross-country to help their Millennial children raise the grandkids, there might be a biological explanation for it. Anthropologists call it the Grandmother Effect.
photo by robin marantz henig

Being Sixty-Something

In her lovely essay, "At Sixty-Five," the writer Emily Fox Gordon captures a lot of what I've been feeling about being in my sixties. But I haven't yet reached the point she has of feeling like this is a good time in life, a time when a person works free of youth's "agitation and misery" and finally has "learned better how to live."
Sandy Bem and her daughter Emily one day before she died. Photo by Julius Viksne, used with permission.

Death With Dementia

Sandy Bem needed to choose a day to die, and it had to be just right. Too soon, and it might be a day when she still felt basically fine, still essentially herself even as her Alzheimer's disease implacably ate away at her intellect. Too late, and she might no longer have the resolve, or the understanding, or even the physical dexterity to end her life on her own.

An Ode to a Grandma

The decision to operate on a 93-year-old, against her wishes, has a happy ending: she recovers, and has 9 more years that turn out to be the best years of her life. It's debatable, though, whether it would have been wrong to let her die when she wanted to.

Living in the Past

"In the fall of 1968, without at first realizing what was happening to me, I began living in the past," wrote Joseph Mitchell, who was 60 years old In 1968 -- almost exactly my age. Had he stumbled onto some truth about what it means to be in your 60s?

Being Old in New York City

An article in this month's Politico magazine, "Seniors Take Manhattan," is all about the ways that it's easier to "age in place" in a big city than almost anywhere else in the U.S. The author, Debra Bruno, marshalls tons of evidence in defense of that position.

Are Old People Really Happier?

Just yesterday morning New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a column about the U-shaped curve of happiness called "Why Elders Smile." It is currently #1 on the most-emailed list at the Times. He says old people "are spared some of the burden of thinking about the future." Um, why is this a good thing, exactly?

What Matters to Women Looking for Egg Donors?

As the use of egg donors becomes more widespread, a recent study finds, women are no longer trying to hide the fact that their babies come from donor eggs by working hard to find donors who are physically or genetically similar to them. Instead, the researchers say, recipients tend to look for other qualities, such as intelligence and athletic ability,
The Science of Loneliness

The Science of Loneliness

Friends and relatives might be surprised that I think of myself as lonely. But I do, which is why I was so struck by the findings of John Cacioppo, one of the nation's leading experts on the science of loneliness, that suggest the lonely brain is its own worst enemy, seeing social rejection in every interaction -- which sparks a destructive, self-defeating loop.

"Nothing Holy About Agony"

Maybe it's because, at the age of 82, he is thinking more personally about what it means to have a good death. But for whatever reason, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote an article this past weekend in favor of assisted dying, a reversal in his previous position that will no doubt have an impact far beyond his native South Africa.

Fertility Clinics and False Hope

IVF pioneer Lord Robert Winston calls the fertility industry an unregulated "jungle" that makes misleading promises for the sake of the bottom line. And he has some pretty harsh words for egg freezing, too.

Millennial Women and ADHD

I thought of my daughter the other day when I heard the NPR report stating that the biggest surge in new prescriptions for Ritalin and other ADHD drugs has been in those written for young women, aged 19 to 34.

It's Hard to Be a Narcissist in a Recession

The press and some psychologists love ragging on Millennials for their narcissistic tendencies. But the young people I come in contact with aren't especially self-centered, at least not more so than most twentysomethings of previous generations. New research suggests young people might not be so narcissistic after all—especially those who grew up in hard economic times.

Mother's Day Thoughts

One of my worst mothering moments took place in about 1990, when my daughters were 10 and 6. They were very busy all day working on my Mother's Day present in my older daughter's bedroom, and when they finally came downstairs in the late afternoon they were giggly with excitement, eager to give it to me.

Who Wants to Travel Back in Time?

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that 10 percent of Millennials think a time machine would be cool—compared to just 3 percent of people over 65. It brings to mind my own mother, who at 89 has managed a cell phone but has no interest in learning any other modern machinery. She's too busy hanging on for dear life to the here and now.

Is Suicide Ever "Rational"?

Last week, an 89-year-old woman went from her home in Sussex, England, to the clinic in Switzerland run by the group Dignitas, where she could receive a lethal dose of barbiturates. She was not terminally ill, just old and tired of living. Her death raises questions about end-of-life decision-making and the British group known as the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide.

Assisted Suicide Comes to "Girls"

On the season finale of HBO’s “Girls” last month, an ailing photographer named Beadie, played by the inimitable Louise Lasser in a wheelchair, asks Jessa to help her die. It was daring of Lena Dunham, the show’s writer and creator, to introduce this particular plot twist, since assisted suicide is one of the subjects that American television shows steadily avoid.

Mourning Online

Trend stories in The New York Times Sunday Styles section have plenty of problems, but the one last weekend about how this generation of young people is changing how they view death and how they mourn, had one great benefit: it linked to the website Modern Loss. What a website.

How Happiness Changes Over the Lifespan

A new study finds that young people are more likely to focus on the exciting and the new in their recollections or plans for happiness. Older people are more likely to take their happiness in the more mundane.

Imagining the Best Way to Die

The evening after attending a panel discussion on "Confronting Mortality" at the New York Academy of Sciences, I took a tip from one of the speakers, Lani Leary, who had urged us to talk to our families about what they would want at the end of life. She suggested phrasing the question as: "What would be the ideal death FOR YOU?"

What Really Goes on in the Aging Brain?

I had carefully chosen the movie to take my mother to last weekend: subtitled, with a gentle tone and an easy-to-follow yet provocative plot. So I was surprised what she said to me when the movie ended and the lights went on.