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

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.

Who Succeeds, Who Stays in the Background?

The background singers in the film "20 Feet From Stardom" were amazing singers, and a couple of them wanted to break out from the background and become solo successes. They made some recordings, gave some concerts, appeared on some TV shows — and then, almost to a woman, they flamed out. Why?

No More Generation Gap? Dream On

Do Baby Boomers get along with our kids better than our parents got along with us? Most of us seem to think so. But most of us would probably be wrong.

Young Americans Are Sicker Than Ever

A sobering article on the Atlantic web site suggests that this generation of young people are encountering more chronic illnesses, at younger ages, than at any time in recent history. This increase in morbidity and mortality among the young holds true even for young people who are college-educated and upper-class.

Tired of Living?

A few years ago at the fish counter at a grocery store in Delaware, I stood next to an elderly woman who surveyed the fish with irritation, muttering to herself. Finally she couldn't take it anymore. "But I've already TASTED all of these," she wailed—a poignant complaint coming from somewhere deep inside a woman who knew the pain of having lived too long.

Bright Light, Tunnel, Life Review

Things got a bit testy at the the New York Academy of Sciences last week, as scientists debated whether near-death experiences exist and what they might teach about the process of dying -- and about the possibility of coming back from death.

What Do You Regret?

Regret is a bitter emotion, so painful that the urge to avoid it often drives decision-making strategies. Regret avoidance can be a reason to forestall any kind of commitment—to a job, a girlfriend, a religion, a place to live—out of fear that you’ll want to revisit one of those options the instant it disappears.

Growing Minority Think Doctors Should Always Do Everything

I was a bit surprised by the findings of the Pew Research Center, which reported today that the majority of Americans believe there is a time when doctors should cease their high-tech heroics at the end of life. The surprise: that the minority who think doctors should do everything to save a person's life, no matter what, under any circumstances, is actually growing.

Dying Amidst the Life-Prolonging Machinery

A panel discussion of issues raised the aging of our population and life extension via technology -- the high cost of end-of-life care, the ins and outs of hospice and palliative care, whether to allow physicians to help terminally ill people die when they choose to -- are all, while crucial and getting more so, kind of familar. Is there a new way of thinking about it?

Delicate Mother-Daughter Subjects: Don't Talk, Write!

Today is the publication date for the paperback edition of "Twentysomething," the book I wrote with my daughter Samantha Henig. To celebrate its release, I'd like to print an on-stage dialogue Sam and I performed last February as part of the wonderful storytelling series called Story Collider.

How to Age Five Years in Five Minutes

Being reminded that you're old and expected to be forgetful turns out to be a surefire way to make you actually FEEL old, according to a study from Texas A&M.

Rethinking the Permanence of Death

At a recent lecture called "Reversing Death," panelists were making a pitch for doing a better job of reviving people who seem to flatline: doing CPR for longer (measured in hours, not minutes), monitoring how chest compressions are done, and, most important, cooling the sort-of-dead person in order to preserve brain function.

The Three C's of Parenting Adult Children

A new book about parenting young adult children, "Parents to the End," views parenthood as an evolutionary process characterized by The Three C's. The author, Linda Herman, also says there should be a Bill of Rights for parents of 20-somethings that includes the right to peace of mind, the right to be imperfect, the right to be free from guilt, and the right to say "no."

The Dark Side of Fertility Treatments

The evening in New York City last week was billed as the start of a new movement, one sparked by infertile patients trying to give voice to the dark side of fertility treatments. "We want to make infertility an honored subject, free of stigma," said Irina Vodar, a documentary filmmaker now working on "The Cycle: Living a Taboo" about her own life on the IVF treadmill.

Pages