STARRED REVIEW
May 2016

A baby boomer’s outlook on aging

By Michael Kinsley
In 1993, then-42-year-old Michael Kinsley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Now, through the lens of that experience, the former editor of The New Republic, serving as a “scout from my generation,” offers his 79 million fellow baby boomers a clear-eyed glimpse of the decline that may lie ahead, while urging them to take stock of what they’ll leave behind when life’s clock inevitably runs out.
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In 1993, then-42-year-old Michael Kinsley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Now, through the lens of that experience, the former editor of The New Republic, serving as a “scout from my generation,” offers his 79 million fellow baby boomers a clear-eyed glimpse of the decline that may lie ahead, while urging them to take stock of what they’ll leave behind when life’s clock inevitably runs out. 

Despite the bad fortune of its early onset, Kinsley’s Parkinson’s has been relatively mild. It wasn’t until 2002 that he publicly disclosed his disease, seven years after he left his position as co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire.” He underwent a deep-brain stimulation procedure in 2006 that has slowed the advance of his symptoms. But as he reveals in his wry account of a recent battery of cognitive tests, his decline, however measured, is perceptible.

Citing the estimated 28 million baby boomers who are expected to develop Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder, Kinsley points to the “tsunami of dementia” about to afflict this cohort. For a generation that will be remembered for its ambition and competitiveness, he argues, this slowly dawning, frightening knowledge is likely to spark a round of “competitive cognition,” where “whoever dies with more of their marbles” is considered the ultimate victor in the game of life.

Kinsley concludes Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide with a plea to his fellow boomers to make a grand gesture that would be the moral equivalent of the Greatest Generation’s triumph over Hitler: a self-imposed tax on the massive transfer of wealth they’re currently enjoying to help whittle down America’s mountain of debt. It’s a bold, if not entirely realistic, proposal from someone who understands, and has communicated here with candor and characteristic wit, the daunting challenge facing his contemporaries as they contemplate life’s final act.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Old Age

Old Age

By Michael Kinsley
Tim Duggan
ISBN 9781101903766

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