LOVING LATER LIFE: An Ethics of Aging. By Frits de Lange. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2015. X + 159 pages.
Although the young continue to set the trends and advertisers (and media) target the 18-35 demographic, the population in the developed world, including the United States, is aging. The largest generation ever is retiring at rapid pace and will like live for several decades past retirement. These new retirees and those following on their heels (myself included) are likely the parents of that preferred generational target. We are aging for two reasons—birth rates are down and we live longer than ever before. If you’ve visited a mainline Protestant or a Catholic Church, you will likely notice many people with gray hair, many of whom are over 80. This growing demographic of aging Americans will likely spend at least a decade or more attempting to remain in control of their own destiny and enjoying as much of life as their bodies and minds will allow. This is mostly true of the younger elderly (65-85), but those entering the oldest cohort of the elderly will face increasing challenges and decline both physically and mentally. For this cohort, control of one’s own life becomes increasingly problematic and thus one becomes increasingly dependent on others.
As a pastor of a mainline Protestant congregation I am called upon to minister to and with a significant cohort of elderly parishioners. I watch as they seek to maintain agency in life, and for some the challenges that age produces. Even as I minister to/with them I have become increasingly aware of my own aging status. I am within a decade of reaching retirement age myself, even as my mother and father-in-law move into what author Frits de Lange refers to as the Fourth Age (the oldest cohort of the elderly).