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Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World's Population and How It Pits Young against Old, Child against Parent, Worker against Boss, Company against Rival, and Nation against Nation

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The New York Times bestselling author of China, Inc. reports on the astounding economic and political ramifications of an aging world.

The world?s population is rapidly aging?by the year 2030, one billion people will be sixty-five or older. As the ratio of the old to the young grows ever larger, global aging has gone critical: For the first time in history, the number of people over age fifty will be greater than those under age seventeen. Few of us understand the resulting ...

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Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World's Population and How it Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation

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Overview

The New York Times bestselling author of China, Inc. reports on the astounding economic and political ramifications of an aging world.

The world’s population is rapidly aging—by the year 2030, one billion people will be sixty-five or older. As the ratio of the old to the young grows ever larger, global aging has gone critical: For the first time in history, the number of people over age fifty will be greater than those under age seventeen. Few of us understand the resulting massive effects on economies, jobs, and families. Everyone is touched by this issue—parents and children, rich and poor, retirees and workers—and now veteran journalist Ted C. Fishman masterfully and movingly explains how our world is being altered in ways no one ever expected.

What happens when too few young people must support older people? How do shrinking families cope with aging loved ones?

What happens when countries need millions of young workers but lack them? How do companies compete for young workers? Why, exactly, do they shed old workers?

How are entire industries being both created and destroyed by demographic change? How do communities and countries remake themselves for ever-growing populations of older citizens? Who will suffer? Who will benefit?

With vivid and witty reporting from American cities and around the world, and through compelling interviews with families, employers, workers, economists, gerontologists, government officials, health-care professionals, corporate executives, and small business owners, Fishman reveals the astonishing and interconnected effects of global aging, and why nations, cultures, and crucial human relationships are changing in this timely, brilliant, and important read.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Armageddon looms thanks to increasing longevity, according to this fretful jeremiad. Fishman (China, Inc.) visits a number of locales--luxury retirement communities in Sarasota, Fla.; the rust-belt city of Rockford, Ill.; a village in Spain; Beijing--and everywhere finds a skyrocketing population over 65 with attendant problems: soaring medical costs, overwhelmed caretakers and government pension systems, and oldsters who feel sad and neglected. Fishman weaves these findings with all manner of demographic, economic, and cultural discontents, including plummeting birth rates, environmental degradation, underpaid immigrants, American industrial decline, globalization, and outlandish teen fashions. Unfortunately, conflating all this under the rubric of aging's "shockwave" obscures more than it reveals; while focusing on an unsolvable existential predicament--you can't keep people from aging--Fishman avoids investigating solutions to specific problems he raises, which are mainly issues of trade, industrial policy, and economic inequality, not necessarily longevity. (Oct.)
Newcity Lit
The Chicago journalist behind “China, Inc.” is back with an investigation that’s both timely and terrifying. The subtitle—“The Aging of the World’s Population and How it Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation”—says it all. (Though with his characteristic smarts, Fishman says it with a lot more nuance.)
From the Publisher
"Far-reaching and highly relevant...[with] a fast pace, global scope and jaw-dropping facts...Fishman has a keen ear...and he motors enjoyably through a huge quantity of date and anecdotes, sending out provocative flares along the way." -New York Times Book Review

"Readers should consider its messages and economic implications. What do we really want for ourselves, as individuals and a nation, as we age....The true mission of "Shock of Gray" is a...call to confront the demographic drama now unfolding in many middle- and high-income countries, not to proffer solutions." -Los Angeles Times

“Who would’ve thought that America’s aging population has spurred globalization? Ted Fishman’s exciting book–a series of stories really–knocked me off balance as I learned what’s in store for us as the world’s populace grows older and older. The observations in Shock of Gray are not just revelatory but profound.” -Alex Kotlowitz

"In 20 years, there will be 1 billion people over the age of 65, and China Inc.'s Ted Fishman has found the current examples that, along with an inexhaustible supply of demographic trends, illustrate the knotty-and at times terrifying-issues of global aging that await us. A must-read for young and old alike." - Fast Company

"The Chicago journalist behind China, Inc. is back with an investigation that’s both timely and terrifying. The subtitle—“The Aging of the World’s Population and How it Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation”—says it all. (Though with his characteristic smarts, Fishman says it with a lot more nuance.)" -NewCityLit.com

Kirkus Reviews

Journalist Fishman (China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World, 2006) takes a sober, in-depth look at the challenge of providing for an aging population.

By artfully juxtaposing anecdotal evidence of the lucky ones who have "cheated at the actuarial tables"—e.g., his 80-something mother who dances at swinging parties, and youthful 75-year-old retirees living it up in Florida, "God's Waiting Room"—with the dependent elderly unable to care for themselves, the author makes a convincing case that we must be prepared to pay a significant price for the increased longevity of the world's population. While not denying that a healthy lifestyle is an important factor in allowing an increasing number of people to enjoy an active life into their 70s and beyond, Fishman sees the extension of longevity as a problematic global phenomenon, primarily the result of abundant and reliable food, improved public-health measures and more accessible and effective antibiotics. An unintended consequence of a longer-lived population is the increase of the frail elderly, who will place an increasing burden on younger people who make up the workforce and who will be called upon as caregivers. While Europeans enjoy the benefit of early retirement and are reluctant to extend their working years, Americans over 55 are having increasing difficulty finding employment. At the same time, more women work outside the home, marry at a later age and are giving birth to fewer children. One answer would be for more older people to continue working, but under the pressures of globalization, Fishman sees the opposite tendency. Companies are driven by global competition to jettison older, higher-paid workers in order to drive down wages while lower-paid women are encouraged to join the workforce without adequate provision for childcare.

A timely wake-up call.

Alexandra Harney
…far-reaching and highly relevant to the current debate about the American economy. Shock of Gray grew out of the research for Fishman's first book, China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World, and the two books share a fast pace, global scope and jaw-dropping facts…Fishman has a keen ear for witticisms…that helps him keep an otherwise wonky subject vital. And he motors enjoyably through a huge quantity of data and anecdotes, sending out provocative flares along the way.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416551027
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 10/19/2010
  • Pages: 401
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Fishman is a seasoned financial and economic journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Money, Harper’s, Esquire, USA TODAY, and GQ. He is featured frequently on many of the world’s premiere broadcast news outlets. A Princeton graduate, Fishman is also a former floor trader and member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he ran his own derivatives arbitrage firm. He lives in Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Gray New World 1

1 Greetings from Florida, God's Waiting Room 19

2 A Brief History of Living Much Longer 64

3 Señor Moment: Spain's Discovery of Age 78

4 How We (Really) Do (Continuously) Age 120

5 Japan, Land of the Missing Son 144

6 Cheating Death, One Molecule at a Time 188

7 The Twisting Fates of the Screw Capital: Rockford, Illinois 209

8 Vulnerable, Cherished, Frail, Kind, Bothersome, Sweet, Expensive, Wise, Lonely, and Irrelevant: How Do We See the Elderly" 270

9 China: Will It Grow Old Before It Grows Rich" 294

10 Generations at the Table 340

Acknowledgments 361

Notes 369

Index 387

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 29, 2011

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    Thought-provoking look at the graying of the planet

    If age is just a number, then that number is about to present enormous global consequences in the next few decades. So says veteran journalist Ted C. Fishman in his around-the-world study of how an aging planetary population will affect all aspects of society, including business, government and family life. Fishman's in-depth study leans heavily on stories, anecdotes and conversations, backed by extensive statistics and impressive academic research. His tales are as entertaining as they are illuminating, pointing out the contradictions, foibles and hard realities of life lived on a graying globe. getAbstract highly recommends Fishman's all-encompassing look at old age - not just to older people or the middle-aged, but also to members of younger demographics, who are about to embark on an unprecedented journey with their elders into the future.

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  • Posted November 2, 2010

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    An Eye Opener

    A fascinating look at the aging of our world. The implications are farther reaching than you could possibly imagine. I learned a lot,an excellent read.

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