The Fountain of Age

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In 1963, Betty Friedan's transcendent work, The Feminine Mystique, changed forever the way women thought about themselves and the way society thought about women. In 1993, with The Fountain of Age, Friedan changes forever the way all of us, men and women, think about ourselves as we grow older and the way society thinks about aging. Struggling to hold on to the illusion of youth, we have denied the reality and evaded the new triumphs of growing older. We have seen age only as decline. In this powerful and very ...
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Overview

In 1963, Betty Friedan's transcendent work, The Feminine Mystique, changed forever the way women thought about themselves and the way society thought about women. In 1993, with The Fountain of Age, Friedan changes forever the way all of us, men and women, think about ourselves as we grow older and the way society thinks about aging. Struggling to hold on to the illusion of youth, we have denied the reality and evaded the new triumphs of growing older. We have seen age only as decline. In this powerful and very personal book, which may prove even more liberating than The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan charts her own voyage of discovery, and that of others, into a different kind of aging. She finds ordinary men and women, moving into their fifties, sixties, seventies, discovering extraordinary new possibilities of intimacy and purpose. In their surprising experiences, Friedan first glimpsed, then embraced, the idea that one can grow and evolve throughout life in a style that dramatically mitigates the expectation of decline and opens the way to a further dimension of "personhood." The Fountain of Age suggests new possibilities for every one of us, all founded on a solid body of startling but little-known scientific evidence. It demolishes those myths that have constrained us for too long and offers compelling alternatives for living one's age as a unique, exuberant time of life, on its own authentic terms. Age as adventure! In these pages, film producers and beauticians, salespersons and college professors, union veterans and business tycoons, former (and forever) housewives, male and female empty-nesters and retirees, have crossed the chasm of age... and kept going. They have found fulfillment beyond career, bonding that transcends youthful dreams of happily-ever-after, and a richer, sweeter intimacy not tied to mechanical measures of sexual activity, but to deep and honest sharing. While gerontologists focus on care, illness, and the concept of age as deterio

Betty Friedan launches a new revolution with this powerful, bestselling book breaking through the American mystique of aging as decline. Through hundreds of interviews, Friedan confronts our denial and demolishes society's compassionate contempt--to offer a vision of what can be embraced.

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Editorial Reviews

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
Unfortunately for readers of "The Fountain of Age," among the qualities in herself to which she has said yes is a prose style that resembles nothing so much as a community bulletin board, full of flabby words like life style, conceptualize, generative, parameters and, as previously mentioned....Worse, the flaccidity of her prose is reflected in the poor organization of her ideas, which are so ramblingly presented that one is shocked awake upon encountering a lucid one. At least half the book could have been cut with a little tightening of the prose and with the removal of a hundred repetitive interviews that somehow fail to inspire...."The Fountain of Age" remains an important, ground-breaking book whose ideas surely deserve to be broadcast and considered, no matter how difficult they are to mine. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This inspiring study of aging from the author of The Feminine Mystique was a six-week PW bestseller. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Friedan tackles the subject of aging with the same candor evident in her earlier critiques of women's roles (e.g., Feminine Mystique , 1963). She offers no quick fixes on how to grow old gracefully in a society that worships youth. Instead, she confronts the reality of aging. This proves to be less frightening and damaging than the denial and cosmetic fix-ups to prolong youth in a culture that places no value on age and provides no role for its elders. Make waves, make new roles, and reclaim old roles, admonishes Friedan. She interweaves the newest research on aging and psychology with her own personal experience of coming to terms with aging. She does not give into stereotypes but instead suggests vital alternatives that acknowledge the need to act one's age in a meaningful way. A true pioneer, she brings to this important topic her wisdom, strength, and courage gained from years of living. This program has something for listeners of all ages. Highly recommended.-- Nancy Paul, Brandon P.L., Wis.
Mary Carroll
"I have never felt so free," Friedan declares at the close of this thoroughly researched but deeply personal study, which challenges the pervasive "age mystique" every bit as profoundly as her landmark "Feminine Mystique" (1963) demolished postwar conventional wisdom about women's lives and hopes. Reluctant to identify with the concept of "old" experienced by most people in our youth-obsessed culture, Friedan audited Harvard courses and served on study groups and commissions, trekked into the wilderness with Outward Bound, and for this study interviewed hundreds of individuals who are confounding mainstream gerontologists' expectations by finding new roles, sources of satisfaction and growth, and vitality in the years past 65. Friedan's perspective is ultimately evolutionary: she insists that humanity's extended life span "has to have some function in the survival of the whole community stretching into the future"; she calls for rethinking traditional notions of youth and age, life and death; and she demands, for the benefit of all, an end to the ghettoization of the old. Friedan's themes are familiar, but because she views the long post-reproductive period as opportunity rather than problem, adventure rather than curse, she establishes a solid intellectual and emotional foundation for enormously powerful social and attitudinal changes. Despite the lukewarm response to "The Second Stage" (1981), Friedan remains highly visible: serial rights to "The Fountain of Age" have been purchased by "Time" and "Good Housekeeping", and the work is a Book-of-the-Month-Club alternate selection and a Quality Paperback Book Club main selection.
Kirkus Reviews
A book that explodes the myths of aging—just as, 30 years ago, Friedan exploded the mirage of the contented housewife. American women's lives changed forever with The Feminine Mystique—and this challenging exploration of aging may do the same for the skyrocketing population of men and women who have hit 60 and can anticipate 20 or 30 more years of living. The problem, Friedan says, is that although only about five percent of people over 65 are in nursing homes and fewer than ten percent ever will be, age is seen—by media, doctors, politicians, academics, even activists on behalf of the aging—as a "problem," a "plight," a time of rapidly decreasing physical and mental faculties. Older people buy into that picture, straining to stay youthful or removing themselves from active participation in society, often by retiring to "leisure" communities, whether or not leisure is what they crave. Friedan produces research studies and anecdotal evidence that the "Third Age" (after growing up and then generating a family and/or career) may be the age of true creativity—even of evolution. She examines the tragedies of productive lives cut short by early retirement; the new myths of menopause; early preparation for death; and anxious overprotectiveness by family, friends, professionals, and government. In fact, the many resourceful older men and women cited here have found ways not only to sustain rewarding lives but to grow intellectually, emotionally, and even physically (Friedan discusses her own Outward Bound experience at age 60). That America's youth-oriented culture puts its elders on a social ice floe at a time when wisdom, experience, and honed critical faculties aremost needed indicates, suggests Friedan, a nation with its priorities sadly skewed. Lengthy and slow to build, but, still, a far-sighted and far- reaching critique that may move the over-60s to reestablish the "priorities of evolving life...and new visions for our stagnant society." (First serial rights to Time and Good Housekeeping)
From the Publisher
"Important and inspiring.... Anyone troubled by fears of aging, of disease, of deteriorating faculties -- or anyone who is trapped in a futile denial of mortality -- will find solace in Friedan's monumental exposure of the 'mystique of aging,' and will perhaps share her sense of liberation in meeting the challenge of the 'third age.'...Encouraging as well as provocative, The Fountain of Age is a groundbreaking book to be read slowly and pondered deeply."
-- Detroit News

"With her usual methodical research and forthright insights, author and feminist Betty Friedan brilliantly challenges the unspeakable.... Friedan dissects the clichés of senility and impairment to reveal a multitude of joys and options that actually exist in the continuum of life she calls the 'Third Age.'"
-- Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671400279
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 9/27/1993
  • Pages: 672

Meet the Author

A founder of NOW and a vanguard leader of the Women's Movement, Betty Friedan was the author of The Feminine Mystique, It Changed My Life, The Second Stage, Beyond Gender, and The Fountain of Age. She taught at Northwestern University, Yale, Temple, Harvard, and USC. She died in 2006.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note 9
Preface 13
1 Denial and the "Problem" of Age 35
2 The Two Faces of Age 71
3 The Youth Short Circuit 104
4 Why Do Women Age Longer and Better Than Men? 133
5 Beyond the Masculinity of Youth 165
6 The Retirement Paradox 191
7 Chosen Human Work 227
8 Intimacy Beyond the Dreams of Youth 254
9 Going Beyond 300
10 Coming into a New Place 331
11 To Move or to Stay? 346
12 At Home in a New Place 381
13 A Paradigm Shift from "Cure" 415
14 Beyond Symptoms and Disease 449
15 The New Menopause Brouhaha 472
16 The Nursing Home Specter 500
17 Dying with Life 538
18 Age as Adventure 571
19 Generativity 613
Notes 639
Index 654
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