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Book and Media Reviews
September 2, 2009

Health at Older Ages: The Causes and Consequences of Declining Disability Among the Elderly

JAMA. 2009;302(9):1005-1006. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1292

Since 1980, when James Fries published his seminal work on the squaring of mortality and compression of morbidity, a garrulous gaggle of geriatricians and gerontologists has been divided into 2 opposing intellectual camps. The optimists welcome the news that the best of all possible worlds is now here and that things are only going to get even better. They aver that via a simple strategy of eating a healthy diet, breathing in a smoke-free environment, and participating in regular exercise—not to mention enjoying a high educational attainment, along with a dollop of money—all can live to a healthy and ripe old age. Living in this way, one could expect to drop dead in excellent health shortly after reaching the 120-year mark.