Elderhood: "If we don't have policies and opportunities for this big stage of life, we're wasting it"

Anyone with even a passing interest in longevity, the healthcare crisis, and the cultural context of ageing has heard of my guest, American geriatrician Louise Aronson.

Her groundbreaking book Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining LIfe was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist the day before we spoke.  It was already a New York Times best-seller, praised as a landmark work laying bare the structural faults of society and healthcare systems that fail the old.

Dr Aronson teaches medicine at the University of California in her home town of San Francisco, where she makes house calls alongside her hospital work.

We talk about her writing, why we need to embrace elderhood as a life stage as we do childhood and adulthood, why ‘elder’ is the perfect replacement for ‘older adult’, the “self-defeating hypocrisy” of ageism – exposed anew in the response to the COVID-19 crisis – and how COVID-19 infection can present differently in elders.


“How we treat older people tells us almost everything we need to know about what’s wrong with modern health care.”


“We’ve set up a health system that recognises kids and adults and not elders. We’ve also set up a health system that really values technology but not people. And it’s all part of this larger change that’s harming medicine, old people, health care and society.”


“We so often think that the only life that has value is the optimal one and that’s insane because it means 99.98 % of us are losers the whole time.”


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