In Defense of Living Until Ninety

Dr. George Vaillant, long-time director of the Harvard Grant Study of human
development, wrote a critical commentary on Ezekiel Emanuel’s much-discussed
article asserting that he planned not live beyond age 75. Vaillant has a different
point of view:

“For myself, once frightened of aging, I retired at 72, turning the directorship
of the Harvard Study over to a younger and more vigorous (at least in Dr. Emanuel’s
sense) successor. But I still tend to the Study thirty hours a week. I remarried at 76.
Now 80, happily married, I hang out with my children and grandchildren. To my
chagrin I must admit that I may be more engaged with my children now than I was
‘at the height of my powers.’ It’s true I walk, talk and think more slowly than I used
to. I don’t hike in the White Mountains anymore and I’ve never used a smart phone.
But I walk, I write. I’m not obsessed with staying young; instead I’m happy to be 80,
and I look forward to 90. If arthritis and a dicey memory are the price I pay for the joy
of attending my granddaughters’ weddings, so be it.”

(Extract from a full article published in the Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin)
See also the book by George Vaillant, TRIUMPHS OF EXPERIENCE (Harvard University Press, 2012).

Reprinted courtesy of H. R. Moody, “Human Values in Aging” Newsletter

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