Golden Years

Golden Years: How Americans Invented and Reinvented Old Age

Hardback Published on: 05/12/2024
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Published 05/12/2024
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The surprising history of old age in modern America, showing how we created unprecedented security for some and painful uncertainty for others

On farms and in factories, Americans once had little choice but to work until death. As the nation prospered, a new idea was born: the right to a dignified and secure old age. That project has benefited millions, but it remains incomplete-and today it's under siege.

In Golden Years, historian James Chappel shows how old age first emerged as a distinct stage of life and how it evolved over the last century, shaped by politicians' choices, activists' demands, medical advancements, and cultural models from utopian novels to The Golden Girls. Only after World War II did government subsidies and employer pensions allow people to retire en masse. Just one generation later, this model crumbled. Older people streamed back into the workforce, and free-market policymakers pushed the burdens of aging back onto older Americans and their families. We now confront an old age mired in contradictions: ever longer lifespans and spiraling health-care costs, 401(k)s and economic precarity, unprecedented opportunity and often disastrous instability.

As the population of older Americans grows, Golden Years urges us to look to the past to better understand old age today-and how it could be better tomorrow.

  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • ISBN: 9781541619524
  • Number of pages: 368
  • Dimensions: 240 x 156 mm

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