Ted C. Fishman | Harold Washington Library Center, auditorium | Literary Events | Chicago Reader
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Ted C. Fishman 

When: Wed., Nov. 17, 6 p.m. 2010
Fishman presents Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World's Population and How It Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation. In 1900 the average person lived to be 30, and the world was awash in people we’d consider young. Since then the percentage of humans over 65 has exploded, and birthrates are plunging. Our planet’s population is aging at a historically unprecedented rate. An unintended consequence of social policies, economic development, shifting social norms, and medical advances, the phenomenon is reshaping every aspect of our public and personal reality. In accessible, insightful prose, Ted Fishman's Shock of Gray explores the causes and consequences of this massive shift. The book’s scope is vast: Fishman (author of China, Inc.) looks at changing familial and economic roles in China, where by 2050—due in part to the one-child policy—438 million citizens are expected to be over 65. By then 40 percent of Japan’s population should be in the same category thanks to factors ranging from a healthy diet to the easy availability of abortions. In Spain, Europe’s lowest birthrate is drying up towns and producing a vacuum for young immigrant labor to fill. Closer to home, formerly affluent Rockford, Illinois, is struggling to respond to a youth exodus while Sarasota, Florida—where 33 percent of residents are seniors—is finding creative ways to embrace old age. Fishman also travels into the mind, exploring the root of prejudice against the old and the emotional toll of age-induced isolation. He even explores aging on the cellular level, profiling scientists working to engineer it out of existence. —John V. Santore

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