Soon after my 50th birthday, 10 years ago, I started keeping a list of “Things I will do/things I won’t do when I get old.”
It was a highly judgmental, and super secret, accounting of all the things I thought my parents were doing wrong. My dad lied chronically about taking his meds. He refused to get a hearing aid, telling others to “up their audio” (he had been a television producer). My mom smoked behind my back (she thought) until the day she was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was all too easy to call them out, and I recognized over and over just how awful it is to become feeble, sick and increasingly absent-minded, or worse.
Over the next decade I accumulated many pages of dos and don’ts, even as I fretted about exactly when I’d be old enough to start following my own advice.
What my research participant made clear to me that day is that the lack of robust and accessible social programs for long-term care is merely a...