That I became interested in old age during my thirties I owe to my father-in-law. Not long after I married his daughter, while we were still in our twenties, he began asking us, “How are you going to take care of me when I get old?”

I disliked the question. It seemed awfully personal, and the time when he would need to be taken care of seemed impossibly remote. I avoided any very specific answer—largely because I didn’t have any specific answer. Old age was something I did not want to think about, at least not so personally and practically.

He kept on asking, though, persistently and almost belligerently. Years went by, and I was still dodging him. Eventually, though, he brought me to an arresting conclusion: It was a fair question. He was going to get old, as were my own parents, and I had no idea what would be required. All I had was a certain amount of fear, and a good deal of avoidance. I started asking my friends what they thought and found them no help. I decided to get some answers and share them—I am a writer, after all—by writing a book, a book about old age and its impact on families.

I approached the subject by immersing myself in the extensive literature on aging: medical, sociological, financial, and theological. I also interviewed many older people and their families, asking about the joys and struggles of their lives. (These were often poignant and moving.) For several years, while researching and writing, I “thought old” more or less continuously.

As Our Years Increase came out and made a splash that has been felt all the way from here to my neighbor’s front step. Since the book’s publication, I am no longer reading, talking, and thinking continuously about old age. But what I learned about old age affected my ...

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