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Helen Smith

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August 10, 2011 - 10:24 am

The New York Time’s opinion page has one of those Onion-like titles that really makes you shake your head just hoping it’s a parody: “Is America Ready for More Old Men?” (via Instapundit):

A recent Times article noted that the number of men age 65 and older increased by 21 percent from 2000 to 2010, nearly double the 11.2 percent growth rate for women in that age group.

What are the implications — the benefits and the costs — of having more men around longer? While most experts say it may be only a blip, some demographers say that a surprisingly rapid rise in the number of men could cost society even more in retirement costs, since they earned more than women and would collect more, and they would add to the long-term care problem.

But it’s not a parody, it’s dead serious and a bunch of “experts” pose a debate about how men dying as quickly and efficiently without bothering women is the best outcome–oops, I mean the debate asks, “How might this narrowing gap change society and male-female relationships?”

Opinions seemed to focus much on the negative aspects of men’s longer life on women. For example Stephanie Coontz, author of A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s says ” …. a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage might not find her husband’s extended lifespan very beneficial. Among unhappy couples, even a few extra minutes a day with one’s spouse raises blood pressure and lowers immune functioning. So imagine the toll that extra years can take.”

Another paragon of compassion, Susan Jacoby, author of Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age seems to think men’s sole purpose in life is to care for women. The man’s death is a “price to be be paid by a woman.” His life is not important in and of itself. Only women seem to have that autonomy. She says, “When a husband dies, the price for women — and society — is both economic and emotional. Women will likely face their closing, sickest years without a partner to help care for them. That’s one reason nursing home residents are overwhelmingly female.” Note no mention of the huge cost to keep women in nursing homes. Most older men are dead. I guess this is better in her mind.

As they say, living well is the best revenge. If I were male, I would strive to live as long as I could and collect as much of the Social Security benefits and other entitlements as possible. After all, men in the past have been putting into the system for years only to die and give their benefits up–usually to older women. Now perhaps the tables are turning and more men will be collecting. It’s only fair.

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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