“Overlooking the Frail Years” with Binary Thinking

This post to the “New Old Age” blog of The New York Times (nytimes.com) mentions the case of one healthy 75-year-old who seems willing to consider his death but not willing to consider being sick. Here’s an excerpt:

“This kind of binary thinking — either I’m healthy and fine, or I’m outta here — and the reluctance to look at the frailty likely to occur in between seem to me quite common. Yet most elderly Americans – more than two-thirds of current 65-year-olds, according to a detailed 2005 projection by a team of health policy analysts — at some point will need assistance to cope with daily living, either paid help or unpaid, at home or in a facility. … But this unwillingness to contemplate that possibility can have unhappy consequences, Dr. Gillick pointed out. It can lead fragile older people to undergo aggressive medical treatments they may later regret, for instance, especially when their physicians also engage in binary thinking, or at least binary explanations.”

Here’s a link to the full article:

Overlooking the Frail Years
By Paula Span
The New York Times
January 1, 2010, 3:27 pm