Renata Singer reviews 'Advanced Australia: The politics of ageing' by Mark Butler

Even before I'd finished talking, hands shot up from the grey heads in the audience. 'I'm very concerned,' said the jowly chap with the sailor's suntan, 'that advances being made in drugs mean that most cancer patients will soon be kept alive indefinitely.' That's a problem? People who used to suffer and die will be able to live longer, quality lives. You don't hear this said about the advances in care for the HIV positive.

Welcome to discussions about the ageing population. Be prepared for the 'tsunami' of old people inundating the continent, the time bomb of the cost of their care, the crushing burden of meeting their needs. Opening Mark Butler's Advanced Australia, I was prepared for doom, gloom, and mega-blaming, but the author is not of that school. His book 'attempts to bring a more positive perspective to the process of population ageing'. Like the World Health Organization, Butler celebrates as 'one of humanity's greatest triumphs' the thirty years added to the average Australian's lifespan over the past century.

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