Death wellness

Most likely, you have not seriously contemplated or discussed how you prefer to leave this world. Do you imagine passing away in a medical facility or, like Cersei Lannister, in your own home embraced by a loved one?

If you’ve avoided this macabre topic, you’re not alone: 82% of Americans think it’s important to write down their end-of-life wishes, yet only 23% do so, while nearly 80% say they should talk to their doctor about end-of-life care (only 7% ever do).

So it’s no surprise that although three-quarters of us would prefer to die at home, most end up in a windowless hospital room, attached to tubes and monitors. That’s partially what inspired “death wellness,” which encourages us to not only plan our last days, but talk about the process and support those close to dying.

This “death positive movement” encompasses various initiatives and new roles, such as death doulas who coach those on their deathbed; death cafes which gather the morbidly curious to discuss their fears; and legacy projects that force the dying to communicate their will and essence.

I won’t summarize the whole piece here, but I do want to highlight one aspect I found especially intriguing. In her book Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, author Barbara Ehrenreich argues that one reason Americans avoid dealing with death is because we’re obsessed with wellness and living. (See: biohacking, Silicon Valley’s mission to “overcome death,” etc.)

In a way, by focusing so much on achieving health, we see death as a failure of sorts. Not to mention, our addiction to betterment and medical intervention gives us a false sense of control that makes dying all the more painful and humiliating.

“You can age ‘successfully’ if you do everything that you’re told, and that dying itself [can] be postponed further and further and further away if again you adhere to all the rules of diet, exercise, medical care, etc.,” writes Ehrenreich. “And that’s a cultural illusion, I would say. We do not control our own health completely.”

I wrote about this growing trend for Fast Company’s week-long series The New Business of Growing Old, which examines multiple economies springing up around aging. Do check out other great features on the topic:

The quest to extend women’s fertility to 50
Science is changing pregnancy for women over 40. But many doctors remain cautious about age-related fertility.

Meet the woman leading a sex revolution for seniors
A quarter of all people who are sexually active between ages 75 and 85 reported having sex at least once a week.

See inside a coworking space for seniors
Brooklyn-based nonprofit Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) is on a mission to tackle the ageist narrative that exists in the American workforce.

News:

CVS Pharmacy will now require third-party testing of supplements. Is it enough? The retailer will ensure ingredient safety of supplements and vitamins, but that doesn't mean it will verify product quality or efficacy. (FastCo)

Uber’s new “quiet mode” lets you silence chatty drivers: Good news for those of who use a car ride as a meditative break. (FastCo)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle criticized for plugging pricey “emotional workout”: As one commenter noted, “Is this still a royal family account, or an advertising platform?” (FastCo)

Athleisure sunglasses are a thing now: They’re not those shiny reflective sunglasses that wrap around your face. (FastCo)

Can TV dinners be healthy … and hip? Frozen food startup Mosaic sells vegetarian dinners that look more like Sweetgreen than Hungry-Man Salisbury steaks. (FastCo)

Owner of Schick scoops up millennial razor startup Harry’s: Sold for $1.37 billion! (FastCo)

FDA will begin incorporating more research on pregnant, lactating women: Health officials have long encouraged drug-makers to include all women in clinical trials. Currently, just 4% of all funding for healthcare R&D is spent on women. (STAT)

Does mindfulness in the classroom make for better students? Class Dojo is an app arming middle school teachers with mindfulness lessons to reduce anxiety and treat burnout. (FastCo)

New non-toxic skincare line Versed was built on the insights of 16 million women: Every single product in the 19-item collection costs under $20. (FastCo)

The “health washing” epidemic at grocery stores: Studies show there’s often no correlation between a food label’s claims and the product’s actual nutritional value. (FastCo)

How fitness brands like Peloton and SoulCycle are cashing in on fashion: Capsule collections, collaborations, and major retailer partnerships. (Glossy)

Yoga class while waiting for RX refills: CVS is testing a “health hub” pharmacy concept that offers nutrition counseling, meditation classes, even yoga. (FastCo)

Is Flywheel eyeing a sale? The Peloton competitor has been taken over by a lender and is rumored to be talking to buyers. (Bloomberg)

This countertop device lets you make your own shampoo, cleaning products: “It's like a Soda Stream for personal care products.” (FastCo)

Deeper dives:

After men in Spain got paternity leave, they wanted fewer kids
This is fascinating: “Spending more time with their children—or the prospect of having to do so—may have made men more acutely aware of the effort and costs associated with childrearing, and, as the researchers put it, ‘shifted their preferences from child quantity to quality.’” Basically, if you force a dude to spend a month taking care of kids, he doesn’t want any more kids. (Quartz)

The stem cell-pushers tricking grandma with shaky science
Unproven cellular therapies are a $2 billion global business, with stem cell clinics quickly multiplying. ProPublica takes an in-depth look at the growing, unregulated industry of charlatans selling senior citizens on stem cell miracles, promising to cure everything from arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease. (ProPublica)

The exclusive, $5K-a-year members only club for … kids
The newly opened Wonder features organic diapers, fancy baby lotion, and a stroller detailing station. It’s basically The Wing for children, except here your kid can make Frida Kahlo-inspired flower crowns or attend “workshops” led by kid influencers. But! As the founder stresses, “this is not a daycare,” meaning this is a place you’re supposed to bring your nanny to, or say, spend special time bonding with your child after school. I dunno, this just sounds like a way for wealthy parents to network with their peers. (FastCo)

What self-care looks like for the sandwich generation
“Self-care, my friends remind me. But what is that, anyway? Some days I am so overwhelmed that I want to eat takeout Chinese food while binge-watching Netflix from the couch. Social media posts from my peers are either wine memes or check-ins for spa weekends with massages, personal trainers and mojito-laced brunches. Self-care! the captions exclaim. Mommy needs to unwind! But I don’t know how to unwind; when I try, I unravel.” (Washington Post)

Smartwatches might one day rule your health
Smartwatches can detect steps taken or uninterrupted sleep, but they can also tell when you’re washing dishes, typing, eating--basically everything. Some make the case they might better assist in lifestyle habits: “For instance, your watch could track when and for how long you’re eating for an app that helps you track your calorie intake. Similarly, your watch could remind you to drink more water if it detects you haven’t been drinking very much on a given day.” (FastCo)

How women in tech are mobilizing to improve access to abortion providers
The news coming out of Georgia and Alabama has been truly horrifying for those of us who value a women’s right to choose. A little while back, I profiled the brave women who are bridging the gap in access to safe, affordable abortions through innovative tech solutions. It’s really damn sad (and honestly, pretty gross) that these type of services are necessary, but I’m glad women are fighting back and helping others access the care they so clearly deserve. Right about now is a good time to support these orgs, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. (FastCo)

Quote of the week:

“I made a mistake when I gave my older children phones when they were 13. It ended my relationship with them, really. Not completely, but it became a very, very big part of their lives. They became too inundated with imagery and started to compare themselves to other people, and that’s really bad for self-growth.” -- Madonna (Vogue)

Questions? Comments? Some good gossip? Hit me up at: contactwelltodo@gmail.com