S2-EP10: Dr. Sam Harrington on End-of-Life, Reinvention, and Legacy

Feb 21, 2020


In this episode Debbie and her husband, physician author Sam Harrington, talk about end-of-life and how we can use mindfulness around our own mortality to live better lives. The takeaway is that we can and should reinvent ourselves through challenges and adventures as long as we understand that (for most of us) there are a finite number of healthy years left – once you hit 65.


Debbie brings her husband, Dr. Sam Harrington, back on the show to talk about end-of-life and how that relates to the topic of reinvention.

They talk about the inevitability of being forced to reinvent yourself in the last stage of your life when you gradually become disabled by disease and old age. It’s a reinvention of mindset, if not of action.

It’s also a glass half full vs. glass half empty kind of conversation with Debbie saying, “But Sam, I’m one of those who really doesn’t want to think about the end of life.” And Sam responding, “Well, you have to.” The good news is that you can think about “the hard stop,” as Debbie calls it, in a positive way. If you’ve been following Debbie and Sam’s conversations on the podcast you know that Sam is very practical but also pretty wise.

If this all sounds like doom and gloom, it’s really not. This episode is an affirmation of the time that we have left and how we can use mindfulness around our own mortality to live better lives.

What they talk about:

  • How getting closer to the end-of-life connects to the desire for reinvention that many of us crave
  • Dr. Doom vs. Dr. Look Ahead: becoming more aware of the healthy time we have left is helpful
  • Active reinvention vs reinvention imposed on us as our lives become more limited through the disability of old age
  • Sam’s XYZ options as he looks ahead: both mental & physical challenges
  • Debunking the idea that we’re all living longer and that life expectancy is increasing. Not so, Sam says, if you define “living” as being vibrant and healthy
  • The fear of dependency as you get very old (past 90 or 100)
  • Looking at our parents’ health to get an idea of how we might age
  • The difference between Medical Aid in Dying (MAD) and euthanasia
  • On the topic of legacy: a traditional Jewish saying when someone dies is “May his or her memory be a blessing” (See links below to 75th commemoration of Auschwitz liberation)

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Thanks to our media partners

Encore.org, our newest media partner, is an ideas and innovation hub tapping the talent of those 50+ as a force for good. Founder and CEO Marc Freedman is an award-winning social entrepreneur and author, most recently, of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. Looking for a great gap-year transition program? Check out Encore Fellowships, which match skilled, seasoned professionals with social-sector organizations in high-impact, paid assignments.


Modern Elder Academy is a program dedicated to navigating mid-life transitions. MEA, based in Baja California, Mexico, provides the place and the tools to start reframing your lifetime of experience. Grow whole, not old. Founder Chip Conley is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning hospitality entrepreneur and a rock star of the mid-life transition movement. His newest book is Wisdom @ Work: the Making of a Modern Elder.


Next For Me is an important new resource for the 50+ crowd focused on rewriting life. Taking a gap year or timeout may be the best way to figure out "what's next" when you're in this stage of life. Founder Jeff Tidwell explains, Next For Me "connects and inspires our generation to evolve our post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution."