S4-EP19: Paula Span on Ageism, Journalism, and the Art of Grandparenting

Jun 17, 2022


Debbie talks to veteran journalist and New York Times’ columnist Paula Span about ageism, journalism, legacy, and the art of grandparenting.



Debbie speaks with Paula Span, a veteran journalist and the author since 2009 of the New York Times’ column, The New Old Age. The column explores, as the Times’ puts it, “the unprecedented challenges posed by a rapidly aging population.” 

That’s a pretty broad topic so Paula covers everything from the cost of growing older, to social security for same sex couples, to stubborn aging parents, to the evolving status of medical aid in dying (MAID), formerly known as death with dignity. 

In 2017, after becoming a grandmother, she added a second Times column, Generation Grandparent. She’s adapted those essays for her audiobook “The Bubbe Diaries,” released by Audible in 2021.

She’s also a revered professor of journalism, having taught at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism for over two decades. 

She is the author of “When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions,” published by Hachette.

She and Debbie talk about how she explores the topic of pernicious ageism for the Times – not with personal opinion – but with research and data and expert interviews. Each of her columns gets a huge response with readers leaving as many as 500 comments.  

They talk about her approach to writing as a freelance journalist (always say YES, she tells Debbie, no matter what the assignment is). And they talk about her artful approach to grandparenting. She lives in Montclair, N.J., and travels to Brooklyn once a week to care for her granddaughter.

This is an intriguing behind-the-scenes peek at writing for the Times from a veteran journalist.


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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."