One of our most distinguished economists, Sir Alan Peacock, also happens to be a nonagenarian. As an academic and former civil servant he is well-situated to analyse the costs and benefits of retirement and the courses of action that we can take in anticipation of a lengthening lifespan.In trying to make sense of old age by writing of his later life and memoirs, he explores the Maxims of Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, and views life's later stages and travails with a wry and clear-eyed detachment. Unafraid to grasp the realities of the decline of physical independence, he steers us through medical practice, bureaucracy and “healthspeak” as well as loss and bereavement. His often light-hearted anecdotes reveal a serious point, one being that the ageing are assuming a growing responsibility for the aged. Opting to defy decrepitude seems the only sensible course of action.