Several months ago, I read Andrew Solomon's Noonday Demon. In it, he talks about the fact that elderly patients experience more of a placebo effect.
This would suggest that these people are experiencing some benefit from the circumstances around the taking of a placebo, beyond the conventional psychosomatic benefits of believing that one is receiving medication. The monitoring and close interviews that are a part of charting a study, the careful regulation and the focus for the mind, are having a meaningful effect. Old people feel better when more attention is paid to them. The elderly in our society must be horrifyingly lonely for this small response to give them such a lift. (p. 189)
Today, I read this article about the loneliness epidemic in America. And I think that, as the generation that decided to cut all ties that weren't serving them--the Baby Boomers--retire, and reap the whirlwind they sewed with their egotism, we'll see more articles like this.
The fact is, society doesn't work if you only take what helps you and don't create anything that helps anyone else. The store of common resources dwindles and doesn't get replenishment. Soon there are no common resources left. And when those who destroyed the idea of caring for the helpless--whether they be a fetus or a retiree--find themselves helpless and thus uncared for, we'll get more calls for rewriting the rules they created.