What’s the best way to develop a healthy perspective on old age? Spend more time with elderly people and discover what brings meaning and pleasure to their twilight years despite the losses, both physical and social, they may have suffered.
That’s what two authors of inspired and inspiring books about aging discovered and, happily, have taken the trouble to share with those of us likely to join the ranks of the “oldest old” in the not-too-distant future. Actually, the wisdom therein might be equally valuable for young and middle-aged adults who may dread getting old. To their detriment, some may even avoid interacting with old people lest their “disease” rub off on them.
Too many in our youth-focused culture currently regard the elderly with fear or disdain and consider them costly consumers of resources with little to offer in return. Given the explosive pace of technology that often befuddles the elderly, they command little or no respect for the repository of wisdom that was once cherished by the young (and still is in some traditional societies).
The first book I read was “The End of Old Age” by Dr. Marc E. Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist at the Miami Jewish Home whose decades of caring for the aged have taught him that it is possible to maintain purpose and meaning in life even in the face of significant disease and disability, impaired mental and physical functioning and limited participation in activities.
The second book, “Happiness Is a Choice You Make,” was written by John Leland, a reporter for The New York Times who spent a year interviewing and learning from six of the city’s “oldest old” residents — people 85 and above — from diverse cultures, backgrounds and life experiences.
Read more at The New York Times.