A satisfying exploration of how growing older offers significant, rich new experiences.
Applewhite (Cutting Loose: Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well, 1997, etc.), cited by Forbes as one of Forty Women to Watch Over 40, in 2017, argues convincingly that ageism—like racism and sexism—is a form of demeaning prejudice, inaccurately generalizing the experiences of older adults and promoting the idea that old age is repulsive and lonely. Drawing on abundant studies and interviews, she exhorts readers “to wake up to the ageism in and around us, embrace a more nuanced and accurate view of growing older, cheer up, and push back.” Stereotypes of old age—geezer, biddy, codger, etc.—convey negativity. “Those stereotypes,” she writes, “are ours to reject or subvert on the way to more compelling and accurate aspirational identities.” But rejecting such stereotypes should not lead to strategies such as dying hair, applying creams and potions, and taking pills that promise “to erase the trace of time.” Applewhite debunks many prevalent assumptions about aging, including failing memory, weakened physical ability, and overall lack of attractiveness and competence. She notes that forgetfulness “is not Alzheimer’s, or dementia, or even necessarily a sign of cognitive impairment”; rates of dementia are falling, she has discovered, even as the population is aging. Moreover, especially “in the emotional realm, older brains are more resilient,” better able to deal with negative emotions and change. Everyone ages at a different rate, she writes: “There is no line in the sand, no crossover between young and old after which it’s all downhill.” Viewing 60 or 70—or even 40—as the beginning of the end necessarily has an impact on self-image and outlook. Among the author’s suggestions for creating “an all-age-friendly world” are creating increased opportunities for older people to contribute “socially, civically, and economically” to the community; improving research into the biology of aging and the social implications of longevity; and expanding the training of geriatric medical practitioners as well as resources for older learners and workers.
An upbeat, empathetic, and practical guide to becoming “an old person in training.”