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HOW WE AGE by Marc Agronin


A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Growing Old

by Marc Agronin

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-306-81853-0
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong

A geriatric psychiatrist endeavors to provide “a more balanced perspective on aging.”

Drawing on personal and professional experience, Agronin (Therapy with Older Clients, 2010, etc.) writes that “love can be an endlessly blossoming flower, felt and expressed in hundreds of ways.” Patients suffering from memory loss can experience profound new relationships even though they no longer recognize their own relatives, and paging through a scrapbook or listening to old songs can evoke joy even if the memories are buried. Although memory retrieval and other cognitive functions tend to slow with age, the accumulation of training and experience appears to enhance intuition and the ability to make sounder snap judgments. The author describes several instances in which a negative view of aging caused doctors and nurses to have serious lapses of judgment. In one case, an 84-year-old man who had been living independently showed sudden signs of dementia and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. On Agronin's insistence, he was given a CT scan, and it was discovered that he had an operable benign brain tumor. Another time, an elderly resident who had blurred vision complained in a distraught manner that her room was infested with large bugs. A nurse thought this was an instance of dementia and asked that she be tranquilized, but Agronin checked out her room and found ants that the patient hadn’t seen clearly. Throughout the book, the author gives examples of the difficulty of treating aging patients who suffer from cognitive problems as well as psychotic episodes. His successes, won through hope, faith and perseverance, have brought him joy and the conviction that the greatest affirmation of our humanity comes from caring for the sick and the weak.

A successful explication of how “aging equals vitality, wisdom, creativity, spirit, and, ultimately, hope.”