Death isn’t the enemy in this carefully curated collection of essays, which paints the aging process as an opportunity for self-discovery, acceptance, and growth.
Although the 19 authors here acknowledge the physical and sometimes mental decline faced by seniors, the purpose of this volume is to share strategies for making the aging process—despite those challenges—“as pleasant and fulfilling as possible.” Contributors include a yoga instructor, hospice chaplain, attorney, and several therapists and psychologists. Their essays feature personal stories about picking a retirement home, crafting an ethical will, and navigating the health care system. Despite the varied topics, one refrain echoes throughout the book: seniors and their caregivers can’t control many aspects of the aging process, but they can choose the attitude with which they’ll approach their final years. In the words of one essayist: “aging people work with changes or are conquered by changes.” Although advice is offered, the book (first published in 2009, with a second edition released in 2015) eschews the simple directives found in many senior-living manuals. There are no checklists, no tips or tricks related to advance directives or medication management. Instead, the collection invites seniors to reflect on the days ahead and ponder avenues for purposeful living after retirement. “Aging can afford us time to explore the deeper values that have guided us in our lives,” writes one author. “Time to re-new, re-tool or re-fine our values and perhaps pass them along to others who follow.” Several of the writers cite Buddhist tenets in their pieces, yet adherence to that (or any) faith is not necessary to appreciate this common-sense approach to aging. A couple of the essays tiptoe dangerously close to navel-gazing territory, but the collection as a whole remains upbeat and accessible. Essays sprinkled with intimate anecdotes bring a long-deserved dose of humanity to a topic that’s all too often avoided or ignored.
A meditation on aging for those who see the final years as an opportunity for personal development and joy.