In a society where growing older elicits “over the hill” birthday cards, eminent psychotherapist and geriatric expert Lustbader (Univ. of Washington; What’s Worth Knowing, 2004 etc.) unveils the pleasures of aging.
This book germinated during a bus tour in New Zealand, when the author told a group of 18- to 24-year-olds that “these are the worst years of your lives.” Many of the young travelers, depressed and uncertain, were relieved to hear that life gets better after their 20s. Blending memory with pearls of wisdom, Lustbader illustrates the bounties of a life well-lived. Sure, aging brings physical aches and pains, but it also bestows self-acceptance and true self-knowledge. As the body moves closer to death, “the mirage of power and money fades.” In its place comes contentment and a true appreciation for human relationships. Time may ultimately cause loss, writes the author, but “to grieve is to experience a relationship.” Lustbader is quick to caution, however, that aging does not automatically bestow wisdom, as one woman in her late 40s realized after grief caused her to break years of sobriety, an action that culminated in the loss of her job. Further, old age does not stop productivity. At 89, Carmen Herrera sold her first painting. The author also pinpoints the significance of gratitude, generosity and courage with the tale of a 71-year-old woman who, when told she was going blind, hosted a party and gave away her most treasured belongings: her books. To her surprise, friends offered to visit her weekly to read aloud. According to Lustbader, it’s knowing what is meaningful that makes for a peaceful transformation. The key is hope.
Much-needed wisdom about aging.