Summertime and the Reading is Easy
Hello, Summer! July is a time when many of us are making plans to take a vacation, a “staycation”, and/or enjoy some holiday breaks. If you are like me, you love to read while traveling, relaxing at the beach, and between activities.
There are several recent releases that won’t disappoint, especially if you are in the mood for nonfiction. The books below provide honest, evidence-based insights, encouragement, and fresh perspectives on evergreen topics such as aging, ageism, elderhood, health, and well-being. Each book provides some level of reframing, redefining, and reimagining that counters common myths about aging. And couldn’t we all use a little extra education and encouragement?
Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimaging Life by Louise Aronson
Dr. Aronson’s “Author’s Note” states: “This began as an old age book, and then became more than that, including a book about medicine and what it means to be a human being.”
Based on insights from her medical practice, and supported by research and the stories of others, this San Francisco-based geriatrician and educator addresses, head-on, the myths about aging and ageism in medical practice and challenges the assumption that aging is negative. In a recent interview on CBS This Morning, she reflected on one of the most common myths: that reaching old age—generally defined as starting between 60 and 70 years old—“is horrible.”
“In studies, they find consistently that older people are happier than [younger] adults,” Aronson said, adding “you begin to get happier in your late 50s, and then you become happier still, and the happiest times of life are in the 60s, 70s, and early 80s.” This book is a welcome affirmation of how positive, productive, and enjoyable aging is and can be. It is also a wake-up call to how our systems and institutions are failing us as we age and how it needs to change to better support our future as aging “human being[s].”
Dr. Powell doesn’t sugarcoat or ignore the difficulties of dementia; however, she understands, through the experiences of supporting both her grandmother and mother, both of whom lived with Alzheimer’s, that there is still a lot of living to be done. And that there is time for creative engagement, artistic pursuits, doing the things you’ve always loved, and lots of joy, in spite of the diagnosis. She’s frank about the costs, the demands, and how our systems are not structured to support us adequately as we age, especially with dementia. But she is also one to offer ideas, solutions, and examples of organizations and people doing amazing things to change that. She concludes Dementia Reimagined with the assumption that she will eventually develop Alzheimer’s and maps out what she would like that to look like: music, family, friends, and lots of books. It’s not all doom and gloom. Education and preparation are key, and this book can help us and our loved ones anticipate what’s ahead and thoughtfully prepare.
As Pipher points out through the many vignettes in Women Rowing North, women need encouragement and guidance as we transition from middle age to old age. Sometimes life’s “currents” don’t allow room for self-care, personal growth, or pursuit of interests. She helps us pause, carve out space, take a deep breath, and sally forth. Flourishing as we age is defined differently for each of us. “If we can keep our wits about us, think clearly, and manage our emotions skillfully,” Pipher writes, “we will experience a joyous time of our lives. If we have planned carefully and packed properly, if we have good maps and guides, the journey can be transcendent.” The Library Journal predicts Women Rowing North will become “the bible of baby boomer women.”
Enlightened Aging: Building Resilience for a Long, Active Life by Dr. Eric B. Larson and Joan DeClaire
Eric B. Larson’s name may be familiar to many of you, as he’s been a local researcher in the science of healthy aging and primary care physician for many years. Since 1986, he’s led a large longitudinal research program focused on delaying and preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Larson’s co-author, Joan DeClaire, is a journalist specializing in health, psychology, and family relationships. Together, they’ve assembled a compelling read drawn from Larson’s experience with study participants. Enlightened Aging is a road map to building and maintaining good physical, emotional, social and mental health as we age. It’s never too late to start!
This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite
Applewhite starts her Manifesto with a confession—she too was once ageist and bought into our youth-obsessed culture’s thinking about aging: wrinkles are to be “erased,” gray hair should be colored, and aging is nothing but despair. This Chair Rocks explores the roots of this age prejudice and debunks the myths about growing older. Her call to action is refreshingly honest and well-researched and offers relevant and timely insights for everyone. I promise you’ll walk away from the book wanting age discrimination for all ages to be a thing of the past and for everyone to approach life what an all-age-friendly perspective.
Summer Reading Programs
King County Library System offers a summer reading program for all ages! Click here to get started on tracking your reading time, register for prizes, and to explore events offered at different libraries throughout the summer.
The Seattle Public Library offers several summer reading programs, including Book Bingo for adults. Go for a total blackout! Win prizes!
For more summer reading suggestions, visit The New York Times Summer Reading list, which contains 75 suggestions—the “latest and greatest books to keep you company as temperatures climb and days grow longer.” Divided by categories, you’ll find Thrillers, Travel, Sports, True Crime, Music, Horror, Historical Fiction, Cooking, and The Great Outdoors.
You may enjoy recorded interviews and presentations with some of the authors whose books are referenced above:
- Elderhood: Podcast with Louise Aronson (courtesy of GeriPal.org, a Geriatrics and Palliative Care Blog)
- ‘Dementia Reimagined’ Asks: Can There Be Happiness For Those With Memory Loss? (interview of Tia Powell, courtesy of NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Rose)
- Aging Offers Women ‘Enormous Possibilities For Growth,’ Says Author (interview of Mary Pipher, courtesy of NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Rose)
- Let’s end ageism (Ashton Applewhite’s TED Talk)
Contributor Keri Pollock directs marketing and communications for Aging Wisdom. Pollock serves on the Age Friendly Coalition for Seattle and King County, the Frye Art Museum Creative Aging Programs Advisory Committee, and the Alzheimer’s Association Discovery Conference planning committee.
This article originally appeared in AgeWise King County (July 2019).