If you go on Amazon and search “books on aging,” here’s what comes up on the first page: 1-12 of 36,281 results. Of the 12 listed, I own/have read/will be reading five of them; three are on the list I mentioned at last Friday’s Cathedral Counseling Center presentation.
If you keep going on Amazon’s list, you'll find on pages 2-5 lots of “anti”-aging titles, my favorite being The Aging Cure: Reverse 10 years in one week with the FAT-MELTING CARB SWAP, by Jorge Cruise. (And btw, those CAPS aren’t my idea; they’re part of the title.)
And while I'm all for staying healthy as we age, my favored books on the topic are, not surprisingly, heavy on the arts and humanities. Here's a very brief number of those, some with accompanying notes:
1. Roman philosopher Cicero’s treatise, On Old Age (65 BCE)
2. Travel with Epicurus: A Journey To A Greek Island In Search Of A Fulfilled Life, Daniel Klein (2012)
(The co-author of Plato and a Platypus describes how he journeyed to Greece with a suitcase full of philosophy books in order to learn how to achieve a fulfilling old age, explaining how he came to regard old age as a valuable life stage filled with simple and heady pleasures.)
3. The Gift of Years, Joan Chittister
4. The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty, Carolyn Heilbrun
5. A Time To Be In Earnest, PD James
(The title is from Samuel Johnson's admonition that 77 is the time, i.e., the age, to be in earnest.)
6. Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older & Wiser (2012)
7. Lastingness: the Art of Old Age, Nicholas Delbanco (2012)
("In LASTINGNESS, Nicholas Delbanco, one of America's most celebrated men of letters, profiles great geniuses in the fields of visual art, literature, and music-Monet, Verdi, O'Keeffe, Yeats, among others - searching for the answers to why some artists' work diminishes with age, while others' reaches its peak. Both an intellectual inquiry into the essence of aging and creativity and a personal journey of discovery, this is a brilliant exploration of what determines what one needs to do to keep the habits of creation and achievement alive.")
8. The Power of Experience: Great Writers over 50 on the Quest for a Lifetime of Meaning, Jeremy James (ed.)
9. The Art of Growing Older: Writers on Living & Aging, Wayne Booth (ed)
10. Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Aging: A New Approach to Embracing Life after 50, 2013
Gurian divides the post-50 years into three stages, his Stages of Age, based on what he calls scientific and spiritual evidence):
Age of Transformation, approx. 50 – approx. 65
Age of Distinction, approx. 65 – late 70’s
Age of Completion, approx. 80 – 100 and beyond
He then goes on to describe the elements of each age.
11. Finally, the novel Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, which won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2009.
Here’s an excerpt from the last page, where the title (and aging) character is bedding down with a new man in her life:
“What young people didn’t know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly, as if were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn’t choose it.”
Please note: As I do every year, I’m offering a “holiday special” on one-on-one coaching, in both writing and journal writing. If purchased by December 31, 2014, the hourly fee is $75, and sessions can be used through December 31, 2015. Email me at email@example.com for more info.