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Kendal at Oberlin Blog

Good Reads: Latest Books on Aging

Posted by Molly Kavanaugh on Feb 22, 2018 9:30:00 AM

latest books on agingNo surprise, the market for books about older adults is big and growing.  

Consider the potential audience, given these statistics from the Population Reference Bureau:

  • The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million in 2016 to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent
  • The older population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse
  • Older adults are working longer, and their educational levels are increasing
  • The aging of the baby boom generation could fuel a 75 percent increase in the number of Americans ages 65 and older requiring nursing home care, and demand for elder care will also be fueled by a steep rise in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease

Add this impressive number from Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of the MIT AgeLab:  the growing older market is worth about $8 trillion in the United States alone and climbing.

Let’s explore a handful of books published in the past year or so, starting with Coughlin’s The Longevity Economy:  Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market.

Don’t Typecast Older Consumers, Especially Women

As the older population expands and grows increasingly diverse, businesses need to pay attention, Coughlin argues.

“Products for older people tend to reflect an arbitrary, outdated narrative of how old age should progress. Today, however, there’s a pioneering consumer class of people that is innately tech-fluent. And, because it’s made up mainly of boomers, it’s been long accustomed to shaping the economic and physical world around it. One thing this class is not is male.

In the United States, women decide where between $5 trillion to $15 trillion go every year. Within older age groups, the power of the female consumer is even more profound,” Coughlin writes.

Atul Gawande, the author of Being Mortal, loved Coughlin’s book. “It’s thought-provoking, insightful, and unexpectedly fun. You’ll learn about what we get wrong about a world where people live a long time, how innovators botch serving such people, and how everyone from families to companies can do a lot better.”

More Longevity Advice for Older Adults

Financial expert Jean Chatzky teamed up with Cleveland Clinic Dr. Michael Roizen to write Age-proof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip.

Here are a couple of book takeaways from Janet Alvarez, executive editor of Wise Bread: Living Large on a Small Budget:

  1. Acknowledge Your Longevity. “No matter how old you think you'll get, technology and medicine is improving at a rapid pace, so you'll probably live longer than you think. So if your goal is to enjoy a healthy life with a thick financial cushion, you need to master this interconnecting skill now in order to make that possible.”
  2. Don’t Go It Alone. "Building a strong community is crucial to going the distance in finance and health. Isolating yourself in either, or both, areas of your life adds stress, while sharing your progress in a social setting gives you space to reflect on your goals, as well as helping others feel less alone in those same struggles. Keeping a proper team, both professionally and personally, will aid you in your path to achieving health and wealth, and Chatzky and Roizen show you how.”

Downsizing: An Older Adult Rite of Passage

If you think that downsizing is a hot top in the publishing market you’re right. From Marie Kondo’s series of books about decluttering and organizing to countless newspaper articles about finding a home for family heirlooms, writers recognize that there is a captive audience out there — people in their 60s and older.

The latest is from Marni Jameson, who has written a workbook to go with her popular Downsizing the Family Home.  

Described as part journal, workbook and scrapbook with how-to checklists, she helps homeowners decide which cherished items go and which ones stay, and how to deal with the range of emotions that downsizing evokes.

Plus, she understands why people procrastinate.

“Many of us would rather poke needles in our eye or eat rats’ tales than go through our stuff, much less our parents’ leftovers. Chief among the excuses is fear you will get rid of something truly valuable and not know it. Right behind that, though you won’t admit it, is the worry that you might have to face the fact that what you thought was valuable isn’t,” she writes in her blog.

Beyond Downsizing: Are You Happy and Joyful?

Getting rid of stuff in old age was not on the mind of New York Times reporter John Leland, as he followed six people over the age of 85. He wrote Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old.

In a radio interview, Fresh Air’s Terry Gross asked Leland about examples of ageism his subjects encountered.

Leland replies:

I think that every person over a certain age can tell you that they hate being called sweetie or hun or dear. No, I am not years young. I am years old. And the daughter of Ruth Willig, who's the woman who had to move out of her assisted living facility, is kind of a very forceful woman. She would be out with her mother and someone would say, oh, your mother is so cute. And she would say, my mother is not cute. You know, my mother went to college during the war and became a microbiologist. My mother is tough. She raised four kids. And she went through the depression. And she is not cute. She's smart. She's loving. She's wonderful, but she's not cute. So that's the kind of ageism that could just really stick in your craw.

Thomas Moore, author of the spiritual classic Care of the Soul, is now in his 70s and has tackled the soul’s role in aging. In Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Meaning Toward Meaning and Joy, Moore identifies five phases of aging:

  1. Feeling immortal;
  2. First taste of aging;
  3. Settling into maturity;
  4. Shifting toward old age;
  5. Letting things take their course.

“When I use the word aging, I mean becoming more of a person and more you over time. I keep an image in my mind of cheese and wine. Some get better with the simple passage of time. . . . Your very purpose in life is to age, to become what you are; essentially, to unfold and let your inborn nature be revealed. You let your ageless self, your soul, peek out from behind the more anxious, active self,” he writes.

A Memoir about Memory Loss

Gerda Saunders explains how she came to write Memory’s Last Breath; Field Notes on My Dementia.  

“When I turned 61 in 2011, I was diagnosed with cerebral microvascular disease, a precursor of dementia. I retired from my job as the associate director of Gender Studies at the University of Utah. Since I have always processed my life stages by writing about them, I started keeping a journal about the effect of my brain’s unraveling on my identity. Five years later, I completed a book-length memoir,” she writes.

In an interview with NPR’s Melissa Block, she talked about her end-of-life plans:

“We worked out a plan for me and my family whereby I would go somewhere where I could find a legal assisted death. At the moment, it does not look as though that would be possible for me in the United States, so that means we would have to go to another country. And so we have tried to financially provide for that possibility, and also emotionally prepare for that possibility with my family ... And I asked this gift of them, to do this for me. It is such a comfort to me, to know that my family loves me enough to want to give me this gift,” Saunders says.

What Are You Reading?

How about your winter reading list? What have you enjoyed reading and what’s on your wish list this year? We’d love to hear your comments.

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Molly-K.jpgIn the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

Topics: Lifelong Learning

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