Debbie has continued her tradition of reading me to sleep almost every night since 1985. That may not have been totally true back in the 80s but I’m certain it’s true since the late 90s. I just asked her if she has a list and she said that there’s not a single source one, but they were written down somewhere. So, I asked her to make a single list so I could see where I’ve been in my dozing off times. One line I remember from years ago is from the Japanese Ainu-aborigine stories which usually ended, after some fantastic adventure, with, “We lived and lived and nothing happened.” Somehow, to my mind, that seems appropriate for a summation of this book that follows seven aging people. Six subjects of the official study and the not-so-old author’s relationship with his aging mother. The author, a professional news reporter, admits that he was violating one of a reporter’s prime directives, “Report the news don’t make the news,” and I sometimes found it difficult to know when he was reporting his subjects’ experiences and when he was analyzing his own personal experiences. It was always mildly interesting.
These people lived and lived and to an outside observer, it appeared as if not much of anything happened. At least not much happened that a healthy person would choose for a life. And yet it did appear that each of these people, all of whom were chosen for this book because they were over the age of eighty-five, did value their lives as they had lived them.
All of them declined noticeably in these older years, and yet they seemed to accept that result of aging. A couple of them didn’t have much desire to continue living and even said they would prefer to be done with life, and yet they didn’t commit suicide. One man did die slightly quicker when he knew that he was in the last week and just quit eating. I don’t know if that’s suicide or just hurrying the inevitable along a little.
I found this book a little more interesting now that I am well launched into my eighties, a quarter of the way through to be exact; and certainly found it more interesting than I would have even a year ago because of my recently diagnosed prostate problem.
This book is recommended reading for those moving into an elder status as it offers some perspective. You are not alone! This is a life story and it has a beginning a middle and an end.