3 books that shatter stereotypes about growing old

Ageing and mortality aren't the easiest topics to read about for most of us, but these books add depth, humour and insight to the conversation

27 October 2019 - 00:00 By jennifer Platt
Old age doesn't have to be lonely, sad and boring - a load of new books are changing the narrative about ageing.
Old age doesn't have to be lonely, sad and boring - a load of new books are changing the narrative about ageing.
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We've seen loads of books this year that deal with how to look at ageing differently. Maybe it's because the narrative on the ageing global population is changing from it being a problem to solve and something to be afraid of, to a process we should examine, change and embrace.

Ageing and mortality aren't the easiest topics to read about for most of us, but these three books add depth, humour and insight to the conversation.

Image: Supplied


By Dominique Afacan and Helen Cathcart, Hardie Grant Books

Dominique Afacan and Helen Cathcart took four years to write Bolder. They were terrified of getting old and of what the ageing process means: "Old age looked like an unhappy place. We pictured it mostly filled with loneliness, rocking chairs and possibly some tea and biscuits, if we were lucky," they write.

But after conducting 50 interviews, the authors (both in their mid-30s) realised that "there is never a knock on the door. Old age doesn't just 'happen' one day. Ageing is a constant and a privilege for all of us. And ... gasp, it can be fun."

One of their interviewees fell in love at the age of 82. Another, aged 85, swims more than a kilometre in the Mediterranean everyday, and Tuula Olin, aged 78, is a competitive ice-skater in Poland.

These and others share their inspirational stories of being the age they are now, changing the dialogue about getting old, and shattering the myths and stereotypes of the ageing process.

Image: Supplied


By Louise Aronson, Bloomsbury

While Bolder is an inspiring book featuring short personal stories, Elderhood  by Louise Aronson, a doctor, of geriatrics is more of a medical meditation on ageing.

Aronson writes: "This book is an attempt to fill gaps by looking at old age in new ways. It draws from science and medicine, history, anthropology, literature and popular culture ... If we see and feel differently about old age, we can make different choices, ones that change our experience of elderhood for the better."

In it we discover that we spend more years in our elderhood (40 years or more!) than we do in our childhood, what it means to care for the elderly, and how Aronson fights for geriatric training programmes to be embraced by social services.

It's a substantial book with big notions (like childhood, there are several stages of elderhood) and there are little nibbles of knowledge (did you know that the Beers Criteria is a list of potentially inappropriate medications for older adults?) that make it essential reading.

'Is There Still Sex in the City?'
'Is There Still Sex in the City?'
Image: Supplied


By Candace Bushnell, Little, Brown Book Group

Who thought Carrie Bradshaw would age; would hate wearing high heels; would leave New York City, and give up briefly on sex? OK, maybe not Carrie but her alter ego, Candace Bushnell, does when she gets divorced in Is There Still Sex in the City? (Little, Brown).

After her attempts to publish three books are scuppered, Bushnell is asked by her publishers to write about dating in her 50s and she plunges herself into the dating scene. Using her trademark sharp humour, she describes how different it is being a 50-something woman compared to being 30.

How one is ignored in bars, the awfulness of Tinder, the danger of cubbing (dating younger men) and how all her ilk have MAM (Middle-Age Madness) a decade or so after they were supposed to have a midlife crisis.

It's light and frothy but, as usual, through Bushnell's empathetic writing, her group of wealthy privileged women friends soon become identifiers - just like Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha once did 20-plus years ago.

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