Thursday, June 7, 2018

When Their World Stops: Book Review

2nd Edition Published March 27, 2018.
Anne-Marie Lockmyer received a phone call that stopped her world. Her husband of 26 years (less four days) lost his life due to a brain aneurysm.

Lockmyer's life changed immediately.

Drawing on her own experience, her research, and the experience of many others grieving the loss of a loved one, Lockmyer wrote this 96-page guide for people who want to offer comfort and support.

When Their World Stops: The Essential Guide to TRULY Helping Anyone in Grief  is filled with very specific, concrete suggestions on how to offer help to the bereft. 

Many other books on grief focus on the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional dimensions of suffering loss. Yes, these realms do demand attention.  I tend to err on the side of the metaphysical.

However, Lockmyer focuses on more tangible responses to supporting a bereft person:

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Book Review

Published January 23, 2018.
John Leland spent a year interviewing elders 85 plus who lived in and around Manhattan. He presents his perspective on how this demographic--the oldest olds--forge happiness despite formidable challenges.

The result is a book that has a healthy mix of character sketches, direct quotes, applicable aging research, and interviewer reflection.

I enjoyed it so much that I returned the library copy and bought my own. And then I bought a copy for my 75-year-old mother-in-law.

She read it in one day.

In the pages of the book, we meet six older adults and glean from their life experience.

In a gross oversimplification, Leland distills there life lessons in the following passage:
"Each elder had different lessons to teach: from Fred, the power of gratitude; from Ping, the choice to be happy; from John, acceptance of death; from Helen, learning to love and be needed; from Jonas, living with purpose; and from Ruth, nourishing the people who matter" (104). 
Who are these elders?

Fred Jones portrays himself as a dapper dresser and a ladies man, but he has problems managing the stairs in his apartment, so his social interaction is limited. Nevertheless, he maintains a sense of humor and focuses on gratitude.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blood Urea Nitrogen: Biomarker of Health and Longevity

Photo by Neeta Lind.
As a gerontologist, people sometimes ask me about life expectancy.

While large data sets yield clear averages, anticipating the life expectancy of ONE person is nearly impossible.

This post is part of a series on biomarkers

Nevertheless, there are some biomarkers of health and longevity that people should monitor.

Blood Urea Nitrogen is one of them.

[Note: This post does not convey medical advice. It only raises awareness. Please see a licensed medical professional if you have any questions or concerns about your health.]

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) measures one area of the body's waste elimination. Ingested proteins are processed by the liver into ammonia and then converted into a less toxic form, urea. The kidneys eliminate the urea through urine.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Still Dreaming: Film Review

Released on DVD April 19, 2015.
PBS will air this documentary starting April 14, 2018. Check your local listings for show times. 

Shakespeare's plays are rich with meaning, which allows people from every historical era to emphasize different aspects in each play.

Hamlet performed in 1800 looks very different from Hamlet performed in 2000.

But Shakespeare's plays not only change when performed in various eras of time. They change when performed by actors of various ages.

Viewers have the opportunity to witness this phenomenon, thanks to Filmmakers Jilann Spitzmiller and Hank Rogerson who facilitate a unique production of A Midsummer's Night Dream with the making of their documentary Still Dreaming (2014).

The documentary is set in The Lillian Booth Actors Home, just outside of Manhattan. The residents are older adults who worked as Broadway performers--actors, singers, dancers, musicians, etc.

Ben Steinfield and Noah Brody are thirtysomething co-directors who work with residents of the assisted living campus of the home. Over the course of the documentary, we see them cast about a dozen residents. They spend six weeks rehearsing before perform this romantic comedy for staff, fellow residents, and family members.

Even though the leads are usually played by twentysomethings, the play's themes of identity, illusion vs. reality, desire, and autonomy resonate with the mature actors.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Ageless Soul: Book Review

Published October 10, 2017.
Many books about aging focus on the physical and financial dimensions of aging. Not many book-length works focus on the spiritual dimension of aging--or how the self transcends the vicissitudes of time.

Fortunately, Thomas Moore (b. 1940) wrote Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy (St. Martin's Press, 2017).  

He has written 19 books, his most famous being The Care of the Soul (1992).

In Ageless Soul, Moore focuses on how older adults can transform the challenges of late life into opportunities to develop and express the most enduring element of our nature--our soul.  

"Aging is a challenge, not an automatic activity. You go through passages, from one state to another. You become somebody. Faced with a challenge, you choose to live through the obstacle rather than avoid it. You make the decision to be in process and to participate actively" (p. 285). 

Yes, Moore spent many years as a monk, but his book isn't squarely a work of devotional literature; it reads most often like a self-help book. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Art of Death: Book Review

Published July 11, 2017
Award-winning novelist Edwidge Danticat writes about her mother's cancer symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and subsequent death in her 2017 book The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story.

Losing one's mother is jarring. 

Danticat does share personal details about her mother and tries to convey the dynamics of their relationship. However, more than half of the book takes a literary approach to the topic of death.

A writer herself, it makes sense that Danticat immersed herself in the works of forty plus famous authors who have written about death.

For example, she explores the writings of DeLillo, Didion, Garcia Marquez, Lewis, Lorde, Morrison, Sexton, Tolstoy, and Wilder. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Sense of an Ending: Film Review

Released March 10, 2017.
Because I have read and admired The Sense of an Ending (2011) by Julian Barnes, I sought to watch the 2017 film based on this novel.

Yes, the book is more complex and thoughtful than the film, but the director and actors did a credible job exploring themes of memory, regret, consequences, and perspectivity.

The film stars Jim Broadbent as Tony Webster, a divorced man who avoids conflict with others and has very few intimate relationships. He has one child, a daughter, but he keeps her at arm's length.

During the course of the film, he receives a letter from an attorney regarding a journal written by Adrian, a college friend who died decades earlier. Both he and Adrian dated the same young woman, Veronica.

The journal was willed to him by Veronica's mother. Receiving this letter sets Tony to recall various events from his university days involving Veronica, Tony, and a host of others on the periphery of these relationships.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Our Souls at Night: Film Review

Released September 1, 2017.
Having read Kent Haruf's novel, I was eager to see how Our Souls at Night was adapted to the screen.

The film maintains the same slow pace and understated story, but the film alters the ending to make it more open and upbeat.  By doing so, it erases the powerful message that adult children shouldn't interfere in their parents' relationships. Harrumph.

Nevertheless, it's great to see a film that portrays mature love.  Addie (played by Jane Fonda) and Louis (played by Robert Redford) are neighbors in a small town in western Colorado, but they never really talked to each other.

This changes when Addie asks Louis if he would like to spend the night sleeping beside her.  She's not asking for sex; she's asking for companionship.  He thinks about it and then agrees.

This begins the journey of these two opening their hearts--or their souls--to each other.  They share key stories of their lives, express their desire to be closer to their children, confess regret for actions from decades past. 

I would have preferred that the film stay true to the novel, but it's still a triumph to have a film that depicts older adults and their point of view, their challenges, their concerns.  The leads (b. 1936 and 1937) deliver powerful performances in every word, action, and look.


Our Souls at Night: Book Review

Friday, January 12, 2018

Knocking on Heaven's Door: Book Review

Published September 10, 2013.
Journalist Katy Butler supported her aging parents through two very different trajectories in their final years.

She describes their final years in her 2013 book Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death.

Her father, Jeffrey, experienced a stroke and then a series of medical problems that deteriorated his quality of life. Most notably, he had cognitive problems due to vascular dementia.

However, the bulk of Butler's book addresses the decision to give her father a pacemaker so that he could withstand an operation to repair a hernia.

In the years that followed, Butler and her mother, Valerie, regretted that decision. When his memory failed, his personality changed, and his mobility faltered, they tried to have Jeffrey's pacemaker switched off. However, the ethics of that decision was questioned repeatedly.

After watching Jeffrey's life prolonged well past a quality of life acceptable to him and his loved ones, Valerie chose to reject medical interventions when she started experiencing serious heart problems just a couple of years after the death of her husband.

Instead, Valerie chose palliative care and died without having to spend her last months or years in and out of hospitals and under the care of family or paid caregivers.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy 6th Blogoversary

Photo by Kiran Foster.
It's that time of year again!

January 1, 2018 marks the 6th blogoversary for The Generation Above Me.  Thanks for tagging along--whether this is the first time you have visited the blog or if you've been here from the start.

Below are the Top 20 posts by views.