A simple message: Ageing brings strength

The End of Old Age is the title of the latest book by leading geriatric psychiatrist Dr Marc Agronin.

An American doctor who is the director of mental health services at Miami Jewish Health is also the author of How We Age. As someone who is over 60 who believes there is no such thing as ‘old age’, the title of this book was the first thing that attracted me to read it.

Agronin starts his explanation of what he believes ageing should bring us by stating that we must look at the ageing process differently than perhaps it was viewed by our antecedents. Now, this I understood, but then I became a little lost. The doctor has pleaded his case, so to speak, with pages of paradigms, quotes and stories from patients and friends he has discussed this subject with over the years. I became lost in a jumble of other people’s lives.

I started to wonder how many of the ‘ageing generation’ would persevere and keep turning pages to see what conclusions Agronin derived from his research. I struggled for a few more pages and decided to look at this task differently. I would stop trying to find the message but enjoy the stories instead.

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As I imagined the subjects of the book and how they looked at life, I began to enjoy the book a little more. It still seemed to need some sort of order and structure but at least it had become interesting in a sense.

Agronin speaks of something he calls ‘age points’. Age points are events that disrupt our usual way of living enough for us to question things like how to cope or our immortality. The book explains that when we have such events we need to recognise them and find a new way of dealing with them so we can move forward in life. We need to be resilient and learn that with ageing comes different ways to approach life. The younger generation may not see things the same as we do, but that doesn’t mean one age group is more right than another. However, the book tries to focus on an over-70 population and prove to them that ageing and being old are not the same.

The doctor demonstrates this by using stages which there are nine in total. Some of these stages I could identify with and this is where the book became interesting. I was sure there were those out there, like me, who are older that could also see what Agronin was trying to show. The ninth and final stage is a double-edged coin as far as I could tell. How you handled that stage in your life would depend on whether you were physically and mentally able or not.

I found this book a little muddled and hard to follow and the use of so many subjects as examples tended to put me off the track. I thought the title of the book didn’t quite capture the essence. I did agree with many conclusions from Agronin though and I found that in some of his words was great wisdom. He says “old is the problem and ageing is the solution”.

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If you can find a very quiet place with no distractions and concentrate fully on this book, I think you will find something of interest in its pages. If you manage to complete it without losing your way, then, in my opinion, you are ageing nicely. In the words of the author:

Why age? To grow wisdom
Why survive? To realize a purpose
Why thrive? To create something new

The End of Old Age by Marc Agronin is available in printed and digital editions from the publisher Hachette Australia – click here for details