books on aging #1

Dancing with Elephants by Jarem Sawatsky

Just a note, I don’t do formal book reviews or critiques. I merely comment on what I thought was useful or interesting. I do this with all books; some of my comments are posted on the Goodreads site, though may bring some of my comments over to the blog.

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I thought I would mention some books that I am reading on aging. The first is: Dancing with Elephants and is described/reviewed on Goodreads; the author also has a blog

This was an interesting book because it primarily focuses on the author’s efforts to deal with Huntington’s disease. I find this compelling because I had thought to focus on books related to aging or dementia but it is clear that expanding my scope to include chronic illness might be helpful. There are certain commonalities.

On one hand, I don’t know that there was much “new” information – I have a background in public health and so am aware of many of the issues raised in the book. In addition, I have done some reading about dementia and aging. The book was, however, an excellent reminder to be mindful of the impact of disease and aging on the person going through it. Planning for and realistically confronting the challenges associated with aging or disease were also key components of the book that provided food for thought and ideas of things we may need to address. In addition, the use of poetry and humor added  unique dimensions to the book’s messages.

One thought that resonated strongly with me was “When you stumble, just make it part of the dance” (p.162). I’ve heard variations on this idea before and like the concept of adjusting and adapting to meet our needs. It’s important not to be too hard on ourselves – we do the best we can. We may need to adjust our expectations and definitions of success. We need to learn to let things go and keep moving forward as best we can.

Another thing that I liked was the movement away from the “militaristic” or “combat” construct of fighting disease or aging. I’ve never been  comfortable with using this framing when dealing with health issues. The aging process, in particular, is part of our reality – we all will die, it’s just a question of when and how. Therefore, seeing aging as the enemy seems a bit futile. There is a way to work with the aging process to optimize quality of life.

Another note: Mom is reading the book, so hopefully, we can have some comments from her perspective as well!

So far, she really responded to the concept of the “aging brain” as a way of describing what she is dealing with. She hasn’t lost her intelligence and still has many of her thought processes, even if they are slower and a bit more scattered now than in the past. But she does need a new paradigm to describe these changing times – the “aging brain” seemed to work for her. Her face lit up and she said “that’s what I have” in a way that indicated to me that she had been struggling to figure out how to describe that frustrated feeling she has been experiencing.

She is not very far in but LOVES it so far! She dreaded reading it because she thought it would be depressing. Not so! She is really enjoying it.

3 thoughts on “books on aging #1”

  1. I like what you wrote about stretching the reading into other disabilities and ailments, Susan. I think people can be surprised with what they realize isn’t restricted to just one thing, such as Huntington’s. My sister is bi-polar and kept mentioning new problems she had to encounter, things which kept her up night pondering. As it turns out most of them were related to going through menopause. It was a relief to her, although she kept forgetting that i explained that to her. Yes, she also has memory problems. So that cross-reading is important. Thanks for sharing the title, too.

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