Psychologist Viola B. Mecke’s book, The Ups and Downs of Growing Older, offers her thoughts on living life after 70 and helpful suggestions to combat its challenges.
A psychologist with over 40 year’s experience in academic teaching and clinical practice, Mecke focuses her discussion on the period she terms the “oldest-old” phase of life, the time when a perfect storm of challenges converge: Friends and relatives die; adult children move away; hearing loss provokes isolation, and dementia may set in.
The book’s first part describes these challenges, devoting many pages to the advent of loneliness. Sharing anecdotes from her case histories, she describes how debilitating loneliness can be and differentiates it from “being alone,” which can be a restorative experience.
For each challenge, Mecke offers positive options. To combat loneliness, she suggests exercise, spending time outdoors and sharing experiences with others. For walking difficulties, she recommends such aids as walking canes and sticks, walkers and motorized scooters. Her overall message is that it’s possible to stay engaged with life, despite the liabilities of aging, but it takes work.
Mecke’s writing style is part self-help, part essay. Unfortunately, it is often wordy and repetitive, as in: “Even more challenging are alterations in daily habits and life patterns. Daily habits may change.” A careful edit would greatly improve the reading experience, which can feel somewhat rambling. Additionally, the author tends to make broad-brush statements that may or may not be true statistically, such as: “Emotional well-being seems pervasive among the oldest-old. There is a positive glow to life [sic] a sense of well-being.” This might be true for some, but a specific statistic on how “pervasive” this sense is among the elderly is certainly warranted.
There are many books on this topic that would provide a more solid presentation. Still, readers willing to overlook the book’s flaws will find interesting food for thought from this 93-year-old author, who clearly knows the territory.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.