Formerly IGSW News | VOLUME 24 | SUMMER 2017

Issues and Views

Readers' Question Time

What Are You Reading This Summer?

If summer has its joys, reading is certainly one of them. That's why every year at this time we ask a group from the fields of aging and disability what they've been reading and why. This year, Erlene Rosowsky, Dawn Carr, and Dave Baldridge recommended titles for enjoyment and illumination. Here's what they said.

Summer Reading

ERLENE ROSOWSKY, Psy.D., Director, Concentration in Geropsychology and Center for Mental Health and Aging, William James College, Newton, Mass., and teaching associate, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.

Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, by Ellen J. Langer. Langer is a Harvard professor who did early work on mindfulness and choice in nursing homes, finding that these factors improved satisfaction, promoted better health, and lowered mortality rates of residents.

One of the most interesting outcomes is from a study of older adults who, for a research project, lived in a home designed to reproduce the physical surroundings of a time when the individuals were at their peak strength and efficiency, when they did things on their own, say in their fifties. Surprisingly, their hearing and other physical capabilities improved. The surroundings were not "aging friendly," but the residents managed and took care of business. Amid reminders of themselves as vigorous, they became enlivened and more sociable, as if they were in touch with their "younger selves." Reminders of being old can diminish people's competence, while a different environment can inspire them to rediscover their competencies.

Carthage, by Joyce Carol Oates. This novel about a family coping with tragedy appeals to me as a psychologist. I guess I'm drawn to the dark side of family systems. I don't have much time to read for pleasure, so what I do read has to be good. Oates is smart and a good writer. Her books are memorable, but I wouldn't read two in a row.

DAWN CARR, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology, Florida State University, Tallahassee

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, by Robert H. Putnam. This book, by the author of Bowling Alone, is about the country's widening income gap and the loss of upward mobility. Putnam presents case studies of different families and talks about what can be done for change. I am part of an intergenerational policy group focused on engaging older people in the community. The book has helped me to better understand younger people's issues and how older people can help. Putnam doesn't call out older people particularly, but I read the book looking for how they could fit into the mix. It's important to recognize the contributions they could make at a time when we're more disconnected than ever. The book offers inspiring solutions to community problems. It's up to us to know how to bring older people into it.

Milk Street Kitchen, with Christopher Kimble, For fun, I'm following this new food blog, by the creator of America's Test Kitchen. It's got great video demonstrations and recipes with unexpected ingredients. Cooking is my creative outlet, and I love feeding people, especially in summer. If you stopped by my house, I'd make a light pasta, a fancy salad, and a tart, served with rosé in the garden.

DAVE BALDRIDGE, Executive Director, International Association for Indigenous Aging, Silver Spring, Md., and Albuquerque, N.M.

In the Absence of the Sacred: Failure of Technology and Survival of the Indian Nations, by Gerry Mander. Far ahead of his time, the author wrote in 1991 about "the cancer" of technology—how it accelerated at an amazing rate to become the major force in American communities, and not for the good of most people. Mander says technology has brought us to many places, but we now rely on it to solve every problem, and consequently we are often adrift. We're ignoring cultural knowledge, the sense of relationship to the earth, and each other. His conviction that native people's values provide answers struck me so strongly because it addresses the phenomenon of the DAPP (Dakota Access pipeline protest, in North Dakota). Many don't see Indians as contemporary figures or partners. But Indians are the ones who have stood up to technology as a way of life. The pipeline was put in, and it's already leaking.

The Art of Manliness, created by Brett and Kate McKay, I've just discovered this esoteric and whimsical website. The premise is that men are foundering. We admire our grandfathers and fathers, but now it's a different world. Few of us are resilient, steadfast, and mindful in relationships—including with ourselves. We need help. For example, the website published a feature on skills every man should have: How to shave like your grandfather, get a drink at a busy bar, survive a mugging. The aging network is dealing with men of different generations. How do we find meaning when guideposts are disappearing?

Interviews conducted and condensed by Mary Johnson

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