STARRED REVIEW
February 2018

Respect your elders

By John Leland

In 2015, John Leland wrote a series of articles for the New York Times that examined the conditions and outlooks of three men and three women who, at that time, were between the ages of 87 and 92. He’s now chronicled that experience in Happiness Is a Choice You Make.

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In 2015, John Leland wrote a series of articles for the New York Times that examined the conditions and outlooks of three men and three women who, at that time, were between the ages of 87 and 92. He’s now chronicled that experience in Happiness Is a Choice You Make.

The common denominator of old age, Leland found, is a more or less graceful acceptance of the inevitable, not just of escalating physical limitations but of the awareness that each day may be one’s last and, thus, should be savored for what it has to offer. Even those who complained they were tired of living were not in despair. They had their days and moments of joy: Fred reveled in memories of his times as a sharp-dressed man-about-town. Helen, after losing her husband, discovered a second love and a reason to go on in Howie, a wheelchair-bound fellow resident in her nursing home. John, nearly blind and bereft of his longtime lover, listened to opera for inspiration or squinted at a video of his favorite musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

“[O]ld age is a concept largely defined by the people who have never lived it,” Leland observes. “We do ourselves a big favor not to be scared of growing old, but to embrace the mixed bag that the years have to offer, however severe the losses.”

 

This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Happiness Is a Choice You Make

Happiness Is a Choice You Make

By John Leland
Sarah Crichton
ISBN 9780374168186

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