May 2011

A difficult—yet lively—journey

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A Bittersweet Season is a cautionary tale for every generation. It is a story about aging, told through the eyes of author Jane Gross as she watches her mother grow old. The book offers enlightening, often alarming information for the elderly; for adult children responsible for taking care of their aging parents; and finally, for younger generations who face a grim future, as money is running out for Social Security.

For sure, A Bittersweet Season deals with a sobering topic. But the narrative is so lively and informative that readers will come away feeling more prepared than pessimistic. Gross doesn’t wallow in self-pity; instead, as she chronicles her elderly mother’s journey from independence to assisted living to a nursing home, she provides broader information about each step in the aging process, so that A Bittersweet Season becomes both a memoir and a how-to book on aging.

As Gross navigates a difficult journey with her mother, she acquires knowledge that she shares with readers. Among her tips: Don’t be impressed by the fancy décors of upscale nursing homes; they are designed to impress family members but do nothing to enhance the care of patients. Pay more attention to the size and qualifications of the staff. She also offers advice on navigating the insurance and government entitlement maze, choosing the best doctors and surviving the emotional rollercoaster of having to care for an elderly parent.

A gifted and experienced journalist, Jane Gross has been providing this kind of insightful writing for many years as a reporter for The New York Times, and most recently as the founder of a Times blog titled The New Old Age. As the nation’s 77 million Baby Boomers approach retirement age, A Bittersweet Season is just the book they need to read. It is an intelligent guide to handling the onset of old age with sagacity and sensitivity, and readers will find it valuable whether they are caring for themselves or their parents, or hoping to make the road to aging less treacherous for future generations.

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