As revelatory as Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, physician and award-winning author Louise Aronson's Elderhood is an essential, empathetic look at a vital but often disparaged stage of life.
For more than 5,000 years, "old" has been defined as beginning between the ages of 60 and 70. That means most people alive today will spend more years in elderhood than in childhood, and many will be elders for 40 years or more. Yet at the very moment that humans are living longer than ever before, we've made old age into a disease, a condition to be dreaded, denigrated, neglected, and denied.
Reminiscent of Oliver Sacks, noted Harvard-trained geriatrician Louise Aronson uses stories from her quarter century of caring for patients, and draws from history, science, literature, popular culture, and her own life to weave a vision of old age that's neither nightmare nor utopian fantasy--a vision full of joy, wonder, frustration, outrage, and hope about aging, medicine, and humanity itself.
Elderhood is for anyone who is, in the author's own words, "an aging, i.e., still-breathing human being."
“Wise and engaging.” —AARP Magazine
“A passionate, deeply informed critique of how our healthcare system fails in its treatment of the elderly . . . Vitally important . . . Though the subject of this provocative book is the elderly, its message touches the entire span of human life.” —BookPage
“Eloquent and impressive . . . A landmark work . . . In a world of increasing numbers of older adults, Aronson's highly readable, absorbing, and thought-provoking book should serve as a guide for how our culture must change in order to provide a future in which all of us can age well throughout the span of our lives.” —Changing Aging
“[A] penetrating meditation on geriatrics . . . Aronson's deep empathy, hard-won knowledge, and vivid reportage makes for one of the best accounts around of the medical mistreatment of the old.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“An examination of aging and the human condition encompassing poignant stories and the viewpoints of medical experts, writers, historians, and scientists . . . Empathetic, probing, and often emotionally moving narratives on appreciating the power and the pain of aging.” —Kirkus, starred review
“Monumental . . . Elderhood, like the life station it studies, is dynamic, multifaceted and full of wonder. Aronson's writing, too, flexes with vibrant energy as she discusses in lucid, candid detail the ways she has seen the healthcare system neglect the overall well-being of her patients, her colleagues and herself . . . Intimidating as it may seem, elderhood becomes welcoming and generous in Aronson's deft care.” —Shelf Awareness
“An in-depth, unusually frank exploration of biases that distort society's view of old age and that shape dysfunctional health policies and medical practices.” —Kaiser Health News
“Aronson's Elderhood is dazzling, rich with knowledge gleaned from her professional work as a geriatrician, her personal experience as a daughter, her common sense, and her thorough analysis of our social supports and cultural messaging. Her arguments are powerful, and her conclusions are revolutionary. I hope everyone who has a stake in older people, which is ultimately all of us, will read this book.” —Mary Pipher, author of WOMEN ROWING NORTH
“In the latter years there are possibilities for joy, transcendence, and meaning, but also for just the opposite. Aronson writes like a memoirist while giving us scientific insight, philosophical wisdom, and wise counsel for a journey and destination we all share. Elderhood is a lovely and thoughtful exploration of this voyage.” —Abraham Verghese, author of CUTTING FOR STONE
“In Elderhood, the physician-writer Louise Aronson provides an honest and humane analysis of what it means to grow old in America. Her book--part memoir, history, and social critique--is deeply sympathetic to elders and sharply critical of the "anti-aging industry" that has tried to turn being elderly into some sort of disease. I highly recommend this wonderful book to anyone who plans on growing old in this country.” —Sandeep Jauhar, author of HEART: A HISTORY
“As Louise Aronson says, 'Life offers just two possibilities: die young or grow old.' This searing, luminous book is for everyone who hopes to accomplish the latter and remain fully human as they do. It will challenge your assumptions and open your mind--and it just might change your life.” —Lucy Kalanithi, MD, editor of WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR
About the Author:
Louise Aronson, MD, is the author of A History of the Present Illness and is a geriatrician, educator, and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she directs UCSF Health Humanities. A graduate of Harvard Medical School and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, Dr. Aronson has received the Gold Professorship in Humanism, the California Homecare Physician of the Year Award, and the American Geriatrics Society Clinician-Teacher of the Year Award, as well as numerous awards for her teaching, educational research, and writing. The recipient of a MacDowell fellowship and four Pushcart nominations, her articles and stories have appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, and Bellevue Literary Review. She lives in San Francisco.