Monday, March 31, 2014

How to be "Rich In Years" (book review)

I thought this book sounded really deep. As I'm dealing with aging parents in my own life, watching my aging parents care for their aging parents, the reality of aging is never far from my thoughts.

Rich in Years: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Long Life, by Johann Christoph Arnold, was a window into the aging adult beyond what I had already deduced for myself or learned about in my Sociology of Aging course in college. Can the aging adult really be at peace with approaching old age? Can there still be purpose in those later years?

Arnold answers those questions, and others, in Rich in Years, and I found myself captivated by the words on every page. Just as I would proclaim a particular concept "the most powerful statement" and want to share it with all of my family members and friends, I would continue on in my reading and be gripped by yet another "most powerful statement." Just as I would thrill to the subject of one chapter (i.e., Combatting Loneliness), I would finish it and be equally thrilled by the subject of the next (Finding Purpose). Since I have relatives battling dementia, the chapter, Living With Dementia, was eye-opening and encouraging.  And truthfully, I can scarcely wait to read back over the book with a highlighter in hand, to commit much of it to memory, so that the ideas within are never far from my thoughts as I face my later years.

This year, I will turn 40. Certainly not the end of my lifespan, I'll admit, but I have never been one to assume that I would be guaranteed a long life. Figuring out how to age with grace, purpose, and faith is helpful for anyone, but particularly anyone who finds the thought of growing older to be frightening. What I found especially inspiring about Rich in Years was the parallel between the concepts about the elderly's unique availability to God's purposes and those of the teen years (my oldest daughter and I recently did a study about teenagers' unique availability for God's purposes). It can't help but encourage someone dreading growing older to read all of the unique ways the elderly can be useful to God during those later years!

Reading this book, I recognized yet again how blessed I am. My paternal and maternal grandmothers are both well into their eighties and completely self-sufficient. Both have lived out the wisdom in Finding Nemo: "just keep swimming." :^) And my parents are full-time caregivers to two aging parents with dementia. I find the proof of this book within my own family's story. Accept the changes that come with aging, find your purpose in those later years, remember to hold onto your faith in your Creator, find the peace that passes understanding, and just "keep pressing on toward the goal." [Philippians 3:14]

*I received this book for free, with the understanding that I would read it and review it. My review is my honest assessment of the book.