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Baker, Beth. With a Little Help from Our Friends: Creating Community as We Grow Older. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2014. Print.

Publisher Comments: “In this book, an award-winning journalist tells the story of people devising innovative ways to live as they approach retirement, options that ensure they are surrounded by a circle of friends, family, and neighbors.”

Barrow, Karen, Jon Huang, Soo-Jeong Kang, and Andrew Kueneman (producers). “Secrets of the Centenarians: Life Before, During and After 100.” The New York Times, October 19, 2010. Web.

Eight individuals aged 99 to 103 (six women and two men) speak about their views on the “secrets” of successful aging.

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Coming of Age. New York: Norton, 1996 (originally published in 1970). Print.

Publisher Comments: “In The Coming of Age Simone de Beauvoir seeks greater understanding of our perception of elders. With bravery, tenacity, and forceful honesty, she guides us on a study spanning a thousand years and a variety of different nations and cultures to provide a clear and alarming picture of ‘Society’s secret shame’—the separation and distance from our communities that the old must suffer and endure.”

Blanchard, Janice M., editor. Aging in Community. Chapel Hill, NC: Second Journey Publications, 2013. Print.

Publisher Comments: “In this anthology, editor Janice Blanchard brings together the perspectives of visionaries, practitioners, and pioneering elders who together are forging an exciting new paradigm of aging— aging in community.”

Brandt, Deborah. Literacy in American Lives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2001. Print.

This book, a classic in the field of Composition Studies, points out the importance of “literacy sponsors” in people’s lives. In fact, literacy and love of words are important factors in successful aging.

Brody, Jane. “100 Candles on Her Next Cake, and 3 R’s to Get Her There.” The New York Times, October 19, 2010. Print.

New York Times health columnist reports on the keys to successful aging as embodied by people who have reached age 100: “resolution, resourcefulness, and resilience.”

Cisneros, Henry, Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, and Jane Hickie, editors. Independent for Life: Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging America. Austin: U of Texas P, 2012. Print.

Publisher Comments: “The authors offer action plans for working with policy makers at local, state, and national levels to address the larger issues of aging in place, including family financial security, real estate markets, and the limitations of public support. Lists of essential resources, including a detailed ‘to do’ list of aging in place priorities and an individual home assessment, complete the volume.”

Cohen, Gene. The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life. New York: Avon, 2000. Print.

Cohen cites recent research to discredit the idea that aging always leads to deteriorating brain function. He points out: “the adversity and loss that often crop up later in life actually encourage creativity by forcing change” (quoted from the Publishers Weekly review).

Cohen, Gene. The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain. New York: Basic Books, 1996. Print.

Publisher Comments: “The Mature Mind delivers good news for those in the second half of life, with an extraordinary account of cutting-edge neuroscience, groundbreaking psychology, fascinating vignettes from history and case studies, and practical advice for personal growth strategies. Gene Cohen, a renowned psychiatrist and gerontologist, draws from more than thirty years of research to show that surprising positive changes in our brains have the potential to enhance, not diminish, our lives after fifty.”

Do Not Go Gently: The Power of Imagination in Aging. DVD. For more information, go to Video.

This engaging film, narrated by Walter Cronkite, highlights the benefits of creativity in the later years and features several artists, including a quilter, a dancer, and a composer, who have remained vitally creative. Gerontologist Gene Cohen discusses the value of imaginative activity for all elders including those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Ellis, Neenah. If I Live to Be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002. Print.

Taken from an oral history project the author did for National Public Radio, these stories based on interviews with people who had passed their 100th birthdays are touching and heartening. Originally intending to focus on the major historical events of the 20th century, Ellis found herself “falling” for her interviewees, whom she found to be “models of perseverance and positive thinking”(7). In the end, the project was not about great historical events but rather about “learning to listen” (9).

Erikson, Erik H., Joan M. Erikson, and Helen Q. Kivnick. Vital Involvement in Old Age. New York: Norton, 1986. Print.

Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson and his wife, Joan, an artist and craftswoman, wrote this book when they were both in their 80s, along with a younger colleague, Helen Kivnick, a clinical and research psychologist interested in the arts. They interviewed 29 octogenarians who had been part of the Guidance Study of the University of California, Berkeley, since 1928. The book also includes a fascinating analysis of Ingmar Bergman’s classic film Wild Strawberries for insights into aging as the film explores a day in the life of successful physician Isak Borg.

Friedan, Betty. Fountain of Age. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993. Print.

At age 60, Betty Friedan, whose groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique helped to inspire the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, decided to take on the problem of aging. Based on her intensive study over many years, during which she conducted hundreds of interviews, this book rejects the media-inspired view of aging as inevitable decline. Strong community involvement and a sense of personal agency proved to be especially important factors in successful aging.

Friedman, Howard S., and Leslie R. Martin. The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study.  New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.

From a review in Publishers Weekly: “In this illuminating addition to the burgeoning bookshelf on longevity, UC-Riverside health researchers Friedman and Martin draw on an eight-decade-long Stanford University study of 1,500 people to find surprising lessons about who lives a long, healthy life and why. The authors learned, for example, that people don’t die simply from working long hours or from stress, that marriage is no golden ticket to old age, and the happy-all-the-time types may peter out before the serious plodders. If there’s a secret to old age, the authors find, it’s living conscientiously and bringing forethought, planning, and perseverance to one’s professional and personal life. Individual life stories show how different people find the right balance in different ways, depending on their personalities and social situations. Lively despite the huge volume of material from 80 years of study, and packed with eye-opening self-assessment tests, this book says there’s no magic pill, but does offer a generous dose of hope: even if life deals you a less than perfect hand, you’re not doomed to an early demise if you live with purpose and make connections with the people around you.”

Gawande, Atul. “The Way We Age Now.” The New Yorker, April 30, 2007. 50-59. Print.

This article describes the principles of good medical care for our aging population. One surprising statistic: Between 1998 and 2004 the number of certified geriatricians declined by one-third.

Hansen, Terry. “Carrying Poetry Around: An Essay in Praise of Memorization.” Council Chronicle: The National Council of Teaches of English 20.3 (March 2011): 28-29. Print.

People born early in the twentieth century, were often encouraged to memorize poetry. In the elder years, these poems are often a treasured resource.

Hogg, Charlotte. From the Garden Club: Rural Women Writing Community. Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska P, 2006. Print.

Publisher Comments: “Drawing on ethnographic research, composition theory, literacy studies, and regionalism, Hogg demonstrates how these women [in a small Nebraska town] use literacy to evoke and sustain a sense of place and heritage for members of the community, to educate the citizens of [the town], and to nourish themselves as learners, readers, and writers.”

Kirsch, Gesa E, and Jacqueline J. Royster. “Feminist Rhetorical Practices: In Search of Excellence.” College Composition and Communication 61.4 (2010): 640-72. Print.

In this article, the authors explain the importance of “deep listening” in feminist research. This involves “listening to and learning from the women themselves, going repeatedly, not to our assumptions and expectations, but to the women—to their writing, their work, and their worlds” (p. 649).

Koch, Kenneth. I Never Told Anybody: Teaching Poetry Writing to Old People. New York: Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 1997 (originally published in 1977). Print.

The author describes his experiences teaching poetry writing in a nursing home on New York City’s Lower East Side. He also includes some of the poems written by his elderly students.

Pierik, Rebecca Pollard. “Getting Smarter About Growing Older.” UMass Amherst Magazine: Our Families, Our Selves: A Special Report, Summer 2007. 24. Print.

This short report describes the work of the Older Adult Program and the Senior Link Program of the Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts, directed by Kathleen Bowen, who studied gerontology at UMass Amherst. These programs are open to all, regardless of religious affiliation.

Rowe, John W., and Robert L. Kahn. Successful Aging. New York: Dell, 1998. Print.

The authors emphasize 3 key factors that emerged from the MacArthur Foundation Study of Successful Aging: (1) avoiding disease and disability, (2) maintaining high cognitive and physical function, and (3) staying involved with life and living.

Snowdon, David. Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives. New York: Bantam Books, 2001. Print.

This book reports the often surprising results of the so-called Nun Study, in which 678 Catholic sisters have been studied regularly for insights into successful aging. All participants in the study, which is especially concerned with learning more about Alzheimer’s disease, have agreed to have brain autopsies conducted after they die. Scientific data from this study has been reported in numerous medical journals.

Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. New York: Penguin, 2005. Print.

Publisher Comments: In this book Tolle explains “how transcending our ego-based state of consciousness is not only essential to personal happiness, but also the key to ending conflict and suffering throughout the world.”

Vaillant, George E. Aging Well. New York: Little, Brown, 2002. Print.

Based on a large-scale longitudinal study of aging—the Harvard Study of Adult Development—this book confirms the conclusions of many other studies of aging. Three different groups including 824 people from different social and economic groups have been studied since they were teenagers more than 50 years ago. In identifying keys to successful aging, Vaillant, the current director of the Harvard Study, mentions obvious things such as exercising and not smoking but goes on to identify four additional intangible qualities: (1) future orientation, (2) capacity for gratitude and forgiveness, (3) empathy with others, and (4) desire to do things with people rather than to people.

Van Manen, Max. Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy. Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 1990. Print.

Van Manen explores the humanistic roots of research on lived experience. He explains: “to do research is always to question the way we experience the world, to want to know the world in which we live as human beings. . . . [R]esearch is a caring act: we want to know that which is most essential to being” (p. 5).

Weil, Andrew. Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being. New York: Anchor, 2005. Print.

This book by the well-known author of numerous books on health and nutrition discusses recent medical advances and outlines the principles of successful aging, including the two most important ones: “maintenance of physical activity throughout life and maintenance of social and intellectual connectedness” (p. 39). These factors, it turns out, are more important than exotic diets or nutritional supplements.