Book Review | Whos afraid of growing old?

By DECCAN CHRONICLE | Kushalrani Gulab

20 November 2022

The book, strangely, given my pessimism about ageing, made me smile

Taking care of my parents, both of whom suffer debilitating diseases, simultaneously fills me with wonder and terror.

The wonder comes from the fact that as devitalised as their conditions are, my parents ignore the cotton wool I try to wrap them in and persist in behaving like teenagers (i.e., persist in living their lives).

The terror comes from the fact that they ignore the cotton wool, thus putting themselves at physical risk.

At the same time, at 53 years old now, my bones are growing creaky too. While the simple act of getting up from a chair has not yet become a workout in itself, it will soon. It’s hard to imagine it even as I write this, but one day I too will be my parents’ ages. And frankly, I am not looking forward to it at all.

So when my former colleague Reshmi Chakraborty phoned me three years ago to ask my advice on structuring a book she was writing on ageing, I was happy to help her work out chapters, but not interested in the content of those chapters. I did not need even one more kind soul, even a friend, to tell me that age is just a number. I know very well that this kind of number is significant and really not fun.

So it was with reluctance that I finally read Rethink Ageing: Lessons in Ageing from the Older and Bolder Generation, when it released last month. The book is written by Nidhi Chawla and Reshmi Chakraborty, the co-founders of Silver Talkies, a community-led platform for people aged 55 and above that helps them lead healthy, active and engaged lives as seniors, and is based on the experiences of the many seniors the two writers know and the experts who support them in their quest to live life to the lees.

Divided into chapters that dive deeply into topics like exercise, mental health, spirituality, companionship and romance, post-retirement careers, social networks, and the tools that physically support seniors in their homes, the book, strangely, given my pessimism about ageing, made me smile.

First, it offers no ‘rah-rah, 70 is the new 30’ platitudes. It simply states facts and dispenses wisdom gathered from seniors who’ve lived through the things they talk about, leaving it up to you to take from that whatever you need. Second, it isn’t self-consciously motivational. It just acknowledges that however old you may be, you don’t have to crawl into vanvas if you don’t want to, and vice versa. Finally, while accepting that ageing often means physical constraints, the book highlights the fact that your life is your own, to be lived the way you want to live it, whether you want to climb steps or mountains or nothing at all.

I still can’t say that I look forward to arriving at my parents’ ages some day. But having read this book at last, I admit I’m no longer afraid of it. The thought, in fact, even makes me smile.

Rethink Ageing: Lessons in Ageing from the Older and Bolder Generation
By Reshmi Chakraborty and Nidhi Chawla
pp. 256, Rs 399

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