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Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?: The Path of Purposeful Aging    by Richard J. Leider & David Shapiro order for
Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?
by Richard J. Leider
Order:  USA  Can
Berrett-Koehler, 2021 (2021)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Old friends Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro (with backgrounds in psychology and philosophy) co-authored the bestseller Repacking Your Bags, giving their view of a good life. They build on that work in Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old? : The Path of Purposeful Aging.

They tell us that we grow up twice - from childhood to adulthood and from adulthood to elderhood - and encourage readers to take the path of purposeful aging by making the 'choice to wake up every day with the intention to grow and give.' Most nowadays live longer than past generations did, but 'the societal story of aging is stuck in a script from our grandparents' or great-grandparents' era', with elders often viewed as a drain on society.

The authors reject that narrative, encouraging elders to live a purposeful rather than a default life by being intentional about place, people, life work and/or purpose. They discuss the late-life crisis and advise dropping the corrosive ideas that you need to emulate youth, or that life must contract with time. Acknowledging that some are in much more challenging life situations than others, they encourage tragic optimism, that is saying yes to life, despite the tragedies that inevitably arise.

They cover Reb Zalman's Spiritual Eldering Institute and sage-ing; growing more compassionate like the Grinch; how to add life to our years; getting to know Death ('the world's unparalleled expert in diversity') better; and they quote one of my favorite poets, Rabindranath Tagore: 'When old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.'

There's such a lot here to read, re-read and ponder. I highly recommend Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old? no matter your age - we're all aging after all, and 'old-old people, age 80-plus, are the world's fastest-growing demographic'.

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