Book Review: “The End of Old Age” by Marc E. Agronin, MD
Written by Susan Moore
“To age is the most profound thing we accomplish in life.”
Geriatric Psychiatrist, Marc Agronin, has provided a new lens on aging, repositioning the stereotypical doom and gloom of being ‘old’ to a celebration of aging as a opportunity to embrace vitality, build resilience and thrive in the face of adversity. Agronin combines the stories of supercentenarians and older adults of all ages, to provide a road map for aging well, as opposed to our obsession with all things ‘anti-aging’. From the ‘right to die’ arguments to setting the stage for a vibrant aging process, Agronin has the ability to shift the clinical into the personal through storytelling.
Agronin is adept at bringing positivity to almost any negative perception of the aging process. Consider the word ‘Geropause’, a term coined by Agronin to describe the “challenging and symbolic stagnant-quo – causing age points that can impose a halt or deviation from previous personal development”; Agronin doesn’t fixate on the negative aspects of slowing down but rather provides examples of how older adults like ‘Bodi’ (a pseudonym) were able to engage with activities that had been just out of reach in earlier years.
Agronin successfully creates new terminology moving negatively perceived life events into opportunities for continued growth and hope as demonstrated in Part II, Chapter 3, Age Points. Stress, trauma, grief and loss, and other life challenges are repositioned as ‘age points’, events that impact our ability to move through adversity. Although Agronin is careful to note that not all ‘age points’ will have successful outcomes (i.e. loss of a spouse), he does provide guidance on how to build resilience for when ‘age points’ occur.
The book is structured through four chapters, using literary tools including archetypes, personal stories and narrative arcs, to bring readers into shared life journeys. Using three questions and answers to unpack the aging process, Agronin brings the reader to a place of hope and positivity:
“Why age? To grow in wisdom.
Why survive? To realize a purpose.
Why thrive? To create something new”.
From beginning to end, Agronin delivers clear, engaging and compassionate examples of choices made by older adults when looking at their own futures.
This book has left me with a profound sense of hope and the understanding that we can, and will, thrive even in the Ninth Stage of our lives when mental and physical impairment threaten quality of life. Building capacity to withstand adversity, reinventing oneself at any age and finding life purpose, are the stepping stones leading to The End of Old Age.