A Book Review by Julie Randolph, Care Coordinator
I recently read a book that has expanded and challenged my mindset on aging. The author possesses the gifts of encouragement and motivation.
If you are curious about the possibilities of “more” in older age, read on.
Author Marc Middleton, in his book Growing Bolder, describes a pervasive belief system of aging that devalues and oppresses the fullness of life in older age. This belief system portrays aging as being frail, feeble, and forgetful; dull, debilitated, and purposeless; unproductive and consuming resources unnecessarily, a period of failing, just waiting to die.
This belief system uses a bio-medical healthcare model focused solely on finding what is wrong and treating with medicine and corrective surgeries. The acceptable way to grow older is to carefully, and prudently, resist risks. Physical youthfulness is the standard and the pinnacle of worthiness; while gray hair, wrinkled skin, and shrunken bodies are substandard, unattractive, and pitied.
Middleton then turns a sharp corner, providing a counter-belief system of aging portraying individuals of strength and purpose pursuing growth and passions. Without denying natural changes and setbacks as we grow older, Middleton introduces realistic avenues to well-being:
- Prehabilitation is the act of getting strong in preparation for setbacks. This mindset focuses on attaining and maintaining your maximum strength and agility so that you are as prepared as possible when setbacks, illnesses, and accidents occur.
- Compressed morbidity is to “live long, die fast” and requires PLM “positive lifestyle modification” of vigorous exercise built into each day; consumption of clean, whole, and unprocessed foods; and a social network that supports stress reduction and positivity.
- In a culture of ageism, many older adults are lulled into a life of passivity, denying themselves the continuation of hobbies or new experiences because of possible risks to hips, knees, finances, time, logistics, and a caregiver’s energy. Re-thinking these “risks” and placing value on our hearts’ desires, lifelong learning, and adventure is equally important to well-being at every age of life.
- Redefining retirement as a “pit stop” to refuel and reset for new opportunities, a new plan, a new purpose, and a passion to make the most of every moment of every day. Moreover, removing retirement from the paradigm of aging entirely will bring the mindset of life on a continuum with equal value at any age.
Middleton acknowledges that the challenges of “aging in place” requires caregiving. The integral and dynamic role caregivers play cannot be overstated. Middleton describes the profound exercise of asking three questions that lead to the understanding of basic needs which can lead to the development of a care plan for aging in place:
- Who will change my light bulbs?
- How will I get an ice cream cone?
- Who will I have lunch with?
These thought-provoking questions support the caregiver by allowing pre-planning, assignment of duties, and respite. Providing solutions for potential stressors, such as home maintenance, transportation, scheduled events, and socialization enhance the life of the caregiver.
In the end, Middleton challenges us to consider that “medicine is not healthcare, it is sick care”.
“Good food, vigorous exercise, great friends, sound sleep, and mental stimulation are healthcare”. A well-developed Advanced Medical Directive can avoid crash carts and intubations. Embracing Hospice and doulas “to orchestrate a loving, peaceful and pain-free goodbye” is possible.
Consider picking up a copy and reading Growing Bolder by Marc Middleton. “If we can change our belief system about growing older, we can change how we age. What the mind believes, the body embraces.”