NO ONE talks much about the challenges elderly people are facing during this pandemic. Unable to travel or visit family during lockdowns, the most vulnerable people in our population have struggled to find peace and fulfilment in a pandemic world. Once again, books offered an escape from covid19 worries and confinement. They provided humour and useful advice, which helped to ward off fear, boredom and depression. The books on this list should be read decades before retirement.
Here are some of the books that sustained me as I made that important transition to retirement in the middle of this pandemic.
1. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson – This laugh-aloud satire about a centenarian who runs away from the nursing home where he lives is a non-stop adventure. Allan Karlsson, an elderly version of Forrest Gump, was an explosives expert who stumbled into political and historical events, met famous leaders and caused havoc in his youth and old age. This novel reminds readers we are never too old for adventures.
2. Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life by Jane Pauley – When the Today show fired journalist Jane Pauley for a younger journalist, Pauley re-evaluated and reimagined her life while questioning her life calling. This is the story of her personal and professional journey along with interviews she did with other people who lost or quit their jobs. Each anecdote provides an inspirational and creative story as Pauley’s subjects explore new avenues for self-fulfilment and professional success. Your Life Calling is about taking chances in life. Pauley is now the anchor of the TV news magazine CBS Sunday Morning.
3. Keep Moving and Other Tips and Truths about Aging by Dick Van Dyke – At 95, actor Dick Van Dyke, best known for his television series named after him in the 60s and the movie Mary Poppins, is still going strong. His advice about life and aging inspires people of all ages and reminds us all to keep moving physically and mentally. His upbeat, often humorous look at life is a lesson in appreciating every moment. Van Dyke is the epitome of the adage “age is just a number.” This is a fun-filled guide on enjoying life at any age.
4. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce – Old and bored, Harold Fry doesn’t know how to deal with old age. One day, he gets a letter from someone who once loved him. When Fry reads that Queenie is dying in a hospice, he walks away from his life without a word to his wife and embarks on his pilgrimage. As long as he is walking towards Queenie, he is sure he can keep her alive. This is a beautifully written homage to love and purpose that transcends age. Along his journey, Fry discovers life on a whole new level.
5. The Late Starters Orchestra by Ari L Goldman – When Goldman, a journalist, retired, he took up playing the cello, which he hadn’t played for 25 years. Goldman joined a motley group of young and elderly musicians and discovered that aesthetic appreciation doesn’t diminish with age. This light-hearted, thought-provoking memoir on finding creativity and meaning in old age teaches the invaluable lesson that we are more than the jobs we once held.
6. Life is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance: Advice and Inspiration from the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame Couch of 7 NCAA Championship Teams by Valorie Kondos Field – This dancer turned gymnastics coach offers nuggets of wisdom about finding your strength and reinventing yourself in life. Although she speaks much of her own journey and those of her university students, it is useful and interesting advice for people of all ages.
7. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – A year after his wife’s death, Arthur Pepper, who lives a simple life and follows a strict routine, discovers his wife Miriam’s charm bracelet and secret past. The 69-year-old widower travels to London, Paris and India piecing together Miriam’s life so he can understand his wife better. This is a beautifully written book about keeping connections to the ones we love and lose in our lives. Through Pepper we realise we are never too old to learn.
Some day we will step out of this pandemic and into the new normal. In the meantime, we can lose ourselves in a good book and prepare for adventures ahead – regardless of our age.