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How to Age: The School of Life    by Anne Karpf order for
How to Age
by Anne Karpf
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2015 (2015)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Rather than making a New Year's resolution that you know you probably won't keep, why not try reading a book that might have more of an impact on your life? If that sounds like a plan, I'd suggest Anne Karpf's How to Age.

There are plenty of books available on the aging process and how to approach it (or get through it) with as much dignity and as little angst as possible. I usually skip those books because I'm in my seventies and already quite a ways into the process. Plus, the ones I have heard about or thumbed through weren't that interesting or helpful.

Something about this book, besides the fact that it is under 200 pages, made me decide to start reading. Once I started I kept going and, I have to admit, it was both informative and entertaining reading.

Drawing from her own personal research and case studies, British writer Anne Karpf stresses that there is no template for aging well. She writes that 'each of us grow and mature in idiosyncratic ways' and, thus, we are not going to handle aging in the same, often quirky, manner.

After debunking some commonly held myths about older folks, the author notes that one of the pluses about aging is that it comes with 'a liberation from social expectations'. One of the pleasures of old age is 'caring less what other people want for or from you, and more about your own sense of 'rightness''.

As you delve into this little book you'll find examples of people who embraced aging, a discussion of the historical and cultural changes in attitudes to aging, and a look at the ways in which we experience aging differently based on our gender. There's also a very brief but poignant chapter on death.

'This book asks you to try to reconceive your own aging, and to get in touch with it,' writes Karpf. 'It even has the temerity to suggest that, instead of fearing or denying the aging process, it can be embraced. It argues that we can become more vital and not less as we grow older. In order to reach this place, though, some hard psychic work is required: vulnerability and death both need to be granted entry and not magicked away.'

Will reading this book make you welcome getting old? Probably not, but it might well help you place the process in perspective. And some folks will find solace from realizing that the winding down they are now in need not be a totally negative situation.

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