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Shelved: A Memoir of Aging in America    by Sue Matthews Petrovski & Susan Neville order for
by Sue Matthews Petrovski
Order:  USA  Can
Purdue University Press, 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Shelved: A Memoir of Aging in America, educator Sue Petrovski describes what it's like to deal with a partner's growing dementia and face the fact that critical changes are needed in living arrangements and lifestyle. It's a realization that many come to themselves, while others are pressed to get there by family members.

Petrovski reminds us that 'We look at a group of elderly people in wheelchairs with canes and walkers, and we don't see the individuals they not only once were but still are.' She shares stories of elders she has met on her personal journey, as well as her own research; impressions of different late life options; what she chose for herself and her husband; and how that choice is working out. She tells us that elders 'are insightful, intuitive, and quick to find meaning in the passing parade' and advocates for 'change in the way we treat the elderly.'

One tough challenge for Petrovski has been her beloved husband's developing dementia. She's 'never been sure who suffers more when the game is dementia ... probably the family.' This led to her choice of what she calls Planet X - an independent living facility that fosters aging in place, and where small pets are welcome - as their senior home.

The author certainly seems to have aged well. How does one do that? She quotes an intensive Harvard study. It found that strong relationships, and 'learning to make lemonade out of lemons', both have a powerful influence on health. She also discusses Dr. William Thomas's Eden Alternative and its concept of older persons 'engaged in meaningful activities ongoing from their life's past', rather than being infantilized and excluded from decision-making.

Petrovski also addresses mental health issues that lead to negativity, bitterness and misery, which can be infectious. She talks about leaving a legacy 'of purpose and love' that evokes 'a questing spirit in those who follow.' I highly recommend her sage words to you, whatever your age.

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