Over the weekend, I ran across a beautiful online tribute to Dr. Robert Butler, the learned geriatrician, teacher, researcher, longevity expert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and elder advocate who died last month on 4 July at age 83. It was written by one of his many international colleagues.
“He will be remembered as the epitome of aging with dignity, grace and good health, a role model for younger gerontologists like me...” writes Mala Kapur Shankardass in The Hindu.
“He was a practitioner of all that he prescribed. His sharpness, alertness and vitality till he died is exemplary. It sets the tone befittingly for his promoted concepts of 'productive ageing' and 'successful aging...His energy, enthusiasm for work, ability to share was infectious.”
“Infectious” is exactly the right word, as I learned when I was privileged to spend an expense-paid week at the tenth annual Age Boom Academy for a dozen journalists held at Dr. Butler's International Longevity Center in New York City last year.
Even when the discussion turned serious - to the debilities of old age or to cultural and institutional ageism - there was a twinkle in his eye and an enthusiasm for the work that needs to be done. In his presence, I believed it will be done and that I – and each old person - can be a part of making it happen.
Dr. Butler's most recent and, alas, last book on aging, his 17th, arrived in my mailbox in May while I was in the midst of planning and executing my move from Maine to Oregon. With the intention to write about it here, I managed to read it in bits and pieces in between packing and all, but it was lost in a box that I unpacked only in the past couple of weeks. Then it got buried under a bunch of papers I had not moved in that time.
Mala Kapur Shankardass's tribute has me back on track.
The title is The Longevity Prescription – The 8 Proven Keys to a Long, Healthy Life. Generally, I have little truck with self-help books, even one from Dr. Butler. But this is not your ordinary self-help book. In this one, the good doctor's native enthusiam infects every page – along with his intelligence, optimism and the wisdom of a lifetime.
He's not preaching at you about what you should do to attain a vibrant old age; he is engaging and encouraging the reader to practice living as he did. You cannot read this book without believing you can overcome or accommodate obstacles that are in your way or, more particularly, you think are in your way to a longer, healthier old age.
Just about every sentence is packed with information I want to pass on to you, particularly his many small, easy steps we can take every day to improve and maintain our health. There is so much, however, that I don't believe a “review” can do the book justice.
So here is what I propose: That we go through the book together, one chapter a week – there are nine plus an important introduction - and make this a kind of TGB Book Discussion Club – over ten weeks. That's two-and-a-half months to an improved old age for all of us.
Certainly, I encourage you to buy the book, but if you can't afford it ($26 U.S. and $32.50 Canadian – I don't know if it's published in Great Britain, Europe and elsewhere) or don't want to, I will write about each chapter in enough detail that you will get a reasonably good idea of the main points.
Your job then, in the Comments section of the post each week, will be to respond to what you've learned, introduce elements I've left out (if you're reading along), tell us about your experiences with what you do now to maintain your health, what you need to change, what you want to incorporate from the book into your daily lives, encourage all of us in our efforts and to respond to and build on one anothers' comments.
If this interests you, sign up today in the Comments section below. Well, no one needs to sign up. But if there is enough interest, I'll get us started with the introduction chapter next week.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Maureen Moore: Sweet Memories of Mabel Cook, Malibu's Horseback Riding Instructor