How to Invent a Generational War


Through the nearly two decades I have been studying (or researching or reading or whatever this continuing interest is) aging, I have collected a good-sized library of related books.

Mixed among the practical, the journalistic, scholarly and political are memoirs, autobiographies, journals, chronicles, meditations, contemplations, reflections and a few novels about aging written by old people – you know, the real experts on this stage of life.

It is a shame to leave them on a shelf when I'm finished reading, so beginning today, Elder Prose Interlude will join the occasional Elder Poetry Interlude I've been publishing recently. I hope you will enjoy these.

By Florida Scott-Maxwell

“We are people to whom something important is about to happen. But before then, these endless years before the end, can we summon enough merit to warrant a place for ourselves? We go into the future not knowing the answer to our question.”

* * *

“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting, and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age. To my own surprise I burst out with hot conviction.”

* * *

“My dear fellow octogenarians, how are we to carry so much life, and what are we to do with it?

“Let no one say it is 'unlived life' with any of the simpler psychological certitudes. No one lives all the life of which he was capable. The unlived life in each of us must be the future of humanity.

“When truly old, too frail to use the vigour that pulses in us, and weary, sometimes even scornful of what can seem the pointless activity of mankind, we may sink down to some deeper level and find a new supply of life that amazes us.

“All is uncharted and uncertain, we seem to lead the way into the unknown.”

* * *

“Age is truly a time of heroic helplessness. One is confronted by one's own incorrigibility. I am always saying to myself, 'Look at you, and after a lifetime of trying.' I still have the vices that I have known and struggled with – well it seems like since birth. Many of them are modified, but not much.

“I can neither order nor command the hubbub of my mind. Or is it my nervous sensibility? This is not the effect of age; age only defines one's boundaries. Life has changed me greatly, it has improved me greatly, but it has also left me practically the same.

“I cannot spell. I am over critical, egocentric and vulnerable. I cannot be simple. In my effort to be clear I become complicated. I know my faults so well that I pay them small heed. They are stronger than I am. They are me.”

* * *

“When a new disability arrives I look about me to see if death has come, and I call quietly, 'Death, is that you? Are you there?' So far the disability has answered, 'Don't be silly, it's me.'”

Florida Scott-Maxwell

Florida Scott-Maxwell, an American who lived most of her life in Scotland, was an actress, playwright, suffrage activist and a Jungian psychologist. Born in 1883, she died in 1979 at age 95.

The Measure of My Days, written when Scott-Maxwell was in her eighties, is timeless and as timely today as it was when it was published nearly half a century ago. It's the sort of book to keep by your side to dip into any page for a bit of inspiration and even wisdom.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon Ostrow: Haven


Wonderful, Ronni, thanks for these. Will try and seek out the Florida Scott-Maxwell book to have at hand to "dip into."

Wow, Ronni, this really hit me. Will definately get this book. :) BTW, I'd like to suggest another book as well. It's called "Strange Relation" by Rachel Hadas a poet & professor from Rutgers who reflects on caring for her professor husband (with dementia) in both prose & poetry. And who of us is not affected in some way by this dreadful condition. It's a small book filled with love & understanding. Dee

Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful woman!

Now, well into my eighties, I feel as though I should have great wisdom to impart to those who follow me. Sadly, although I search my memories for a perfect lesson that will guide others who follow me I come up empty.

Thank you Ronni for the recommendation of what are so many pearls of wisdom in Florida's book. Abebooks here I come....


I seldom disagree with Darlene, but today I must.

Her comment that she comes up empty when she searches for examples of how she imparts knowledge or wisdom to others is not true.

Her tirades are second only to Crabby in the amount of knowledge she imparts while she is in a fit of anger over one thing or another.She often calls on Bernie Sanders or Paul Krugman to help her prove a point and we learn from them,too.

About Florida Scott-Maxwell. I never heard of her until today and so, once again, you are introducing us to someone who has much to teach us and
I thank you for suggesting
"The Measure Of My Days". I'm sure it will be memorable reading.


Goodness that was wonderful.

Thanks for sharing this. I will look for this book. I found the quotes you shared quite interesting. My mother, now 96, has shown me that much of what Florida Scott-Maxwell is saying is true.

What a pleasure to read the quotes from this book.I read it when it was first published and I was in my mid-forties. It helped me to better understand my parents and to adopt much of my attitude on aging. Now at 76 I think I'll read it again if I can remember who I lent it to. Oh heck, I'll see if it is available at Powell's or Abe's. Thank you, Ronni.

I'm with you. Through the years I've known Darlene via her blog and here, she has imparted enough wisdom for ten Darlenes.

I have gained uncounted pieces of wisdom from Darlene.

I'm with Ronni and Nancy on Darlene. . .

Dear Ronni,
I began to collect books written by older people when you published a list you recommended some time ago. Will add this one to my list.
Thanks for all you do....

Curious, I went to Google Play (used to be Books), searched on Florida Scott-Maxwell, and found a free book to download: Flash Point, a Play in three acts. It's $12.99 at It can be read free on your computer and maybe on eReaders. I was hoping "The Measure of My Days" might be there, but no.
I enjoyed the excerpts. The one just above the picture speaks to me.

Brilliant! What an excellent addition to your blog! I love learning about books that someone else has already gone to the trouble of reading and summarizing for me. This one sounds wonderful. I'm looking forward to learning more about Florida Scott-Maxwell, and to more of these Prose Interlude gems.

Excellent - really enjoyed that - yes it is frustrating having all those books on our shelves and no way of sharing them - may I also suggest The Creative Age - Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life by Gene D. Cohen - although the author is relatively young - being only in his 50s I think! It is an interesting and motivating book to read.

nice addition to your already awesome site

I agree about Darlene. Also, love how this blog is so dynamic and keeps adding new interesting features -- mirrors what makes our lives vibrant, keeps our minds sharp throughout the aging process. Isn't this what makes life worthwhile?

I ordered it from the library, the day you mentioned it. Reading it now and loving it. I will be sharing this gem with others. Thank you so much.

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