It’s Not All About the Book

As awareness about aging increases, conferences are being held, books are being written, study groups are gathering. Never has there been such a plethora of information about aging; increasingly it recognizes that spirituality in the last third of life is vastly different from earlier years. We’re trending.  Good books abound.

In our society there is a new emphasis on aging. The “boomers” have passed 65 and are retiring. We are the fastest growing segment in our economy, we are told. Television ads portray us as the “new young”; gray-haired and crisply-dressed, we are supposed to be taking cruises and reading to beautiful grandchildren and hiking Mt. Everest to prove that we still can.

But what about our souls? In her book The Gift of Years, Joan Chittister says: “What [the study of] gerontology is lacking is the awareness of the spiritual dimension of the only part of life that gives us the resources we need to make a long-term evaluation of the nature and meaning of life itself. In fact, as the physical dimension of life diminishes, the spiritual dimension commonly increases.”

We invite you to peruse the list we have gathered – and to send us titles of your favorites. Some on this list are especially appropriate for group study, and we have noted that.

As you read, give yourself time to digest and think about what the author has to say. And feel free to argue with the author; none of us has the exact same experiences. 

Our Book List – A Starting Point

A New Vision of Parish Ministry for Maturing Adults, Richard P. Johnson. AGES Press, 2019. 2nd edition.
Dr. Johnson, a Roman Catholic lay person, lays out the rationale for and components of parish ministry for older people. Full of excellent suggestions.

Aging as a Spiritual Practice, Lewis Richmond.  Avery, 2012. 
Richmond believes that “it is possible to find enjoyment in the gift of each moment and each breath, even in the midst of difficulty.” Each chapter of the book includes a contemplative reflection that invites the reader’s engagement. 

Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness, Mary C. Earle. Church Publishing.
This is a great hope for anyone, especially older people, who have experienced debilitating illness and must now adjust their lives. Practical as well as spiritual wisdom.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande. Picador, Metropolitan Books, 2014.
An eye-opening and almost frightening book on the inadequacy of current medical practices to deal with aging and death. A reminder that quality of life is more important than length of life.

Falling Upward, Richard Rohr. Jossey-Bass, 2011.
Rohr helps us understand how all we accomplished and all we failed at in the first half of life are stepping stones to life in its fullness in the second half. A must-read for everyone over the age of 70.

From Age-ing to Sage-ing, Zulman Schachter-Shalomi and Ronald S. Miller.  Grand Central Publishing, 1995.
The authors call us into “spiritual eldering,” which involves harvesting the wisdom of our lives and finding ways to transmit that wisdom as a legacy to future generations. 

On the Brink of Everything, Parker J. Palmer.  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018. 
“Aging bring diminishments,” says Palmer, “but more than a few come with benefits.” The book invites us to look for new insights during the latter stages of our lives, to “dive deep and take creative risks.”

Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life, Jane Marie Thibault and Richard L. Morgan. Upper Room Books, 2012.
The authors look at seven gateways by which we can open ourselves to God and to life in its abundance.  Each short chapter includes a meditation and questions for reflection. A good book for small group study. 

The Gift of Years, Joan Chittister.  Blueridge Publishing, 2008.
The old Benedictine nun examines both the blessings and the burdens of the many aspects of aging. This is a book about facing what is and choosing life; a truthful and encouraging book for the elder years. 

The Grace in Aging, Kathleen Dowling Singh. Wisdom Publications, 2014.
Singh focuses on spiritual awakening that is available to those in their later years, leading to wisdom and insight even through the challenges of these years.