Aging Our Way: Lessons for Living from 85 and Beyond


In 1998, Hallmark unveiled their new "One-Hundredth-Birthday" cards, and by 2007 annual sales were at 85,000. America is rapidly graying: between now and 2030, the number of people in the U.S. over the age of 80 is expected to almost triple. But how long people live raises the question of how well they live.

Aging Our Way follows the everyday lives of 30 elders (ages 85-102) living at home and mostly alone to understand how they create and maintain meaningful lives for ...

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Aging Our Way: Lessons for Living from 85 and Beyond

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In 1998, Hallmark unveiled their new "One-Hundredth-Birthday" cards, and by 2007 annual sales were at 85,000. America is rapidly graying: between now and 2030, the number of people in the U.S. over the age of 80 is expected to almost triple. But how long people live raises the question of how well they live.

Aging Our Way follows the everyday lives of 30 elders (ages 85-102) living at home and mostly alone to understand how they create and maintain meaningful lives for themselves. Drawing on the latest interdisciplinary scholarship on aging and three years of interviews with the elders, Meika Loe explores how elders navigate the practical challenges of living as independently as possible while staying healthy, connected, and comfortable. While most books on the subject treat old age as a social problem and elders as simply diminished versions of their former selves, Aging Our Way views them as they really are: lively, complicated, engaging people finding creative ways to make their aging as meaningful and manageable as possible. In their own voices, elders describe how they manage everything from grocery shopping, doctor appointments, and disability, to creating networks of friends and maintaining their autonomy. In many ways, these elders can serve as role models. The lessons they have learned about living in moderation, taking time for themselves, asking for help, keeping a sense of humor, caring for others, and preparing for death provide an invaluable source of wisdom for anyone hoping to live a long and fulfilling life. Through their stories, Loe helps us to think about aging, well-being, and the value of human relationships in new ways.

Written with remarkable warmth and depth of understanding, Aging Our Way offers a vivid look at a group of people who too often remain invisible--those who have lived the longest--and all they have to teach us.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The stereotype of the "oldest old" (age 85 and above) in our society is of frailty and dependence, often in nursing homes. Yet 78% of those in this demographic still live in their own homes and 75% still drive. Colgate University sociologist Loe (The Rise of Viagra) reports on her research on 30 oldest old individuals in small city and rural upstate New York. She draws 13 lessons from their experiences, including "(Re) Design Your Living Space," "Resort to Tomfoolery," and "Accept and Prepare for Death." Above all, she notes that the oldest old remain very much in charge of their own lives: "They innovate. They grow and learn." Some 30% volunteer and 40% provide financial contributions to family members. Loe also stresses the importance of social capital, the network of relatives, friends, neighbors, and even paid help who sustain the elderly emotionally and practically. Loe's writing is clear, jargon-free, and warm—she clearly likes and often admires her subjects. She has done an excellent job in organizing her book topically and lets her subjects speak for themselves, then distills their most important points. While there are few startling revelations, there is a great deal of wisdom. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"Americans are living longer lives today than ever before. But are these quality years? How are we experiencing 'these additional years' in our 80s, 90s, and even 100s? In Meika Loe's Aging Our Way, men and women tell how they are making the best of their time, even with personal limitations. These 'ways of aging' are summed up as lessons for reflection and action. I urge you to read and share this inspiring book with others for it enriches understanding of life paths that many will follow." --Glen H. Elder, Jr., Howard W. Odum Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Loe's writing is clear, jargon-free, and warm-she clearly likes and often admires her subjects. She has done an excellent job in organizing her book topically and lets her subjects speak for themselves, then distills their most important points. While there are few startling revelations, there is a great deal of wisdom." --Publisher's Weekly

"Useful for its thoroughness, examples of resiliency, and attention to this growing phenomenon." --CHOICE

"A lively, engaging, and moving read. Loe shows how the personal resources needed to cope with aging are closely tied to structural factors like race, class, gender, birth cohort, and socioeconomic status. Nearly any reader will find Aging Our Way relevant to their own life or the lives of their aging parents or relatives." --Deborah Carr, Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University

"In this delightfully written book, Meika Loe illustrates how we continue to develop and become more diverse as we age. Aging Our Way is an engagingly written introduction to this new understanding of aging and will serve its readers well." --Peter V. Rabins, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, co-author of The 36-Hour Day

"What a timely and useful handbook for all ages-full of insights and often poignant. L'chayim!" --Dr. Sally H. Lunt, Advisory Board, and Judy Norsigian, Executive Director, Our Bodies Ourselves

"Aging Our Way is a remarkable glimpse of the everyday lives and life lessons of elders living on their own-and on their own terms. Through engaging interviews, Meika Loe moves away from an obsessive focus on youth to an idea of comfortable aging that embraces continuity, connection, creativity, and quality of life." --Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest

"Aging Our Way is Loe's well-crafted answer to the question many ask as they approach the end of their days, 'How can one maintain comfort and health, stay at home, and continue to lead a meaningful life?'" --Foreword

"Loe's work will prove beneficial for qualitative sociologists, gerontologists, and ethnographers. The prose is accessible, the stories are rich, and the suggestive findings are pragmatic. Aging Our Way is a must-read for all sociologists of aging, perhaps especially so for ethnographers of aging." --Scott Patrick Murphy, Postdoctoral Scholar in the Alliance for Applied Research in Education and Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida

"The references and data provided include some of the most highly regarded sources and provide a wealth of information. Written in an engaging style, Loe sheds light on the realities about the well-being of those who are 85+ and illustrates resilience, creativity, adaptation and strength among a group of people often thought of as otherwise... This book is written in a passionate way that is easily accessible and appropriate for a wide range of readers, including students, practitioners, older adults, and their family members."-- Donna Wang, Department of Social Work, Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus

"...unique in its content and approach... a timely, important and enjoyable addition to the literature of this increasingly important social issue." --Metapsychology Online Reviews

"Aging Our Way is a welcome addition to aging scholarship on the importance of social networks, continuity over the life course, self-reliance, dignity, and autonomy for well-being and comfortable aging." --Gender and Society

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199797905
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/6/2011
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 1,258,008
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Meika Loe is Associate Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Colgate University and the author of The Rise of Viagra: How the Little Blue Pill Changed Sex in America.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: 30-60-90: A Short Meditation on Age and Perspective
Introduction: Living at Home and Making it Work
Lesson 1: Continue to Do What You Did
Lesson 2: (Re) Design Your Living Space
Lesson 3: Live in Moderation
Lesson 4: Take Time for Self
Lesson 5: Ask for Help; Mobilize Resources
Lesson 6: Connect with Peers
Lesson 7: Resort to Tomfoolery
Lesson 8: Care for Others
Lesson 9: Reach out to Family
Lesson 10: Get Intergenerational; Redefine Family
Lesson 11: Insist on Hugs
Lesson 12: Be Adaptable
Lesson 13: Accept and Prepare for Death
Conclusion: New Perspectives on the Oldest Old
Postscript: On Doing Ninety (by Ann, research participant)
Epilogue: Updates on Study Participants
Appendix: Best Practices in Supporting Aging in Place

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2012

    When my first mentor, Alice Hastings, died at the age of 94, I w

    When my first mentor, Alice Hastings, died at the age of 94, I was unable to attend her memorial service, but I heard from several friends of the ‘remarkable eulogy’ that was given in her, in honor by someone I’d never heard of. It turned out that this someone was Meika Loe, author of AGING OUR WAY: LESSONS FOR LIVING, Oxford University Press, 2011, itself a remarkable book which traces the lives of 30 people who are still living at home alone, navigating the passage of old age in the modern world, of which Alice was a part. Loe has investigated the habits of these ‘elders’ through interviews, observations, and friendships; she has shown how these people have maintained their independence, individuality, and dignity by coping well with the indignities accompanying old age, of physical and mental decline, and of marginalization by mainstream America. What comes across in this most interesting study is how creative and complicated these lives still are right up until the end of life. Loe teaches sociology and women’s studies at Colgate University, but maintains a home in downtown Albany. In both of her ‘communities’ she discovered interesting older folk to study and include in her research. Loe posits some ‘lessons for living’ that she gleaned from her subjects: continue to do what you did, (re)design your living space, live in moderation, take time for self, ask for help and mobilize resources, connect with peers, resort to tomfoolery, care for others, reach out to family, get intergenerational and redefine family, insist on hugs, be adaptable, and accept and prepare for death. Throughout the book Loe individualizes each subject’s story, highlighting their individual responses to their situations. The reader can relate to all of their stories and admire their ways of coping. For my mentor, Alice, I always knew she was an elegant lady, well-educated, and holding premier positions in the library world (University at Albany, Smith College). Alice never had children, and she had a serious disability of blindness, yet she had a wide circle of friends and loyal relationships that constituted her family. She had impeccable manners and posture; in my mind the two always went together. And, way before feminism, she was always interested in following the careers of young women, giving them support and encouragement in their careers. In my mind she was the ‘last of the grand dame age’ but as Loe points out, Alice was not alone. There are several other ‘elders’ in Loe’s book that I knew and who, for me, have been models in the aging process. Loe also provides research and good resources for any reader wanting to explore this fascinating subject further. The aging process has changed markedly in our lifetimes with a longer living population and better health care. I should think that AGING OUR WAY would reach a much broader audience than just students of sociology; it provides stimulation and insights for the general reader who will ultimately be taking the same path as the 30 people featured. One can learn many ‘lessons for living into old age’ from this perceptive book.

    Anne F. Roberts (Dr.)
    Retired librarian and professor
    University at Albany

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  • Posted December 18, 2011

    An important book for all of us

    I am not a demographer or a researcher, but I consider myself reasonably well informed. Aging Our Way put a lot of things in perspective for me about what is happening in the US (and beyond)-- in terms of the "graying" of our population. As the parent of a young child, I find myself often surrounded by young families, but Prof. Loe points out in this new book that people over 85 are actually the fastest growing segment of our society now. I knew that people were living longer, but I didn't realize how many "elders" there are, or that so many of them -- especially women -- manage to live alone. The book has made me think about my own aging parents, and my entire family. To add to my enjoyment of the book, it is really beautifully written. The author does a good job of putting the interviews she did with these "elders" into a larger perspective. She connects their stories to the communities they live in, but also makes connections to the larger world. I think it's remarkable how Loe gets her subjects talking so honestly and openly about their lives. Their stories really carry the reader along. I read this book recently and had it out on the coffee table when my 83 year old mother-in-law picked it up and started reading it!

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