How We Age: A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Growing Old

How We Age: A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Growing Old

4.1 6
by Marc Agronin

View All Available Formats & Editions

A young doctor’s reflections on his experiences as a nursing-home psychiatrist—with remarkable stories of vitality and growth that transformed his view of agingSee more details below


A young doctor’s reflections on his experiences as a nursing-home psychiatrist—with remarkable stories of vitality and growth that transformed his view of aging

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Geriatric psychiatrist Agronin (Alz-heimer Disease and Other Dementias) draws on stories of his patients to examine the gifts of wisdom and experience that come through loss. Literate, generous, and compassionate, Agronin's ground-level view of aging (most of his patients at a large Miami nursing home are nonagenarians) opposes the current spate of books attempting to turn back the clock and preserve physical youth. Rather, Agronin argues for accepting, understanding, and appreciating aging as a nonreversible, frequently debilitating, but valuable condition. He sweetens sobering accounts of human development theorist Erik Erikson's dementia; a Czech woman whose husband and children were killed by the Nazis; a Native American Korean War vet suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; a drug- and alcohol-addicted, bipolar millionaire, and others with instances in which they were able to find meaning and comfort through new challenges and the creative interplay of memory and imagination involved in life review. Throughout, Agronin is critical of impersonal "standard of care" even in seemingly hopeless situations. Referencing poetry, plays and parables, he makes an art of caring for the aged by restoring dignity to a dehumanized but growing segment of the population. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews, December 2010
“A successful explication of how ‘aging equals vitality, wisdom, creativity, spirit, and, ultimately, hope.’”

Publishers Weekly, 12/6/10
“Literate, generous, and compassionate, Agronin's ground-level view of aging…opposes the current spate of books attempting to turn back the clock and preserve physical youth. Rather, Agronin argues for accepting, understanding, and appreciating aging as a nonreversible, frequently debilitating, but valuable condition…Referencing poetry, plays and parables, he makes an art of caring for the aged by restoring dignity to a dehumanized but growing segment of the population.”

Buffalo Jewish Review, 1/7/11
“Agronin realistically shows the inevitable changes that occur with aging as well as the strengths that can provide balance…Agronin's extensive interviews with patients and others lead to his assertion that aging doesn't necessarily equate with deterioration and enfeeblement. It can be a stage of life marked by wisdom, faith, trust, and hope.”

Internet Review of Books, 1/8/11“Many books on the subject of aging have flooded the shelves and online queues of booksellers, taking advantage both of our fear of aging and our desire to find the fountain of youth. Such is not the case in How We Age…It would be a pity if you were to pass up this important book…How We Age is a remarkable treasure…One of the most readable, engaging books I have encountered in a long time, How We Age is reminiscent of Oliver Sacks' method of finding the person inside the illness (or age). Agronin is the doctor we should all wish for when we find ourselves in that late stage of life.”

Sherwin B. Nuland, MD, bestselling author of How We Die
“Beautifully written…Marc Agronin’s daily work is the Art of medicine at its finest, and his descriptive powers are a gift to readers.”

Gary Small, MD, UCLA Professor of Psychiatry and Aging, bestselling author of The Memory Bible
“Through the stories and lives of Marc Agronin’s patients, we learn about the scientific, medical, and human side of the aging process. Dr. Agronin is not only a gifted writer and clinician, but also a keen observer of human behavior, whose empathy for his patients goes a long way to break down the ageism that separates the generations.”

The Economist, 2/10/11
“[Agronin] sees [old age] as intrinsic to life, with its own ‘ways and meanings,’ its particular wisdom…He points to research showing that old brains can grow new nerve connections, to surveys that indicate happiness peaking at 85, to all the creative potential he has witnessed in the elderly. It’s heartwarming.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/6/11
“[Agronin] writes with the fluency and ease of another doctor, Atul Gawande, whose The Checklist Manifesto last year was a revelation…Some of the stories are sad, of course, but many are profound…demonstrating that the old—just like the young—harbor complexities and riches that the dismissive eye can miss.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 2/13/11
“[Agronin] is as sensitive in his writing as he appears to be in his treatment…Here is a doctor who not only writes poetically but who also demonstrates what it means to have respect for our elders…The strength of How We Age is the compelling and absorbing case studies. In these patients' stories readers will find a greater understanding of their own aging and that of their loved ones…Through fascinating case studies, Agronin documents what aging means and how our understanding of it is constantly changing.”
“The Bookworm” nationally syndicated column, 2/18/11
“Part science, part essay, How We Age is not one of those books that blindly celebrates the so-called wisdom of years…Agronin bluntly writes about dementia, forgetfulness, Alzheimer’s, and other issues that come with Seniority. He’s honest with his readers without trying to hide anything. Then, he balances the bad with soaring stories of the goodness in becoming an elder, including serenity, knowledge, and acceptance. Agronin’s colleagues taught him that aging has no cure. His patients taught him that aging really doesn’t need a cure. Thoughtful, warm, and wise, How We Age is a book for everyone who’s putting on the years.”
The Future of Aging blog, 2/11/11
“The stories of Dr. Argonin’s patients are coupled with expert insights to create a comprehensive overview of scientific, medical and human sides of the aging process. His book features discussions about dementia, brain health and family relationships, but it also emphasizes an unlikely topic: hope.”
Spirituality & Practice
“[An] enlightening book.”

Book Review, March 2011
“[An] honest exploration of old people and the process of aging…An excellent and hopeful book for caregivers of all kinds.”

New York
Journal of Books, 2/1/11
“Skillfully told and well worth the read. The reader’s emotional involvement in the latter half of this book was more akin to the feelings one has after having read a very compassionate novel rather than a treatise on aging.”
AARP Bulletin, 3/10/11
“Agronin's message is simple butpowerful: This aging process is not all decline; everyone—no matter how old—can experience renewal.”

The New Yorker
, 3/14/11

“[Agronin] tells thoughtful stories.”, 3/4/11

“[A] poetic, respectful look at the aging process…[Dr. Agronin]should be held up as a role model in the medical profession.”

Valley News, 3/2/11
“Gives hope…to those people who dread and fear the idea of nursing homes…Dr. Agronin has a lively, upbeat writing style.”, 3/10/11
“Filled with good stories…What ultimately emerges from this book (though it clearly wasn’t his intent, as there is nothing self-congratulatory about his prose) is that Marc Agronin is an extraordinarily capable geriatric psychiatrist…It’s not his aging patients who offer us the hope of growing old with dignity. It’s doctors like Agronin himself.”

Midwest Book Review, March 2011
“Agronin looks to explore the psychology of age with a bit of unique gusto and much food for thought…A thoughtful and insightful look into the mind of age, highly recommended.”

Yale Alumni Magazine,
April 2011
“A book rich with insight about aging.

Washington Times, 3/18/11
“In the tradition of Atul Gawande and Sherwin Nuland…A spellbinding look at what aging means today.”
Deseret News, 3/27/11
"A delightful book about… the challenges—and triumphs—of people who refuse to age quietly…Unforgettable stories…Agronin does a masterful job of letting readers see into the trials of the elderly while still offering hope that the last years of life can be useful and productive.”

Jewish Times, 3/17/11
“[An] illuminating and deeply humane book…Fortunate are the patients who have such a sensitive and wise man to help them…And fortunate are we, the readers, to have such a profound book in our hands.”

Reference and Research Book News, April 2011
“Aiming to offer a more balanced perspective of aging through the lives of his patients, Agronin…recounts his experiences counseling the residents of Miami Jewish Health Systems and how his view of aging was changed by this work.”
Midewest Book Review, April 2011
“[Agronin] offers inspiration for any interested in aging well.”, 4/11/11
“Marc E. Agronin, M.D., takes a different view than you are accustomed to reading about with regard to caring for the elderly.  His belief that ‘aging equals vitality, wisdom, creativity, spirit and, ultimately, hope’ is a refreshing departure from those who concentrate primarily on what the elderly cannot do…Dr. Agronin is to be highly commended for authoring How We Age and bringing to light a new way of looking at the aging process and in caring for our elders with the same diligence and love with which they once cared for us.”

British Medical Journal (UK), 6/1/11
“There is a crying need for an articulate physician to provide a road map to the meaning of old age, framed in a clinical context that will resonate in a realistic way with healthcare workers. Marc Agronin makes an impressive start in How We Age…His book resembles Sherwin Nuland’s ground-breaking How We Die or Atul Gawande’s Complications in its adroit and successful marriage of gritty clinical practice and big ideas…The delivery is crisp and the narrative turns often surprising…This anthology of reflections does much to restore old age as an epoch of equivalent (if not superior) value as the other stages of life, and is well written and entertaining.”

Cerebrum, 6/23/11
“A wise and enlightening book…The author is unfailingly curious, reflective, and ever respectful of his patients. In a personal, easy-to-read style, he offers insights on aging…The book contains many evocative and touching descriptions…A wonderful book for all audiences.”

Taste for Life, July 2011
“A spellbinding look at what it means to grow old…Written with sensitivity…Show[s] us what’s right about aging, and what our elders can teach us.”

Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 8/2/11
“Like Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland (How We Die) and Dr. Spencer Nadler (The Language of Cells), the author is a practicing physician who is also a gifted writer, a compassionate healer, and something of a philosopher, too.  He is deeply literate, and he decorates his book with apt selections from the Bible, Shakespeare, and the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and T. S. Eliot, among many other sources.”

Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews, September/October 2011
“Easy to read and interesting…Recommended for collections in temple and synagogue libraries, Jewish community center and public libraries, as well as academic libraries.”

Journal of the American Medical Association, 10/5/11
“An engaging account of the encounters of a geriatric psychiatrist with his older patients, whose successes and failures in dealing with age-related challenges…are discussed skillfully and poignantly…Throughout, Agronin demonstrates an extraordinary knowledge of the concepts and theories that have shaped the science of aging...A must-read for any medical professional who works with older adults.”

The Key Reporter, Fall issue
“Offers a more balanced perspective on aging…Many of the anecdotes in the book illustrate just how worthwhile it is to treat patients without any discrimination based on age…This is a thoughtful and compassionate book.”

Psychiatric Times,
November 2011
“In his well-written and provocative book, Dr. Marc Agronin helps reduce the stigma of ageism and provides clinical guidance for seasoned geriatric psychiatrists, primary care clinicians, and medical students alike…Highly recommended.”

Metapsychology Online Reviews, 2/11/12
“The interviews and cases are interesting and well-presented.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/22/12
“[A] compassionate and engaging book.”

San Francisco Book Review / Sacramento Book Review, 6/12/12
“Dr. Agronin presents a vivid picture of how the older person changes both physically, emotionally, and cerebrally…For the baby boomers whose increasing numbers will attempt to break through the barrier of invisibility that seniors are now accorded, this is a valuable book.”

Philadelphia Tribune, 2/22
“Drawing on moving personal experiences and in-depth interviews with pioneers in the field, Agronin’s book…conjures a spellbinding look at what aging means today.”

Kirkus Reviews

A geriatric psychiatrist endeavors to provide "a more balanced perspective on aging."

Drawing on personal and professional experience, Agronin (Therapy with Older Clients, 2010, etc.) writes that "love can be an endlessly blossoming flower, felt and expressed in hundreds of ways." Patients suffering from memory loss can experience profound new relationships even though they no longer recognize their own relatives, and paging through a scrapbook or listening to old songs can evoke joy even if the memories are buried. Although memory retrieval and other cognitive functions tend to slow with age, the accumulation of training and experience appears to enhance intuition and the ability to make sounder snap judgments. The author describes several instances in which a negative view of aging caused doctors and nurses to have serious lapses of judgment. In one case, an 84-year-old man who had been living independently showed sudden signs of dementia and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. On Agronin's insistence, he was given a CT scan, and it was discovered that he had an operable benign brain tumor. Another time, an elderly resident who had blurred vision complained in a distraught manner that her room was infested with large bugs. A nurse thought this was an instance of dementia and asked that she be tranquilized, but Agronin checked out her room and found ants that the patient hadn't seen clearly. Throughout the book, the author gives examples of the difficulty of treating aging patients who suffer from cognitive problems as well as psychotic episodes. His successes, won through hope, faith and perseverance, have brought him joy and the conviction that the greatest affirmation of our humanity comes from caring for the sick and the weak.

A successful explication of how "aging equals vitality, wisdom, creativity, spirit, and, ultimately, hope."

Read More

Product Details

Da Capo Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >