Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders

Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders

by Mary Pipher PhD

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781573227841
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/28/2000
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 201,126
Product dimensions: 8.16(w) x 5.34(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Mary Pipher, Ph.D., is a psychologist and the author of nine books, including the New York Times bestsellers Reviving Ophelia, The Shelter of Each Other, and Another Country, as well as Seeking Peace and Writing to Change the World. She lives in Nebraska.

Read an Excerpt

ANOTHER COUNTRY:
Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders

by Mary Pipher

 

INTRODUCTION

Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia, the phenomenal bestseller about the experiences of adolescent girls today, changed forever how we understand their world, and ours. Now, Mary Pipher turns to an equally troubled passage—the journey into old age. This is a book about our parents and grandparents, because they don't grow old in a vacuum. The process can be just as painful for us—daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons—as for them. The gradual turning of life's tide can take us by surprise, as we find ourselves unprepared to begin caring for those who have always cared for us. Writing from her experience as a therapist and from interviews with families and older people, Pipher offers us scenarios that bridge the generation gap. And in these poignant and hopeful stories of real children, adults, and elders we find the secrets to empathy. With her inimitable combination of respect and realism, Pipher gets inside the minds, hearts, and bodies of elder men and women. And we begin to understand fully that the landscape of age is truly that of another country. Today's world is vastly different from the one our parents grew up in. It's not the world in which helping aging parents meant stopping in at their house every day; in which children could learn about the richness of life from their grandparents; and in which grandparents and children were sustained and nourished by the unique bond between those on the opposite ends of a lifetime. We need new ways of supporting one another—new ways of sharing our time, our energy, and our love. In Another Country, Mary Pipher will show us how.

 

ABOUT MARY PIPHER

A clinical psychologist in private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska, Mary Pipher has been seeing families for over twenty years. She is also a visiting assistant professor at the University of Nebraska, and a commentator for Nebraska Public Radio. Dr. Pipher received her B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969, and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Nebraska in 1977. As an anthropology major in college, Dr. Pipher became aware of the impact of culture on the psychology of individuals. She wrote her previous book, Reviving Ophelia (Grosset/ Putnam, 1994), to help parents understand the situation young teenage girls are facing in our country today. Reviving Ophelia immediately struck a chord, and Dr. Pipher began receiving speaking requests from all over the country.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. We all get older. However, some people weather old age more gracefully than others. Why do you think this is? Do you think positive people remain positive as they age or do you think the losses of aging wear everyone down?

Table of Contents

Prelude Lake Louise..............................................xvii
Introduction.........................................................1
Part One Landscape of Age..........................................13
CHAPTER 1 Another Country..........................................15
CHAPTER 2 Xenophobia: Our Fears Divide Us..........................40
CHAPTER 3 Time Zones: From a Communal to an Individualistic Culture.............................................................58
CHAPTER 4 The Great Divide: Psychology.............................91

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"[Pipher] observes that to grow old for many people in today's fragmented, age-phobic, age-segregated America is to inhabit a foreign country, isolated, disconnected, and misunderstood."
The New York Times

“Pipher explores how today’s mobile, individualistic, media-drenched culture prevents so many dependent old people, and the relatives trying to do right by them, from getting what they need…Her insights will help people of several generations.”
The Washington Post

“Totally accessible…[Another Country] is a compassionate…look at the disconnect between baby boomers and their aging parents or grandparents.”
USA Today

“A field guide to old age, combining personal stories with social theory.”
The Boston Globe

“Passionate and eloquent…There’s a profound depth to this wise and moving book. Go read.”
Lincoln Star-Journal 

“Rich in stories and full in details.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Older men and women, as well as their children and grandchildren, will find this well-written and a sensitive investigation of aging…Enlightening and engrossing.”
Publishers Weekly

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia, the phenomenal bestseller about the experiences of adolescent girls today, changed forever how we understand their world, and ours. Now, Mary Pipher turns to an equally troubled passage—the journey into old age. This is a book about our parents and grandparents, because they don't grow old in a vacuum. The process can be just as painful for us—daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons—as for them. The gradual turning of life's tide can take us by surprise, as we find ourselves unprepared to begin caring for those who have always cared for us. Writing from her experience as a therapist and from interviews with families and older people, Pipher offers us scenarios that bridge the generation gap. And in these poignant and hopeful stories of real children, adults, and elders we find the secrets to empathy. With her inimitable combination of respect and realism, Pipher gets inside the minds, hearts, and bodies of elder men and women. And we begin to understand fully that the landscape of age is truly that of another country. Today's world is vastly different from the one our parents grew up in. It's not the world in which helping aging parents meant stopping in at their house every day; in which children could learn about the richness of life from their grandparents; and in which grandparents and children were sustained and nourished by the unique bond between those on the opposite ends of a lifetime. We need new ways of supporting one another—new ways of sharing our time, our energy, and our love. In Another Country, Mary Pipher will show us how.
ABOUT MARY PIPHER

A clinical psychologist in private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska, Mary Pipher has been seeing families for over twenty years. She is also a visiting assistant professor at the University of Nebraska, and a commentator for Nebraska Public Radio. Dr. Pipher received her B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969, and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Nebraska in 1977. As an anthropology major in college, Dr. Pipher became aware of the impact of culture on the psychology of individuals. She wrote her previous book, Reviving Ophelia (Grosset/ Putnam, 1994), to help parents understand the situation young teenage girls are facing in our country today. Reviving Ophelia immediately struck a chord, and Dr. Pipher began receiving speaking requests from all over the country.

Now, two years later, with Reviving Ophelia a #1 New York Times bestseller, remaining on the list for more than one year, Mary Pipher has become a national authority on family issues, speaking to groups of professional psychologists, educators, organizations of schools and college presidents across the country. Her articulate and energetic lectures create enthusiasm for her ideas in a way that unites rather than polarizes her audiences, and she has become dedicated to reaching the largest possible audience with her important message.

Dr. Pipher is also the author of Hunger Pains: The American Women's Tragic Quest for Thinness (1988). She writes short fiction which has won numerous awards including the Alice P. Carter Award and recognition in the National Feminist Writer's competition. In the words of Mary Pipher, "I love my life as a writer. Writing has been the great gift of my middle years. It's a tender mercy, a reason to wake up every morning."

A plainspoken woman who retains her simplicity, Mary Pipher has seen her daily life change, but she has not changed. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • We all get older. However, some people weather old age more gracefully than others. Why do you think this is? Do you think positive people remain positive as they age or do you think the losses of aging wear everyone down?
     
  • Discuss how this book has better prepared you to deal with aging loved ones. Has it changed your thoughts about how you hope to live in your own old age? Do you think you can influence your response to aging by thinking about it while you're still relatively young?
     
  • Old people and young people have many things in common, despite appearances. Talk about an older person who influenced your life in a positive way. What was it about this person that reached across a generational divide and touched you?
     
  • As the social structure of America has changed, families have spread out and parents and children often live far from each other. What impact has this had on the experience of aging in America? Discuss possible strategies for dealing with far-flung aging loved ones.
     
  • Medical advances have certainly helped us to extend life expectancies. Yet they often fail to extend quality of life. What could we do as a society to help foster quality of life for the elderly and infirm?
     
  • Children who have never known a world without Nintendo have also never known a world without electricity. Discuss ways to encourage the young and old to share their histories and perspectives for mutual enrichment.
     
  • Talk about a time when you personally felt the effects of the pre-Freudian/post-Freudian culture gap between yourself and an elder. Do you think the young and old can find a middle way that leads to understanding, despite this enormous paradigm shift?
     
  • Older people have usually suffered through the hardships of the Depression and through several wars. They usually discuss childhood difficulties in practical terms ("we were hungry") rather than psychological ("we were dysfunctional.") Discuss the ways, both good and bad, that this perspective influences their approach to aging.
     
  • How do you think the post-Freudian generations are going to fare as they age? Are open emotions and a therapized culture going to make the aging process easier or just different? Discuss the pros and cons.
     
  • We live in a world that worships youth and beauty. How can we restore respect for our elders in this kind of culture? Do you think that government should lead the way in instituting a more caring society? Do you see possibilities in creating plans that bring our overlooked elderly together with our overlooked young? Discuss the benefits for both generations.
  • Interviews

    Before the live bn chat, Mary Pipher agreed to answer some of our questions:

    Q:  How are elders presently treated in our society, and why we should turn our attention to them?

    A:  We have a pretty xenophobic culture. By that I mean that we're a culture that is afraid of old people and tends to put them places where they're away from the rest of us, where they don't remind us of our own decrepitude or death. Americans, as opposed to many people on the planet, are more dismissive of old people.

    When I was going out to rest homes, I went to one where foreign students had adopted grandparents. One of the things the staff told me was that although the foreign students tried to be polite about it, they were amazed at how Americans treated their old people. It was so strange to them that in such a rich culture we would put older people in rest homes and not even necessarily go visit them. It isn't that putting old people in rest homes is always a bad idea. Sometimes it's a very good idea. But putting old people in rest homes and abandoning them is a bad idea, and that sometimes happens.

    Q:  Isn't there always some kind of generation gap? What is particular to our time? Do you think that the conflict between young people and their parents in the '60s contributed to today's gap?

    A:  I think the enormous amount of change across the century has contributed. I'm reading a book called Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. It's sort of about the history of the human race. One of the things that impresses me is the amount of change that's happened this century. He'll talk about tens of thousands of years going by before people pick up using, say, stone axes. You think of this century, and it's been incredible.

    The two things I particularly think have created the generation gap are this business of going from being a communal culture to being a culture of consumption. We've gone from raising kids to be parts of communities to raising kids to be consumers. And that is an extremely different attitudinal set.

    The other thing that's happened over the course of the century is that Sigmund Freud has spread across the country. There are some older people who are sophisticated and were raised in an environment where Freud was a concept. At least in my part of the country and among many of the old people I met, there's a huge gap between pre- and post-Freudian thinkers. Both styles have certain good things and certain bad ones about them, but there's no question that when those two styles collide, there can be a lot of frustration and misunderstanding.

    Q:  The title of the book is Another Country. You talk about elders as residing in another country. When you were working on this book, did you feel as though you had traveled someplace else?

    A:  Yeah, I did. I very much felt that. I, like most people, spend most of my time with my age-mates. My kids are grown up now. I'm still doing some therapy, but I'm not doing much. Most of my time, I'm writing and with my friends, and when I'm traveling and speaking, I tend to hang out with the middle-aged people who book my speeches and so on. So I really had gotten sort of isolated and segregated in my own generation, people between 40 and 60 -- healthy people -- people who can go backpacking with me and fly on airplanes, et cetera. It was very unusual for me to be spending long afternoons sitting around a rest home talking to an 85-year-old woman. It was wonderful. It was an eye-opener.

    One thing I like about foreign travel is that my mind really wakes up. I want to see everything. Everything's interesting. I'm interested in cultural collisions, in how things happen differently in different places, particularly anything that has to do with mental health and human behavior. I had that feeling with old people. My mind really woke up. It was so clear to me, when I'd be in places where there were older people, that something different was going on there than with my friends.

    Q:  When you talk about the change from a communal society to a consumer society, you explain that part of what has changed is that there is a greater physical distance between us and our elders. How did this happen, and what are some of the solutions? You suggest more frequent family reunions and the idea of elders coming to live with their children. Do you think there is a possibility for real change?

    A:  Yeah, I do. I think it's absolutely true when James Atlas says, "Geographic freedom means we are dispersed." That comes up all the time -- grandparents and grandchildren living a continent apart; people worrying about their aging mother in Florida while they live in South Dakota. One of the reasons there's so much dispersion right now is that people have choices. Old people in South Dakota like to move to Florida, where it's warm. They also have the money and resources to make choices. For example, with my grandparents' generation, when their parents got old, almost invariably they moved in with them. That was pre-social security; it was during the Depression. Nobody had the money to say, "I'm going to buy a condo and live in Florida." They were fortunate if they had children who could take them in. That was social security. People didn't necessarily get along very well, but that right to be taken in was really not questioned. You didn't say, "No it wouldn't be convenient for me."

    That's another thing that's different between the generations. Our parents did not give themselves permission to say that in the way we do. We think it over. If our parents say that they'd love to come and live with us, as a generation we're inclined to say, "Well, let me think that over." In our parents' generation, the answer was automatic.

    Of course, another reason is that people live so darn much longer. I know people in their 60s who have parents alive, and people in their 50s with grandparents alive. As a society we have a very interesting problem: middle-aged people having four to eight older relatives to care for and be connected to, as they live sometimes up to being 100 years old in various states of health and illness.

    In terms of how to fix it: Lots of people are struggling with these issues. One thing that's happening is that people are moving their parents nearby --

    Q:  After the Florida phase.

    A:  Absolutely, after the Florida phase. Or sometimes instead of the Florida phase. There's going to be more intentional planning around physical closeness. For people who aren't so lucky, I think the thing to do is to be very conscious of how important it is to stay connected. That means email for some people. It means regularly scheduled phone calls. I have a friend who's a librarian who has a grandson in Minneapolis, 1,000 miles from here. She loves books. So every week she reads him a story on tape and sends it up, so he's got a new tape every week of his grandmother reading him a book she's picked out for him.

    For people who live near you who don't have children around, ideally you can take a little bit of responsibility for them, as a neighborhood or a community.

    Q:  How are you preparing for aging? What did writing this book make you change about the way you're thinking of your own aging?

    A:  I hadn't thought a lot about the fact that I live in a very old house. It's four stories, and there's no bedroom or shower on the first floor. It made me realize that I will have to move at some point. One thing that's kind of popular among my friends is to talk about building one-story houses in a circle and having communal meals. That's a really nice plan, but there are no kids in that plan. Do I want to do that or go into co-housing? Do I want to lure my kids back to the Midwest and talk them into letting me live next door to them? It's got me thinking more about how important that geographical decision is. People make decisions about where to live based on the stupidest things, like whether a particular condo costs $1,000 more or less. Those aren't the issues. The issues are really relationship issues.

    It's also got me more aware that because old age is so tough, it's important to go into it with good mental habits: being able to deal with stress; being able to cheer oneself up; having lots of things to enjoy that are pretty simple and easy to do. If the main thing you enjoy about life is flying to Florida and swimming with manatees, you're going to be in trouble when you're 80, because it just isn't going to happen for you. Last summer I planted a lot of flowers. I'm 51 -- it's no accident. At 51, I've started thinking I want a lot of flowers around. I want to go out and mess around in a garden and pick some flowers and enjoy them. Also I absolutely know that I will always work. People who were doing by far the best were people who were working -- not necessarily for money and not necessarily outside their own homes. Work means finding daily activities that are useful to other people. I know for myself that I would age quickly if I didn't have that.

    Interviewer Hilary Liftin is the coauthor of Dear Exile, due out this spring.

    Customer Reviews

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    Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I read this book wanting to have a better understanding of what my parents might be feeling as they enter old age. Their health is starting to decline, yet they want desperately to maintain their independence. It seems irrational. Why not enjoy prepared meals and cleaning services of assisted living when you can afford it? Pipher¿s book answered my questions. It isn¿t fun to reach what she calls old-old age when health declines and one needs assistance with some of the daily routines. Yet our culture makes it difficult to ask for help and even harder to accept it. Pipher shows how the baby-boomer generation and their depression-survivor parents differ, and the 'great divide' is psychology not technology as one might expect. She addresses the realities of care for our elders and encourages family communication and geographical closeness. In the last chapters, she seems unrealistically optimistic about families caring for each other and a bit preachy on that idea. But she does give much useful information on understanding our elders and some good advice on communicating with them.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I think this is a wonderfully written book. It addresses understanding our elders and coordinating life styles of different generations, including the young-old and old-old with that of their children and grandchildren. Mary Pipher, psychologist with extensive experience in counseling, writes case histories and gives analysis to help solve concerns and problems for all generations. I found this book most valuable in understanding the attitudes of our society, my own attitudes, those of my parents and elderly relatives, as well as those of younger individuals, in relation to growing older and living with our elders in harmony.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I can't believe this is the first review of this wonderful book. It really does give a roadmap to adult children of aging parents about how to deal with the many difficult issues this life stage poses and what to expect. Those of us in our 40s and 50s (or, possibly, younger or older) who find our parents growing old and infirm before our eyes need the perspecive Pipher provides, citing many examples from her own practice, to get practical advice and to know that we are not alone.
    bettyjo on LibraryThing 23 days ago
    realistic view on growing older and the different stages
    NashaCT More than 1 year ago
    Insightful-reminds and teaches to appreciate, love, cherish and take good care of our great people,our elderly...
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago