MERRILY WEISBORD is approaching her 50th birthday soon, and is becoming anxious about aging. She looks about and is distressed by the stereotypes of the elderly. They are all so negative: in greeting cards, in comedy routines on stage and TV, in advertisements. She has met a number of bright, entertaining, pleasant old people, and so she has decided to explore the reality of aging. Our Future Selves, the result of three years of research and interviewing, offers a report on her findings.
The people interviewed include many famous men and women, and several senior members of her family. They discuss intimate details regarding their health, their loves, their thoughts about aging, and sometimes their ideas and feelings about approaching death.
The first third of the book seems unstructured, just chatty. The sex/love section informs the reader that sexuality, loving, and the pleasure of touching, although somewhat different as we age, all continue to be important as long as we live. The sexual adventures of many of those interviewed will reassure readers who may be anxious about future sexual prowess. The final part of the book contains the detailed personal reflections of Merrily (the reader feels on a first-name basis with the author). We have shared her discovery of the admirable memories of many brilliant and articulate men and women. Some are well-known promoters of diet and exercise rituals, and the proponents of such programs are convinced that they have the assurance of healthy longevity. Others know that they are just lucky. Readers who persevere past the early wanderings in the book will find many of the later anecdotes quite enjoyable. Readers who have known many years of relationships with older people will find no surprises. As I read this book, I was reminded of this passage from Linda Stitt's poem "Old Gods" (from Insights and Outlooks, Sadhana Press):
Precious and fragile are the old gods,
and due a gentle reverence.
We, who scorn the deification of ancestors,
have learned to despise weakness,
forgetting those who can Net bestow
humour for humour
and a poignant distillation
Our Future Selves, which also contains a good bibliography, can be added to the list of interesting books about aging.