Elderhood
As revelatory as Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, physician and award-winning author Louise Aronson's Elderhood is an essential, empathetic look at a vital but often disparaged stage of life.For more than 5,000 years, "old" has been defined as beginning between the ages of 60 and 70. That means most people alive today will spend more years in elderhood than in childhood, and many will be elders for 40 years or more. Yet at the very moment that humans are living longer than ever before, we've made old age into a disease, a condition to be dreaded, denigrated, neglected, and denied. Reminiscent of Oliver Sacks, noted Harvard-trained geriatrician Louise Aronson uses stories from her quarter century of caring for patients, and draws from history, science, literature, popular culture, and her own life to weave a vision of old age that's neither nightmare nor utopian fantasy--a vision full of joy, wonder, frustration, outrage, and hope about aging, medicine, and humanity itself. Elderhood is for anyone who is, in the author's own words, "an aging, i.e., still-breathing human being."

Elderhood Details

TitleElderhood
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 11th, 2019
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
ISBN-139781620405468
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Science, Health, Medical, Medicine

Elderhood Review

  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    Medicine todayhas become as much about prevention as well as treatment. It’s at least moving in that direction with many medical doctors today - re- educating themselves in Functional medicine — treating the whole person - looking for root causes rather than treatment alone. It was only when Louise Aronson, a medical doctor herself - ( beginning in 1992), started having health problems in 2015 - face-to-face with the likelihood of ongoing discomfort and disability, that she began adjusting her n Medicine todayhas become as much about prevention as well as treatment. It’s at least moving in that direction with many medical doctors today - re- educating themselves in Functional medicine — treating the whole person - looking for root causes rather than treatment alone. It was only when Louise Aronson, a medical doctor herself - ( beginning in 1992), started having health problems in 2015 - face-to-face with the likelihood of ongoing discomfort and disability, that she began adjusting her new reality -“her ability to understand how medicine fit into our larger social, cultural, economic, and political worlds became more acute”. Louise asks:“If geriatrics adequately addressed old age, wouldn’t the rest of medicine and everyone else have adopted our philosophy and strategies? Clearly, geriatrics was to elderhood what we doctors call ‘ necessary but not sufficient’”. Louise began to wonder what was missing. This book is the authors attempt to fill in those gaps by looking at old age in new ways. Many of the stories in Louise’s book involve people who are old and sick but she makes it clear that this book is about life. Part of this book didn’t keep my attention… Yet other parts did. I understand that at the beginning of the 20th century Americans rejected metaphysical and cosmological explanations of aging - putting their faith in the biological sciences - yet honestly some parts of this book just felt too heavy handed with historical facts.After a while I didn’t want to hear names of researchers - or dates. My interest for ‘everything’ elderhood was slipping away. But I am interested in knowing why our health system penalizes hospitals if they don’t fix people quickly -especially when doctors know they are sending sick people home. I still remember when very sick children with anorexia where sent home before they were close to being well. Doctors KNEW the child was still sick. MANY of those kids died when they got home. Much has happened for OLD PEOPLE too... ( forgive me for not using the word Elderhood)... I’m getting sick of the fancy term myself. It’s not fun feeling that you’re so old that you’re not worth treating. Of course not - but it’s also not a great feeling at any age. “The Lines between normal and pathological aging and whether science can ‘cure’ aging remain unclear”. Clear!!!I’m not sure why I didn’t feel committed to each of the stories...perhaps it’s my own residence popping up.I’ll be 67 this month - and in the past few years I have certainly dealt with my share of hospital stays.At a time when this book should be relevant to me....I found myself wanting to stop reading. This is an important book… Well researched... by a qualified expert...I thought I wanted to read it...I loved “Being Mortal” years ago by Atul Gawande —but I’m simply feeling burn-out about everything ‘medical/health/and the discussion of aging’. I got bored with details about the doctors post baccalaureate premedical program to complete her math and science classes that she had so carefully avoided...It’s me… It’s not the book. Of course I recognize the diligence in which Louise applied her own inquiry- I respect her for it - about her divide between the goals of health care and the practice of medicine...but my own mind was fighting reading about it. I kept reading anyway...in my snooty mood with all the vices - protein bar - tea - lying on the floor stretching - on the stationary bike - back in bed under my covers - I honestly rather read a romance novel than read one more book about aging...it’s history, cultural influences, psychological aspects, and all the other sub-fields associated. Hopefully- it’s only ‘temporary burn out’ - as in hoping I feel invested enough to not drop the ball on my own needs ...but right now - I wasn’t excited about swiping my kindle ... other than to quickly get to the end. I lost heart - lost my caring about Dimitri’s story about Parkinson’s, dementia, and his other chronic diseases. I was happy when his voice grew stronger - louder - and could sit up after a weeks time - and actually was no longer using a cane...he even started an affair - the naughty geezer ...but mostly it was like pulling my own hair out reading this book -My inner voice was mean —and it’s not fair - I’m aware of ‘my’ problem...not the book..So I’m rating this book 3 stars - more like a 2 star experience- but much of it was MY LACKING...but I also feel ‘part’ was the author, too. It’s just not a 4 or 5 star. I even found the structure of the book monotonous....birth, toddler, childhood, adulthood, elderhood, death, and coda....But I got the message - our healthcare system is in need of improvement! Thank you Netgalley- Bloomsbury, and Louise Aronson.
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    Anyone who is already old, caring for someone old, or intending to grow old in the near or distant future needs to read this book. Now! And that not only includes readers; it also includes policy-makers.Elderhood is not a “how-to” book that treads over the same old tired ground. Rather, it’s a book that tackles why aging must be understood and redefined and why the medical establishment’s usual goals of saving lives and curing disease is misplaced and ill-advised in many older patients.I’m going Anyone who is already old, caring for someone old, or intending to grow old in the near or distant future needs to read this book. Now! And that not only includes readers; it also includes policy-makers.Elderhood is not a “how-to” book that treads over the same old tired ground. Rather, it’s a book that tackles why aging must be understood and redefined and why the medical establishment’s usual goals of saving lives and curing disease is misplaced and ill-advised in many older patients.I’m going to pause a moment in this review to say that I was the point person for my own once vibrant elderly mother, who died at age 93 after a 10-year downward spiral. I saw first-hand how healthcare, well-meaning though it was, often acted counterintuitively. Dr. Aronson makes many excellent points including these:*All top-ranked health systems on the planet rely on primary care to keep people healthy. In the U.S., ranked 37th among nations by the World Health Organization, we have trouble recruiting physicians to primary care since those doctors are paid on average over $100,000 less than specialists. As a result, we focus on high-tech solutions rather than commonsense ones.*Pharmaceutical trials focus mostly on middle-aged, not elderly, targets. As a result, the side effects in the elderly are often minimized or glossed over entirely. Moreover, many older patients (my mom was one of them) are prescribed multiple drugs that interact with each other and cause more harm than good.*It is easier for the elderly to get a cochlear implant than a hearing aid or laser treatments instead of eyeglasses. Yet a simple “fix” can do wonders by providing the elderly with a healthier, fully-engaged life.*Being “old” should not be classified as 65+. In reality, people in the Third Age of life (the young-old) have vast differences in health, activities and consumer roles. They are very distinct from the “old-old” who are truly infirm and dependent.*Successful aging is possible for those who do not perceive meaning in aging itself, but instead, perceive meaning in being themselves in old age. Adaptability and self-acceptance are key.I could go on and on – just about every page has insights on how we, as a society, can reimagine life and why it’s crucial to do so, since someone who is 65 years old and relatively healthy will very likely live to 90. This well-written, easily accessible book should be mandatory for anyone entering medical school or politics, and certainly for every person who is affected by aging (i.e., all of us).
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  • Canadian
    January 1, 1970
    At over 450 pages, ELDERHOOD, by San Francisco geriatrician Louise Aronson, is a big book. It’s an ambitious one, too. In the opening pages, the author states her intention to highlight relevant information from many disciplines about the last of the three acts in a human life: old age. (Childhood and adulthood are acts one and two respectively.) As the pages turn, several key themes emerge. One is that geriatrics (as a medical specialty) lags behind most others. Caring for the elderly has low s At over 450 pages, ELDERHOOD, by San Francisco geriatrician Louise Aronson, is a big book. It’s an ambitious one, too. In the opening pages, the author states her intention to highlight relevant information from many disciplines about the last of the three acts in a human life: old age. (Childhood and adulthood are acts one and two respectively.) As the pages turn, several key themes emerge. One is that geriatrics (as a medical specialty) lags behind most others. Caring for the elderly has low status, it is not prioritized by the health-care system, and geriatricians are poorly remunerated relative to other specialties.Like childhood, old age consists of a number of stages, but people only seem to realize this when they live them. What is generally true, however, is that the medical care of elders needs to be different from that of adults. The heroics, technical fixes, and dedication to saving lives for which modern medicine prides itself are of more benefit to people in the first and second acts of their lives than to those in the third. Insurance companies are another part of the problem. They will reimburse for chemotherapy and dialysis (which can be punishing treatments for the old), but not for basic services that would improve the health and daily functioning of elders with chronic diseases or debilitating conditions. Palliative care and hospice are also grossly underfunded. Clearly, a revolution—a complete system overhaul—is in order. Unfortunately, Dr. Aronson doesn’t offer many ideas as to how this might be achieved..Since the life span of most in the developed world has essentially doubled over the last century (largely due to advances in public health/sanitation), a lot of us would benefit (when the time comes) from being cared for by a geriatrician, a physician who understands the critical social and psychological dimensions of aging, the changes in physiology that accompany old age, and the ways in which care (including pharmacological treatment) needs to be tailored for safety. An appropriate dose of a drug (for hypertension, depression, or arthritis) for a fifty-year-old can be dangerous, even deadly, for an eighty-year-old.For me, the power of Dr. Aronson’s book is in the stories of her interactions with patients at various stages of elderhood. The author uses case studies well to illustrate key points and dilemmas.In the end, I feel the author attempted a bit too much here. As well as dozens of stories, there are elements of memoir and long sections on the challenges of practising modern medicine—particularly burn-out, from which the author herself suffered. Furthermore, the book is rather meandering overall; the headings and subheadings often seem quite unrelated to the content; and the author addresses some topics multiple times. Organization is not a strength. While I did learn a great deal from the book, I believe the audience and topic would have been better served with a briefer, more focused discussion.
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  • Bob H
    January 1, 1970
    This is a sensitively written account of Dr. Aronson's career in geriatrics -- an autobiography centered on her life experience and medical career -- and a critique of geriatrics, US medicine generally and of how our society deals with aging. Along the way, she shows us a medical system almost caste-ridden in its hierarchy of specialties, in which geriatrics is low-rated, as well as US medicine's fragmented approach to patients, funding, medical training and hospital vs. home care generally. She This is a sensitively written account of Dr. Aronson's career in geriatrics -- an autobiography centered on her life experience and medical career -- and a critique of geriatrics, US medicine generally and of how our society deals with aging. Along the way, she shows us a medical system almost caste-ridden in its hierarchy of specialties, in which geriatrics is low-rated, as well as US medicine's fragmented approach to patients, funding, medical training and hospital vs. home care generally. She tells of the shortcomings -- horrors, sometimes -- in senior acute care and senior facilities. She talks about the gap between doctors' objectivity and simply "not caring", and in the wider view, what she terms a lack of imagination.There's some unexpected revelations. She tells of the very real hazard of doctor burnout, something she suffered as a sudden "snap", as she put it, after long and rising tensions in her work. She has much insight into palliative and end-of-life care, what it could be and what it often is. She writes frankly, and with empathy, of her own patients' and her parents' aging and suffering. She takes the larger view of medicine, the US ranking at 38th in the world, 50% of its doctors at risk of burnout.Much of it is upbeat. She accepts the inevitability of aging and death -- hers, her parents, in lifespan generally, and speaks of it as something that can be more natural and serene than it often is. She talks of robotics as an emerging help, and possible problem, in geriatrics and senior care. She shows that a patient-centered care model, as opposed to care fragmented by department and specialty, as something that can enhance aging patients' needs.For all its length, the book reads fairly quickly, even if much of it can be sad. Her prose is warm, empathetic, often enthralling, and usually direct. It's all written in a way that laypeople can understand, and empathize. It's also something that anyone in the business of providing care of any sort to seniors, or in the medical profession generally, would do well to read, and ponder. And, the book speaks with a voice, her voice, someone the reader might like to know, and befriend. Highest recommendation.(Read in advance-reading copy from Amazon Vine).
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  • Kristine
    January 1, 1970
    Elderhood by Louise Aronson is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late April.Oof, it looks quite deep from the chapter names in the table of contents, though I’d eventually learn that these didn’t bear much relevance on the stories being told as much as just marking where one story stopped and another began (i.e. you could pretty much just number the chapters, instead of name them so philosophically). Elderhood presented as being the latter part of someone’s life from the perspective of a doc Elderhood by Louise Aronson is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late April.Oof, it looks quite deep from the chapter names in the table of contents, though I’d eventually learn that these didn’t bear much relevance on the stories being told as much as just marking where one story stopped and another began (i.e. you could pretty much just number the chapters, instead of name them so philosophically). Elderhood presented as being the latter part of someone’s life from the perspective of a doctor, his patients, and colleagues, as well as the stereotypes, bias, and perceptions of how the fairly young feel about aging, appropriating a bedside manner towards an older person, the field of gerontology, dementia/Alzheimer’s, hanging on emotionally or aesthetically to one’s youth, recovering from the effects of a stroke or fall, overmedicating, and living at home versus in assisted living.
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  • Julia Nock
    January 1, 1970
    This is a wonderful book about the intersection of the later stages of life, medicine, and society. Just as children are not simply, as once thought, small adults, but a time of life with its own developmental stages and needs, so aging is an articulated time of life with a broad spectrum of stages and a complex diversity of presentation. Aronson, a geriatrician, uses stories of patients, her own family, and her path in medical training and practice to show how we as a society and as individuals This is a wonderful book about the intersection of the later stages of life, medicine, and society. Just as children are not simply, as once thought, small adults, but a time of life with its own developmental stages and needs, so aging is an articulated time of life with a broad spectrum of stages and a complex diversity of presentation. Aronson, a geriatrician, uses stories of patients, her own family, and her path in medical training and practice to show how we as a society and as individuals can begin to imagine ways to approach this time of life with dignity, recognizing its specific needs, and seeing elderhood as a valued and rewarding part of life. Essential for anyone trying to navigate the treacherous waters of medical care for oneself or others as we/they age. Important reading for everyone.
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  • Donna
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent, conversational in tone, and erudite in execution. Filled with examples of how aging patients are viewed and devalued by the medical establishment. Should be required reading for anyone with aging parents and definitely medical school students who won't have time to read it.
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  • Keeley
    January 1, 1970
    Louise Aronson tackles the rampant ageism that is alive and well in the medical field in the US today. She covers how old age has been defined historically and how it has morphed to represent fear and death in current western society. She brilliantly knocks down ageist stereotypes not only in the medical field, but in society as a whole. Elderhood is a collection of stories from Aronson's career working as a geriatrician beginning with her training as a medical professional.I have never made so Louise Aronson tackles the rampant ageism that is alive and well in the medical field in the US today. She covers how old age has been defined historically and how it has morphed to represent fear and death in current western society. She brilliantly knocks down ageist stereotypes not only in the medical field, but in society as a whole. Elderhood is a collection of stories from Aronson's career working as a geriatrician beginning with her training as a medical professional.I have never made so many notes in a review copy (good ones!). I immediately pre-ordered a copy and have been recommending this book to all of my colleagues both in the aging field and in "aging adjacent" fields. She so succinctly covers everything that I've been seeing with the older adults I work with and I love that she is able to do it from a field entirely separate from my own. With approximately 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the United States, this book could not come at a more perfect time. An absolute must read for anyone working working with older adults in any capacity.
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  • Jill Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    I'll admit I was a bit disappointed in Dr Louise Aronson's new book, "Elderhood: Medicine, Society, and Life's Third Act". I thought it would be a bit more practical and cover specific topics about aging. Instead, the book is really a series of essays about Dr Aronson's introduction and then choice to specialise in gerontology. Now, that's not a bad direction for a book, and Dr Aronson's a pretty good writer. I enjoyed her writing on the various stages of life - as she sees them - beginning with I'll admit I was a bit disappointed in Dr Louise Aronson's new book, "Elderhood: Medicine, Society, and Life's Third Act". I thought it would be a bit more practical and cover specific topics about aging. Instead, the book is really a series of essays about Dr Aronson's introduction and then choice to specialise in gerontology. Now, that's not a bad direction for a book, and Dr Aronson's a pretty good writer. I enjoyed her writing on the various stages of life - as she sees them - beginning with "Birth" and ending about 90 years later with "Death". The reader meets those in Childhood, Adulthood, Middle Aged, and Senior, finishing up with Aged. Will we all reach "Aged"? Dr Aronson's book is a great choice for general reading on gerontology. I think all of us will catch a glimpse of themselves or ones we love in her pages.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    Overall I liked this book. Aronson is a good writer, and I felt that the stories of her patients were interesting. I felt I learned quite a bit. She points out the problems of our health care system, but she didn't go quite far as I would have liked. I would have liked more practical ways to help our aging population, but maybe that needs to be a sequel.
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  • Angie Boyter
    January 1, 1970
    Rather disappointingSee my Amazon Vine review: https://www.amazon.com/review/R3M0S5M...
  • Gaby
    January 1, 1970
    I find myself sharing stories from Elderhood with friends and family. Elderhood discusses how the lack of resources and research placed on the treatment of older patients leads to uneven and inadequate medical treatment. The is gap is attributable to doctors, hospitals, drug companies, etc but the dangers of errors - big and small - are almost incalculable. I found Aronson's Elderhood is as engrossing and as informative as Mukerjee's Emperor of All Maladies. While Aronson focuses on anecdotes an I find myself sharing stories from Elderhood with friends and family. Elderhood discusses how the lack of resources and research placed on the treatment of older patients leads to uneven and inadequate medical treatment. The is gap is attributable to doctors, hospitals, drug companies, etc but the dangers of errors - big and small - are almost incalculable. I found Aronson's Elderhood is as engrossing and as informative as Mukerjee's Emperor of All Maladies. While Aronson focuses on anecdotes and examples more than Mukerjee's examples in medical history, Aronson writes clearly, succinctly and eloquently. Elderhood is makes strong arguments for reform in medicine and I hope that doctors in all areas of medicine read this book.
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  • Debra Robert
    January 1, 1970
    This bk is not terribly interesting unless you’re a doctor. There are a few main ideas that are important to read about and know. 1. Older adults are generally disregarded. 2. Health care is not not adequate for older adults. 3. People are more contact in the last stages of their lives. 4. Respect not given for old people - call yourself and others “Elder” as that word seems like it conjures up more respect. 5. Watch out if you want to put someone you live in an old age home.I love Louise Aronso This bk is not terribly interesting unless you’re a doctor. There are a few main ideas that are important to read about and know. 1. Older adults are generally disregarded. 2. Health care is not not adequate for older adults. 3. People are more contact in the last stages of their lives. 4. Respect not given for old people - call yourself and others “Elder” as that word seems like it conjures up more respect. 5. Watch out if you want to put someone you live in an old age home.I love Louise Aronson. I would like to meet her. She sounds like that 1 in a million doctor. She is kind and caring to the point of making herself sick. I can relate.
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  • Bill
    January 1, 1970
    Anyone who is over 65 or knows someone closely who is in that category needs to read this book. Written by a doctor who specializes in the elderly, it is extremely interesting and easy to read. Along with Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, it provides insights into how senior citizens live and think, and offers solutions to the many conditions that make life difficult as people age.Highly recommended.
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  • Lillian
    January 1, 1970
    Louise Aronson makes a valiant effort to give elders a voice and a presence but truly there is no new information here from Atul Gwande's Being Mortal. Aronson's book could have benefited from a lot less memoir and more focus on the issue.Probably about 150 pages longer than it need be.
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  • Ellen
    January 1, 1970
    What a powerful portrait of all the angles of ageing. A must-read for all who hope to age... at all.
  • Terry Earley
    January 1, 1970
    Requested 6-17-2019 hard cover book from libraryhttps://www.npr.org/2019/06/17/733413...
  • C Bower
    January 1, 1970
    Sydney’s roommate’s (Lindsey) boyfriend Andrew helped edit this book!
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