The Ups and Downs of Growing Older

November 27, 2022 at 7:26 a.m.
A book by 94-year-old author and psychologist explores living life as the oldest of the old
A book by 94-year-old author and psychologist explores living life as the oldest of the old

In the prologue to her book, The Ups and Downs of Growing Older: Beyond Seventy Years of Living, author and psychologist Viola B. Mecke tells us that the book comes from her heart.

“The book is rooted in encounters with crises brought by growing into the oldest-old phase of life,” wrote the 94-year-old in the prologue. “I am constantly amazed by the vigor of the oldest-old persons who are determined to make a day satisfying, to retain an empathetic concern for others and a reflective interest in the world about them.”

Pacific Book Review posted this about the book: Mecke creatively opens each chapter with a bit of reflective prose that compares aging to the waves of life. Here it is often likened to times of peace and calm, but ultimately preparing for rough seas ahead.

Dr. Merke tells us that she wrote the book to describe the conflicts of living as an old person, including discussions about decisions on leaving your home, dealing with physical challenges and illness, and the immense losses within relationships.

The book provides advice to seniors beyond 70 years of age and works to prepare seniors and their families for the problems that may arise. Dr. Merke offers guidelines and focuses on adapting to challenges, including problem-solving techniques that she has developed over a lifetime as a psychologist.

“Aging brings personal and social crises that are often inevitable and seldom anticipated,” writes Dr. Mecke. “The loss of health, of energy, of memory, even of thinking, in those dear to me was ever refreshed by their creative readjustments to changes compelled by age.” She utilizes her own life story along with the experiences of her family, friends and clients on how growing older in the later phase of life marks the significance of each day, along with the meaningfulness of life.

Dr. Merke’s goal, she writes, is to include insights into the issues experienced by the oldest of the old to, hopefully, make their pathway more secure and predictable. “Understanding the awful normality of changes will enable some acceptance for adjustment to changes, and lessen the confusion, anxiety, and depressive reaction for the person, the family, and friends.”

She works to answer the question, “How can life be gratifying and peaceful facing the end?”

One answer to that question is to reinforce bonding with family and friends.

In the end, it is Dr. Merke’s heartfelt belief that being elderly is full of grace, of richness of life, of gratitude toward life.

Pacific Book Review ends its assessment in this way: While many self-help books about aging merely focus on the brighter and more positive side of getting older, Mecke’s concerns tend to lean toward the inevitable shadows of the process. By examining the nuances of these later years in life and showcasing what the elder population and their younger family members may be up against, Mecke brings a genuine sincerity to a discussion that clearly recognizes the pitfalls of decline. While this book might not be the most uplifting exploration of the twilight years, it delivers an informative and thought-provoking read.
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