Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: finding the fountain of youth ...

... well, not really, but have I got a book for those of us who are feeling our age ... or worried about aging ... or worried about our loved ones aging. 

Run, don't walk, and get a copy of Aging with Grace by Dr. Snowdon, an epidemiologist.  This is a remarkable book that tells lovingly about the lives of School Sisters of Notre Dame and the aging process.  Because, after all is said and done ... we are all aging.  We can do it gracefully, as the Sisters do, or we can do it "fight and screaming" (as I'd like to do).  But, the bottom line is that we are all aging. 

I find out about this book through knitting.  Seriously. 

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a women's Lenten retreat and after I did my talk, I sat in the back and knitted away while the retreat ebbed and flowed around me.  A dear friend, and Dominican sister but NOT a knitter, gave me a rough time about knitting.  Sister loves to tease and I took it all in the spirit for which it was meant ... basically I ignored the poor non-knitter.  But she made a statement that struck me as odd ... "I'll learn to knit when I'm 60."  I just half-jokingly told her to email me and I would be right there with needles and yarn.  And then she explained Aging with Grace showed her the need to learn new things.

Intrigued, I requested the book and read it cover to cover in just a few days. 

I can remember hearing occasionally about the "nun study" on aging and how some scientist had found that proverbial fountain of youth.  Well, not exactly, but what Dr. Snowdon did find when we started studying these dear women is that aging with grace means staying cheerful, constantly learning/trying new things, and loving the journey all the way to the end. 

Dr. Snowdon has been tracking various School Sisters of Notre Dame for over 20 years and has found that those who exhibit minor (if at all) symptoms of Alzheimer's are those who at 67 went to Africa to evangelize, who at 70 were still teaching in schools, who at 87 were still knitting a pair of mittens each day for the homeless.  These ladies know how to grow old gracefully and with all their mental (if not their physical) faculties in tact.  As a group, those who show few signs of the sad part of aging -- dementia, physical ailments, depression, self-centeredness -- but rather show the joy of loving the Lord and living fully the life God has given them.

One thing I really liked about the "nun study book" is that the researcher, a cradle Catholic who attended Catholic schools most of his life, really loves his "test participants".  He describes each sister with a love and care of a son or nephew.  He rejoices when he visits a centuarian on her birthday and is saddened when one of his ladies dies before he can visit her one last time.  He plays cards with them, jokes with them, banters with them -- regardless of their age or infirmities.  And all his subjects are not aging with grace -- but he treats each with the God-given dignity of the Human Person, regardless of their incapacities.

This book is filled with much more than the answer to aging -- it is filled with love of the human person and the gifts each brings to the world.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for such a great review!