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The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully

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Book Overview

Not only accepting but celebrating getting old, this inspirational and illuminating work looks at the many facets of the aging process, from purposes and challenges to struggles and surprises. This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The Life That is Waiting for Us

"The thing most wrong about this book," Joan Chittister tells us in this vibrant collection of essays on growing old, "is that I may be too young to write it. I am, after all, only seventy." She is, she tells us, among those whom gerontologists call the "young old," those who are sixty-five to seventy-four and may not yet have attained the ripest wisdom. We are indeed fortunate that Chittister decided not to postpone the writing of The Gift of Years, for it is full of the grace of decades of thought and meditation. It is written not only for those of us who are among the old, but for everyone: we are all growing older, and all of us may eventually undertake the search for meaning and fulfillment that lies at the deepest heart of the aging process. The Gift of Years is a full basket of rich gifts: forty-plus short essays on the many dimensions of eldering, "its purpose and its challenges, its struggles and its surprises." Each essay begins with words of wisdom from someone who has considered the meaning of growing old, then tells a brief story or an anecdote, offers a reflection, and invites us to participate in a meditation on the burden and blessing of the years. In "Time," for instance, Chittister quotes Pablo Picasso: "It takes a long time to become young." There is an anecdote about a potter named Thomas, who at eighty had lived long enough "to release the beginner in himself again and again." There are reflections: time ages things; time deepens things; time ripens things. And then there is the meditation. The burden of years is allowing time to "hang heavy on my hands," Chittister writes; a blessing of years is to "realize what an important and lively time this final period is." Chittister's essays are rich in variety, nimble in thought, and resonantly prophetic in voice. She writes about regret, relationships, religion; about fulfillment and freedom; about limitations. This is a book to be kept beside a favorite chair and savored slowly, thoughtfully--no gulping here--and to be reread as we move into "the twilight time," the last years in which we must find the strength to trust others, bear weakness well, and surrender to acceptance. These are the years, she says, quoting E.M. Forster, when we must be "willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully is not just for elders. It is for all those who are searching for ways to learn, grow, and make the best of our gifts in deeply troubled times. by Susan Wittig Albert for Story Circle Book Reviews reviewing books by, for, and about women

Keep this one under your pillow

This book is a keeper. All my friends love Joan Chittister's intelligence, wit, courage, and style, so we read her books and pass them around. This one will not leave my bedroom. Because each chapter is a nearly self-contained, succinct, fascinating reflection full of surprising insights and good questions about aging, I tuck it under the pillow to read a bit just before I turn out the light. Each little essay is re-readable, and like Shakespeare's plays, keeps giving new insights with each reading. I go happily to sleep pondering something better than my aching bones, so I save on Tylenol. That's the gift of Sister Joan!

Wise and wonderful

This is a wise and wonderful book. A friend wanted to borrow it when I was finished and I was reluctant to let it out of my hands. I was so glad when another friend gave it to her as a birthday gift. Everyone over 50 should have this one in their permanent collection. I know I will return to it now and then, to drink at the well.

The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully

As in all her previous works, Joan Chittister has done a wonderful job on addressing a very important issue in all of our lives, growing older, with grace and dignity. The book's format lends itself to reading about and then processing so many different aspects of growing older one chapter/topic at a time.

Lessons in How to Live for Any Age!

When "The Gift of Years" by Joan Chittister made its way to my mailbox for me to review, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Was I really the right person to be reviewing this? After all, I am in my thirties, transitioning from youth to middle age. I'm not quite ready for senior citizen status yet. As it turned out, "The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully" is a wonderful lesson in how to live, regardless of our chronological age. Chittister, a Benedictine sister, is 70 years old. She suggests that she may actually be too young to write this book because life still has lessons left to offer. She "reserves the right to revise this edition when she is ninety." Chittister views how we life at any age to be a choice. We are each given the gift of today. It is up to us what we do with it. She counters the idea that old age need be a time of isolation and loneliness and uselessness. Rather, it can be a time of great connectedness and joy and purpose. It is a time for looking back, not with the pain of regret for opportunities lost, but with understanding of how the life that has been lived has meaning for who we are right now and what our future holds. Chittister maintains that senior citizens have so much to offer to the world at large. Their wisdom and their stories and their experience are a great gift. They also have the time to get involved. Without the pressures of a 9-to-5 job or raising a family, they can volunteer more, make more of a difference. They have the chance to do all the things that they always wanted to do that there was never time for before. "Age does not forgive us our responsibility to give the world back to God a bit better than it was because we were here." Of course, there are special challenges that come with the transition to later adulthood and Chittister does acknowledge that fact. It can be difficult to be older in a world that so values youth. It can be hard to reclaim a sense of self with everything that defined that self is now gone. It can be a struggle to cope with physical ailments and disabilities. As Chittister states, however, "there is no such thing as not coping. . . The only issue is whether we will choose to cope well or poorly." We do have a choice. We can adjust our way of thinking and our way of being or we can give up. Mostly, though, being older brings freedom. "We are free now to choose the way we live in the world, the way we relate to the world around us, the attitudes we take to life, the meaning we get out of it, the gifts we put into it. And all of them can change." "The Gift of Years" is a gift in itself. It provides the opportunity to reflect on what it means to grow older and provides hope for a time of life that holds great promise.
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