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November: Books

Books are especially on my mind with the publication of The New Senior Man (TNSM).  Both this one and The New Senior Woman (TNSW) were born of the observations and concerns of their aging authors and a search for role models among us. One of the fascinating men who wrote to ElderChicks.com was Gil Stewart. (Yes, occasionally men do write to ElderChicks directly or on FaceBook.)

How fortuitous!  As Bobby and I got to know Gil through lengthy correspondence and telephone conversations, we learned of a whole genre he created: fiction not only about, but especially appealing to seniors who live in a place he created. We read and loved his senior fiction. Gil’s personal story was one we felt fortunate to have discovered, and we tell it in The New Senior Man.

I’ve asked him to tell about his Tanner Chronicles and his blog here.

After you’ve read about Gil, here is a question for you ElderChicks:  Have you read any books, fiction or non-fiction, that have particular resonance or significance for you related to issues of aging?  If so, please share here!

I know that I raised a few eyebrows when I titled a recent October Years blog post — Why Read Kids’ Stuff When the Real Thing is Available?
With that tongue-in-cheek (sort of) claim I was introducing a story that begins at a 50th high-school reunion — an event that for some includes resurrecting old feelings and reviving long-dormant daydreams, which sometimes produces hints of an unexpected geriatric adolescence.
The Tanner Chronicles stories I tell, eleven of them to date, depict what I consider the ‘Real Thing,’ that time of late-life I call the October Years, when many of us face a new, challenging landscape — a place where tried and trusted answers may no longer apply.
That universe of aging, often-solitary seniors is larger than you might think. Those October survivors have spent decades dealing with life ‘up close and personal,’ creating experiences that lend depth and texture to their stories. Each of them is coping with unforeseen, life-changing circumstances — a spouse’s infirmity, financial realities that threaten their very relationship, incompatible priorities for their future, and other challenges.
And then there are the lonely ones — seeking the ‘someone’ who can help him or her overcome the emptiness of life lived alone. Granted, their stories are apt to reflect the dark side of their circumstances. But they are a resilient bunch, those October friends of mine, able make the most of an uncomfortable situation.
For a closer look at that Tanner world I invite readers to check out the following websites. Ebook and paperback editions of the books are available on the Amazon Author’s page.
—  Gil Stewart’s Amazon Author’s Page
Finally, be aware that in the course of those Tanner Chronicles stories the reader is apt to meet someone they recognize, perhaps someone who looks a lot like them.

I have been blessed (with one exception) with top quality healthcare professionals my whole life. But there is one person who stands head and shoulders above the rest. Our family doctor, a board certified internist at PA Hospital in Philadelphia.

When my husband died five years ago I was desperately bereft. After the dust of the funeral had settled I made an appointment with Dr. Bob. He had cared for my husband long before I was in the picture so he had experienced his own loss with Pat’s death.

During that first visit we both cried. Then he prescribed an unusual regimen for me: he referred me to a psychiatrist who specialized in loss. Then he said he wanted me to come in every month to see him for a check-up. His concern was that grief can have a negative physiological effect. He wanted to check to see how I was surviving. So for the first year of widowhood I saw him regularly. On month thirteen he pronounced me in good hands with my counselor and said he wanted to see me on my usual pre-grief schedule.

My counseling continued with ever-decreasing frequency for three years. Finally, I “graduated” to using the coping skills I had learned on my own. But I will always be grateful to Dr. Bob for his remarkable support and care. I was finally on the road to being healthy. And I never felt alone.

Both of these extraordinary doctors are now enjoying active retirement. And I am so grateful they retired after I was no longer in distress.

Wonderful experience, and thanks for sharing, Thelma. Unlike your minimal need to ‘appreciate’ the wonderfulness of skilled physicians and skilled physical therapists, I’ve had need for a full measure of ‘appreciation’ over many years.

Yes, Good Shepherd in Philadelphia gives top notch physical therapy, that gains the hoped-for results, when you actually practice what they demo for you when there. My most unusual experience there was seeing a speech therapist, of all things, to learn how to swallow pills better, without choking and gagging. What I learned from a patient therapist who took such a good history was that I’d been doing it wrong all my life. She taught me to only swallow pills sitting down, and to bend my head forward when doing the actual swallowing. Duh. I always did it standing up, and throwing my head back: how wrong can you manage it!!! I still cannot swallow large pills, but she taught me to take them down with applesauce, which does the slidey trick nicely.

As for physicians, well, I always ask around to get the top specialist in whatever area of the body is involved, so I have nothing but glowing tales of treating me as a whole person, and helping me to gain maximum health benefits. Not by accident. I am extremely compliant with whatever regime or limitations I’m given. It takes two to Tango! My most serious medical condition is Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. One becomes a ‘long term survivor’ of this incurable lung disease after 10 years, but I am now 17 years, and going strong, with the same wonderful PH physician: Dr. Harold
Palevsky, at Penn Presbyterian. He gave me hope, always explained everything, was there for me when other minor illnesses like a simple cold laid me flat. He treats me as a whole person, not just a person with a disease in his specialty.

Over the years I have parted company with otherwise excellent physicians when the ‘fit’ no longer felt right. One has to trust your own instincts when it’s time to change. Sometimes it’s just a matter of style: watch and wait is not my style, so I aim for more pro-active physicians who are willing to explain all possible options for me. My husband was comfortable with ‘watch and wait’, but during his last illness involving a deteriorated heart valve, watching and waiting did not feel right to me, so I urged him strongly to get a top notch consult. The night before the surgery, he said: Carol, you were right. Even though he had bad luck and complications after successful surgery, that was the right
decision, and I had no regrets.

Getting older is not for sissies… How true. But, at the juicy age of 83 I recently purchased another condo that presented a more attractive living arrangement than my prior home of almost 17 years. Change may not be easy, but I’m glad that I knew when it was time to make a change, a big one at that.