by Marc Agronin

Da Capo Press, $25.00, 302 pages

We may not advocate turning our seniors into crackers to feed the poor, but our treatment of the majority of them can surely be described as aggressively passive: we ignore or neglect them as much as possible. In fact, it could be said that we treat old age as if it were a disease, and inoculation is best achieved through avoidance.

Marc E. Agronin, a psychiatrist with the Miami Jewish Health Systems, doesn’t offer any cures for old age, but he does present a remedy for youthful ignorance with his honest exploration of old people and the process of aging. Beginning with a section on what it means to grow old, moving onto the role of memory in aging, and then the development of wisdom, both emotional and intellectual, Agronin illustrates the science with anecdotes from literature and the life stories of a wide variety of patients and acquaintances.

How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Growing Old is an excellent and hopeful book for caregivers of all kinds. Included are some truly helpful strategies for dealing with memory loss, a thoughtful list of lessons-learned for both doctors and patients, and an interesting bibliography for further reading.

Reviewed by Heather Shaw