A Review of ‘Bolder – Making the Most of Our Longer Lives’ by Carl Honoré
By Elanora Ferry, 30th April 2022
I really loved this book. It’s written by a man who is still only 55 and I, as a septuagenarian, found it inspiring and life affirming.
The book is well-researched and includes follow up notes on each chapter and a Further Reading list at the end of the book. It’s a book where I found I was underlining quite a lot where particular things spoke to me. I enjoyed the quotes at the top of each chapter e.g., ‘Imagination has no age – Walt Disney’ and ‘Ageing is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength’ – Betty Frieden
The book explores how we live in an anti-ageing culture where anti-ageing’ implies that age is something that needs curing which is in itself demoralising. The book reminds us how language shapes views and behaviour. Words like ‘old’, ‘older’, ‘ageing’ and ‘elderly’ put older people in a box marked ‘other’ which fuels disconnect and feeds our darkest prejudices about ageing. You only have to think of expressions such as ‘she’s still… referring to anyone doing anything in later life, or expressions like ‘for your age’, ‘senior moment’, ‘young at heart’ to see how ageism is ingrained in our culture. Popular culture reinforces the idea that old equals sad – codger, crone, curmudgeon, hag, fogey etc. It was therefore good to read that with the right spirit growing older can mean colouring in rather than erasing yourself.
I had also never really thought how much language also shapes our views and behaviour in terms of our thinking about the milestones in our culture. For example, the 3-stage life-cycle of education, paid work then pensioned leisure or the 3-stage road map of learning, working then resting. Both of them reinforce the assumptions and biases of getting older
This book introduced me to alternative ways of thinking rather than the usual ageist thinking. I like the idea of being a ‘Perennial’ – ever blooming. I also liked the expression ‘Ageing With Attitude’ and the concept of a ‘seniorpreneur’ too.
The good news that I got from the book is that ageing can be a process of opening up rather than closing down. The book has lots of examples of people defying the ageist stereotypes and anecdotes to illustrate the need for a radical re-think to our approach to ageing. A couple of examples that appealed to me were that Georgia O’Keefe made notable art into her 90’s, Jane Goodall travels the world in her 80’s to deliver sold out lectures on her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania and Judith Kerr (The Tiger Who Came To Tea) was working on her 34th book when she died aged 95.
I think the book has implications and relevance to our involvement with the Connecting Through Culture As We Age Project. Like the Maya Angelou quote in the book says – ‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have’.