Book Review: Bolder, by Carl Honoré

With medical advances, active lifestyles and healthy diets, getting older is not always a downhill journey.

By
As you get older, get bold, not old.
Overall
4.5

Carl Honoré was inspired to write about ageing when, at forty eight, he found himself the oldest participant in a hockey competition. This got him thinking about getting older – what was different to when his father was his age? He and his Dad, at the same age, were worlds apart – they wore different clothes, listened to different music and his father would not have been playing hockey at nearly fifty. In comparison, Honoré and his own son had much in common – they liked the same music and even shared clothes on occasion.

The writing is focused and engaging and the author has travelled widely to interview older people and experts on ageing, and the changes he sees in his own life are reflected in the book. As the baby boomers move into their senior years, Bolder is a timely reminder that getting older is not always a downhill journey. Many of us are already finding that through medical advances, active lifestyles and healthy diets these years can be as productive, creative and enjoyable as we choose to make them.

I was a somewhat cynical at the start the book as there are many unstated assumptions for one to be able to successfully challenge ageism and remain healthy and active into the later years. For instance, you need to have sufficient income and time to be able to take up new ideas and adventures. Plus, of course, you need good health. While the author does acknowledge some of us will not be fortunate in this regard, it is mainly framed in terms of the often, terribly drawn out medicalisation of death rather than a more positive view of how to better cope with chronic conditions.

Where Honoré is on much surer ground is his analysis of the cult of youth which permeates virtually every segment of society, particularly for women. Advertising is a powerful force and we are constantly bombarded with images and messages telling us we can use some new product to look younger. This book encourages all of us to stand against the images and language of ageing.

We probably misplaced our keys as often when we were thirty as we do at sixty, but calling this ‘a senior moment’ only contributes to the negative view of older people. The author notes ageism is prevalent in many other areas too, such as the workplace, in spite of reams of research which he cites, showing older workers are not less productive and an ideal team consists of workers of diverse ages.

As someone of pensionable age, I was particularly drawn to this positive affirmation of ageing and I find myself walking this talk:

Minding less can also serve the greater good… Today we need that willingness to rock the boat and speak truth to power more than ever. Why? Because we live in a world ruled by bullshit and branding, where spin trumps sincerity, where the pressure to perform is relentless… As Oliver James, a prominent British psychologist and psychotherapist, puts it: “That bluntness, that refreshing authenticity you find in older people, is hugely to be valued.” (pp 151-152)

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Distributed by: Simon &Schuster Australia
Released: January 2019
RRP: $35

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