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Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives Paperback – April 30, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (April 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553380923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553380927
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Since 1986, the author, an epidemiologist, has directed a research project dubbed the Nun Study. According to Snowdon, who previously studied Seventh-Day Adventists, religious group members make ideal subjects because of their similar and somewhat insular lives. Specifically, he has been tracking the lives of 678 elderly nuns who are members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, to assess the effects of aging. Snowdon describes in detail a pilot study he conducted with the sisters in Mankato, Wis., on the link between level of education and disabilities related to aging. This initial research convinced him to expand his base to other convents and to focus primarily on Alzheimer's disease. The participants, ranging in age from 75 to 104, agreed to provide access to their medical and personal histories and, after death, to donate their brain tissue to the project. What distinguishes this study is Snowdon's decision not to maintain the usual "objective" distance from his subjects but rather to become emotionally involved with them. His commitment to treat them with "care and respect" is readily apparent in the many warm and sympathetic anecdotes and his expression of deeply felt grief when any of the sisters becomes incapacitated by Alzheimer's or dies. Among the project's findings is a clear correlation between a low rate of Alzheimer's and high linguistic ability. Snowdon has also found a positive relationship between the consumption of certain antioxidants (e.g., lycopene, found in pink grapefruit, tomatoes and watermelon), an exercise program and an optimistic outlook and aging successfully. Although the study is still under way, readers will certainly appreciate the early insights to be gleaned from Snowdon's human- (rather than statistic-) centered and compassionate story.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Since 1986, the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Mankato, MN, have opened their lives, personal histories, and medical records in an extraordinary way, thereby offering researchers a unique view of Alzheimer's and aging. Snowdon, a professor of neurology and director of the Nun Study at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, have studied this population of 678 Catholic sisters, some of whom have remained active and lucid all their lives while others have become demented. This is an ideal population to study, for it is carefully controlled: income is not a factor, all the subjects are nonsmokers, and all have similar access to diet, healthcare, and housing. Snowdon writes with empathy and affection of these sisters, who also generously agreed to donate their brains for postmortem pathological studies. From this research, Snowdon explains, it emerged that pathological changes did not always correlate with observable changes, that linguistic ability seems to protect against Alzheimer's, that prevention of stroke and heart diseases can help avoid dementia, and that heredity, diet, and exercise also play a part. Blending personal histories with scientific fact, this inspirational and fascinating look at growing older is highly recommended. [Snowden's research was recently profiled in a cover story in Time magazine. Ed.] Jodith Janes, Cleveland Clinic Fdn.
- Jodith Janes, Cleveland Clinic Fdn.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Very enjoyable and easy to read book.
Janet Moses
I'm trying to make my sentences as long as possible and if you read the book, you'll know why and think I'm hopeless!
C. Woodruff
I would recommend this highly to both colleagues and family members and individuals affected by Alzheimers.
K. Dellaria

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Sandra D. Peters on May 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Well, if we must grow old, and each of us will, we might as well do it with "grace." This book brings to our attention some valid facts based on scientific research which will, indeed, cause us to contemplate the ageing process. The title of this book caught my eye and brought recollections of my days as a street counsellor. I will forever remember a nun by the name of Sister Gabriella from Spain who had more spunk, energy and zest for life than anyone I have ever known. At 93 years of age, she was a source of inspiration not only to the people of the street, but to anyone who crossed her path. She did not know the meaning of fear, from the days of her youth she remembered more about martial arts than Bruce Lee, she did not look a day over 60, and the only sickness she had ever known was the common cold and a case of chicken pox at the age of six. She proclaimed she did not have time to "get sick;" there was always too much work to be done. If you asked her a question, she had the extraordinary ability to make you look inside yourself for the answer. This book is living proof that there is great mysterious wonder and truth to the ageing process and the monastic life that nuns, like Sister Gabriella, live. She attributed her long life to sunshine, nature, spiritual healing, living with a kind heart, and almost as an afterthought, she added diet and exercise in moderation. Sister Gabriella passed away many years ago in a mission outside of San Francisco in her 104th year.
This intriguing book brings many of those same factors to light and reveals that growing old, can also mean a time of renewed energy and vitality, expanded intellectual knowledge, spiritual growth, active participation, and emotional and physical well being. The book is extremely well researched and well written. Regardless of age, there is a lot to be learned here that we can all put to good use in a quest for a long, happy, healthy and fulfilling life.
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Format: Hardcover
Most books about science operate mostly from the head. This book also has a heart, and gives you a close human connection with the people being examined. 678 elderly nuns from the order, School Sisters of Notre Dame, are being studied to understand what factors helps explain their long life, and ability to remain mentally and physically active at advanced ages. The results of this work will undoubtedly focus future scientific research into the most productive areas for extending and improving the quality of human life.
Professor Snowdon is an epidmiologist who has had great success with studying religious communities. Because of the similar environments and habits involved, these communities can more clearly demonstrate the factors that favor or disfavor disease. He has also done work with Seventh Day Adventists and diet, for example.
The School Sisters of Notre Dame is a teaching order, and its members are highly educated. For example, of the elderly nuns studied 85 percent held bachelor's degrees and 45 percent master's degrees. This is in sharp contrast with the rarity of these degrees in the general population among women of similar ages. Obviously, they have also led a life of strenuous service to God and to teaching others.
The study benefits from many other unique qualities. Each nun also wrote an autobiography when she was young, and just joining the order. As a result, it is possible to go back and study those writings. The sisters have also generously agreed to donate their brains for research when they die. This means that the physical brains can be compared to the results of cognitive and physical tests to see what the causes of mental and physical dysfunctions might be.
Early in the study, Professor Snowdon also gained another advantage.
Read more ›
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By "swedebrian" on June 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
That's what one 92-year old nun said when asked to take part in "The Nun Study," an ongoing effort by author Snowdon and others to learn more about how we age and why some folks retain their mental and physical abilities into their nineties and beyond, while others fail much earlier.
I picked up this book because my great-great-aunt, Sister Matthia Gores, is one of the nuns "featured" in it. (She died a couple years back, just shy of her 105th birthday.)
I found the science interesting; but the book does not offer a blueprint to growing older without losing mental faculties or growing frail. It turns out the science is giving a more complicated picture of aging than that.
But what really appeals to me about this story is the desire of these women to keep growing their minds right up to the ends of their lives. (One nun got a masters in theology when she was 71; one began missionary service in Africa only when she reached her 70s.) It is this faith that we can continue to expand our own human potential while serving God and our fellow humans that makes this book such a delightful read.
I don't care if I live to 105, but I hope I can be as brave about seizing opportunities to grow as these wonderful women have been.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By perry on May 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have a family member with Alzheimer's and recently read two popular science books on Alzheimer's disease. I just finished "Aging with Grace" and enjoyed it's compelling humanitarian edge - -the stories about the nuns and their interactions with Snowdon are just delightful--one can really envision these people.
On the other hand, there is not a lot of information on the causes of Alzheimer's in the book--there's a little on free radicals and some of the Alzheimer genes. For that type information I would recommend an excellent book titled "Decoding Darkness" by Tanzi and Parson -- it provided a very clear presentation of what we know about the causes of Alzheimer's especially the genes involved.
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