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Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders Hardcover – March 15, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mary Pipher, author of the bestselling and groundbreaking Reviving Ophelia, which charts the troubled passage of girls into adolescence, has nimbly covered yet another psychological passage: that into old age, which May Sarton called "a foreign country."

Pipher reveals that the greatest shame for today's elders--most of whom survived the Depression--is not being self-sufficient. The majority of them stoically prefer to keep their feelings to themselves, and this is why it's so difficult to convince older parents to accept or even discuss such issues as physical and mental health, finances, eldercare, or living wills. This directly conflicts with the openness of their children, who grew up in the era of "free love" and were influenced by society (and the advent of psychology in the 1950s and popularization of therapy) to talk frankly about emotions. While a boomer can easily talk with a friend about marriage difficulties or even surgery, an elder is likely to find admitting such "weaknesses" abhorrent.

Another Country includes excerpts of sessions with dozens of Pipher's psychology patients, interspersed with not-so-obvious advice for sensitively communicating with the elderly. Some interviews are grim: one woman hallucinated that rodents were running through her house; she was so desperate for company from her family, but too proud to ask them to stop by, that she invented her own visitors. But the breakthroughs in communication Pipher is able to accomplish, sometimes with the help of grandchildren as intermediaries, are startling and thoroughly encouraging. (For example, the animals the woman was imagining disappeared after she received company regularly.)

Pipher cared for her dying mother for a "horrid," guilt-filled year while this book was being written and says that she wanted "to help others in my situation feel less alone." She also aims to help each generation understand the other. In these goals she's succeeded brilliantly. Any adult struggling with issues with their parents, especially mortality, will find Another Country an indispensable source of suggestions and support. --Erica Jorgensen

From Publishers Weekly

Older men and women, as well as their children and grandchildren, will find this well-written and sensitive investigation of aging both enlightening and engrossing. Because the death of her mother was so traumatic, Pipher, a psychologist and the author of Reviving Ophelia, was motivated to study the aging process in order to promote meaningful connections between the generations and more cultural support for pursuing them. She provides a wealth of anecdotal information about the problems of growing older, drawing on interviews and her own therapeutic work with predominately middle-class white and black Midwestern Americans in their 70s, 80s and 90s, as well as their children. Pipher contends that a variety of cultural trends are responsible for there being so many isolated old people today: a movement away from communal to individualistic ideals; the generation gap between baby boomers and their aging parents; the lack of organized support for the care of the elderly. As she relates the stories of those she has met and counseled, Pipher describes strategies for dealing with illness, physical decline, the death of a husband or wife and the emotional problems that arise for both the elderly and their families. She emphasizes the importance of intergenerational contacts, the benefit of giving older people freedom to make their own choices and her resolute belief that families can fortify the honesty and love they share through involvement in a dying parent's final months. One of the strengths of this excellent study is that Pipher includes examples of troubled as well as rewarding marital and parent/child relationships. Agent, Susan Lee Cohen at Riverside Literary Agency. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1 edition (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573221295
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573221290
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have just purchased 4 copies of Another Country to send to friends and relatives. My copy was purchased at the DesMoines Airport, as I browsed in the bookstore with my mother in law (91) in her wheelchair, returning from a nostalgic trip to Mom's family farm and a reunion with her 93 year old brother. I cried as I read the Introduction (almost poetry!) and thought, "someone understands us!" Beautifully and carefully crafted, Mary Pipher's book does a stunning job of recreating the peaks and valleys of aging, family relationships, and the growth of us all as we age, both as parents and children of aging parents. As I read it my only regret was that she didn't interview my own parents, married 61 years, living in their own home and still mentally alert and vital aging "young-olds". She could have learned from them some valuable lessons, as I have, about aging and dignity, remarkable people who have remained flexible, loving and marvelous role models for my own aging process. The book was a catharsis for me as the child of aging parents but it was also hopeful, positive and offered new ways to think creatively about aging. I highly recommend it to all.
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Format: Paperback
I cried, I laughed and I sighed at the grim truths and revelations in Mary Pipher's book on aging and the place held in our society by our elderly citizens. I folded so many page corners over for review that the book looks like a favorite old cook book. I wish I had read this book before my parents entered old-old age. I was not raised with any grandparents nearby, so had no examples for what to expect and how to deal with and care for aging parents. Growing old with dignity and dealing with declining health and eventually death is the hardest passage of our lives. None of the other passages as individuals, parents or spouses can compare to these challenges. Adolescence, puberty, child-birth, child-rearing, divorce...all seem like a walk through the park in comparison.
Having said that, we all need to read the book before our parents reach the old-old phase (although who knows exactly when that might happen). If you're in your 40's or 50's, chances are you should be reading this book. Although the book doesn't provide any recipes or procedures for dealing with the issues of the aging, it does provide valuable insights and suggestions into attitudes, fears, and concerns of both the aged and their care-givers.
We just assumed that mother would ask for help when she needed it, but her pride, reluctance to communicate and fierce need to be independent would not allow her to admit how needy and frail she had become. We finally discovered how badly she had deteriorated (although she still wouldn't admit it), and are still regretting that we didn't intervene sooner. She's now in a convalescent hospital, sometimes stoically accepting her condition, but sometimes angry, depressed and resentful. I'm sure I'll pick up the book and read it again as we find our way through this passage. And then when I become a young-old and finally an old-old, hopefully I'll be able to remember the valuable life lessons I'm acquiring now.
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By A Customer on April 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book wanting to have a better understanding of what my parents might be feeling as they enter old age. Their health is starting to decline, yet they want desperately to maintain their independence. It seems irrational. Why not enjoy prepared meals and cleaning services of assisted living when you can afford it? Pipher's book answered my questions. It isn't fun to reach what she calls old-old age when health declines and one needs assistance with some of the daily routines. Yet our culture makes it difficult to ask for help and even harder to accept it. Pipher shows how the baby-boomer generation and their depression-survivor parents differ, and the "great divide" is psychology not technology as one might expect. She addresses the realities of care for our elders and encourages family communication and geographical closeness. In the last chapters, she seems unrealistically optimistic about families caring for each other and a bit preachy on that idea. But she does give much useful information on understanding our elders and some good advice on communicating with them.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a vital guide-book for those of us with aging parents.
As the middle-aged child of an often difficult mother, I came to understand the that the reasons for nitpicking or explosive criticism often are that a parent feels unneeded and by-passed. Since I am not one who easily picks up on these types of non-verbal clues but, rather, expects a direct request or expression of what's on someone's mind, I was having a hard time understanding this anger and bitterness.
Basically, we and our parents speak entirely different languages. I am grateful for this book to help me translate. All of my family, young and old, will be the healthier for it.
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Format: Hardcover
Mary Pipher's books are a whole cut above the self help genre, because they look perceptively at the whole social context of problems, so that we recognize the massive currents around us. Like Silent Spring, Children First (Penelope Leach), and other epochal books, they answer the big questions of a generation. Another country is painful, honest, gutsy and real, yet it offers real direction and tools for this issue that is so important to those of us with ageing parents.
Which of course, is everyone. One of the three or four really original voices in American social sciences, with a knack for matching the personal and the bigger picture.
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