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How We Age: A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Growing Old Hardcover – February 1, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Kirkus Reviews, December 2010
“A successful explication of how ‘aging equals vitality, wisdom, creativity, spirit, and, ultimately, hope.’”
Publishers Weekly, 12/6/10
“Literate, generous, and compassionate, Agronin's ground-level view of aging…opposes the current spate of books attempting to turn back the clock and preserve physical youth. Rather, Agronin argues for accepting, understanding, and appreciating aging as a nonreversible, frequently debilitating, but valuable condition…Referencing poetry, plays and parables, he makes an art of caring for the aged by restoring dignity to a dehumanized but growing segment of the population.”
Buffalo Jewish Review, 1/7/11
“Agronin realistically shows the inevitable changes that occur with aging as well as the strengths that can provide balance…Agronin's extensive interviews with patients and others lead to his assertion that aging doesn't necessarily equate with deterioration and enfeeblement. It can be a stage of life marked by wisdom, faith, trust, and hope.”
Internet Review of Books, 1/8/11
“Many books on the subject of aging have flooded the shelves and online queues of booksellers, taking advantage both of our fear of aging and our desire to find the fountain of youth. Such is not the case in How We Age…It would be a pity if you were to pass up this important book…How We Age is a remarkable treasure…One of the most readable, engaging books I have encountered in a long time, How We Age is reminiscent of Oliver Sacks' method of finding the person inside the illness (or age). Agronin is the doctor we should all wish for when we find ourselves in that late stage of life.”

Sherwin B. Nuland, MD, bestselling author of How We Die
“Beautifully written…Marc Agronin’s daily work is the Art of medicine at its finest, and his descriptive powers are a gift to readers.”

Gary Small, MD, UCLA Professor of Psychiatry and Aging, bestselling author of The Memory Bible
“Through the stories and lives of Marc Agronin’s patients, we learn about the scientific, medical, and human side of the aging process. Dr. Agronin is not only a gifted writer and clinician, but also a keen observer of human behavior, whose empathy for his patients goes a long way to break down the ageism that separates the generations.”

The Economist, 2/10/11
“[Agronin] sees [old age] as intrinsic to life, with its own ‘ways and meanings,’ its particular wisdom…He points to research showing that old brains can grow new nerve connections, to surveys that indicate happiness peaking at 85, to all the creative potential he has witnessed in the elderly. It’s heartwarming.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/6/11
“[Agronin] writes with the fluency and ease of another doctor, Atul Gawande, whose The Checklist Manifesto last year was a revelation…Some of the stories are sad, of course, but many are profound…demonstrating that the old—just like the young—harbor complexities and riches that the dismissive eye can miss.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 2/13/11
“[Agronin] is as sensitive in his writing as he appears to be in his treatment…Here is a doctor who not only writes poetically but who also demonstrates what it means to have respect for our elders…The strength of How We Age is the compelling and absorbing case studies. In these patients' stories readers will find a greater understanding of their own aging and that of their loved ones…Through fascinating case studies, Agronin documents what aging means and how our understanding of it is constantly changing.”
“The Bookworm” nationally syndicated column, 2/18/11
“Part science, part essay, How We Age is not one of those books that blindly celebrates the so-called wisdom of years…Agronin bluntly writes about dementia, forgetfulness, Alzheimer’s, and other issues that come with Seniority. He’s honest with his readers without trying to hide anything. Then, he balances the bad with soaring stories of the goodness in becoming an elder, including serenity, knowledge, and acceptance. Agronin’s colleagues taught him that aging has no cure. His patients taught him that aging really doesn’t need a cure. Thoughtful, warm, and wise, How We Age is a book for everyone who’s putting on the years.”
The Future of Aging blog, 2/11/11
“The stories of Dr. Argonin’s patients are coupled with expert insights to create a comprehensive overview of scientific, medical and human sides of the aging process. His book features discussions about dementia, brain health and family relationships, but it also emphasizes an unlikely topic: hope.”
Spirituality & Practice
“[An] enlightening book.”

Book Review, March 2011
“[An] honest exploration of old people and the process of aging…An excellent and hopeful book for caregivers of all kinds.”

New York
Journal of Books, 2/1/11
“Skillfully told and well worth the read. The reader’s emotional involvement in the latter half of this book was more akin to the feelings one has after having read a very compassionate novel rather than a treatise on aging.”
AARP Bulletin, 3/10/11
“Agronin's message is simple butpowerful: This aging process is not all decline; everyone—no matter how old—can experience renewal.”

The New Yorker
, 3/14/11
“[Agronin] tells thoughtful stories.”

ElderCareLink.com, 3/4/11
“[A] poetic, respectful look at the aging process…[Dr. Agronin]should be held up as a role model in the medical profession.”

Valley News, 3/2/11
“Gives hope…to those people who dread and fear the idea of nursing homes…Dr. Agronin has a lively, upbeat writing style.”

AARP.org, 3/10/11
“Filled with good stories…What ultimately emerges from this book (though it clearly wasn’t his intent, as there is nothing self-congratulatory about his prose) is that Marc Agronin is an extraordinarily capable geriatric psychiatrist…It’s not his aging patients who offer us the hope of growing old with dignity. It’s doctors like Agronin himself.”

Midwest Book Review, March 2011
“Agronin looks to explore the psychology of age with a bit of unique gusto and much food for thought…A thoughtful and insightful look into the mind of age, highly recommended.”

Yale Alumni Magazine,
April 2011
“A book rich with insight about aging.
Washington Times, 3/18/11
“In the tradition of Atul Gawande and Sherwin Nuland…A spellbinding look at what aging means today.”
Deseret News, 3/27/11
"A delightful book about… the challenges—and triumphs—of people who refuse to age quietly…Unforgettable stories…Agronin does a masterful job of letting readers see into the trials of the elderly while still offering hope that the last years of life can be useful and productive.”

Jewish Times, 3/17/11
“[An] illuminating and deeply humane book…Fortunate are the patients who have such a sensitive and wise man to help them…And fortunate are we, the readers, to have such a profound book in our hands.”
Reference and Research Book News, April 2011
“Aiming to offer a more balanced perspective of aging through the lives of his patients, Agronin…recounts his experiences counseling the residents of Miami Jewish Health Systems and how his view of aging was changed by this work.”
Midewest Book Review, April 2011
“[Agronin] offers inspiration for any interested in aging well.”
PsychCentral.com, 4/11/11
“Marc E. Agronin, M.D., takes a different view than you are accustomed to reading about with regard to caring for the elderly.  His belief that ‘aging equals vitality, wisdom, creativity, spirit and, ultimately, hope’ is a refreshing departure from those who concentrate primarily on what the elderly cannot do…Dr. Agronin is to be highly commended for authoring How We Age and bringing to light a new way of looking at the aging process and in caring for our elders with the same diligence and love with which they once cared for us.”

British Medical Journal (UK), 6/1/11
“There is a crying need for an articulate physician to provide a road map to the meaning of old age, framed in a clinical context that will resonate in a realistic way with healthcare workers. Marc Agronin makes an impressive start in How We Age…His book resembles Sherwin Nuland’s ground-breaking How We Die or Atul Gawande’s Complications in its adroit and successful marriage of gritty clinical practice and big ideas…The delivery is crisp and the narrative turns often surprising…This anthology of reflections does much to restore old age as an epoch of equivalent (if not superior) value as the other stages of life, and is well written and entertaining.”

Cerebrum, 6/23/11
“A wise and enlightening book…The author is unfailingly curious, reflective, and ever respectful of his patients. In a personal, easy-to-read style, he offers insights on aging…The book contains many evocative and touching descriptions…A wonderful book for all audiences.”

Taste for Life, July 2011
“A spellbinding look at what it means to grow old…Written with sensitivity…Show[s] us what’s right about aging, and what our elders can teach us.”

Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 8/2/11
“Like Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland (How We Die) and Dr. Spencer Nadler (The Language of Cells), the author is a practicing physician who is also a gifted writer, a compassionate healer, and something of a philosopher, too.  He is deeply literate, and he decorates his book with apt selections from the Bible, Shakespeare, and the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and T. S. Eliot, among many other sources.”

Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews, September/October 2011
“Easy to read and interesting…Recommended for collections in temple and synagogue libraries, Jewish community center and public libraries, as well as academic libraries.”

Journal of the American Medical Association, 10/5/11
“An engaging account of the encounters of a geriatric psychiatrist with his older patients, whose successes and failures in dealing with age-related challenges…are discussed skillfully and poignantly…Throughout, Agronin demonstrates an extraordinary knowledge of the concepts and theories that have shaped the science of aging...A must-read for any medical professional who works with older adults.”

The Key Reporter, Fall issue
“Offers a more balanced perspective on aging…Many of the anecdotes in the book illustrate just how worthwhile it is to treat patients without any discrimination based on age…This is a thoughtful and compassionate book.”

Psychiatric Times,
November 2011
“In his well-written and provocative book, Dr. Marc Agronin helps reduce the stigma of ageism and provides clinical guidance for seasoned geriatric psychiatrists, primary care clinicians, and medical students alike…Highly recommended.”
Metapsychology Online Reviews, 2/11/12
“The interviews and cases are interesting and well-presented.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/22/12
“[A] compassionate and engaging book.”

San Francisco Book Review / Sacramento Book Review, 6/12/12
“Dr. Agronin presents a vivid picture of how the older person changes both physically, emotionally, and cerebrally…For the baby boomers whose increasing numbers will attempt to break through the barrier of invisibility that seniors are now accorded, this is a valuable book.”

Philadelphia Tribune, 2/22
“Drawing on moving personal experiences and in-depth interviews with pioneers in the field, Agronin’s book…conjures a spellbinding look at what aging means today.”

About the Author

Marc Agronin, MD, a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Medical School, is the psychiatrist at the Miami Jewish Home & Hospital. His articles have appeared in the New York Times and many other periodicals. He lives in Cooper City, Florida.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818530
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,206,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr Marc Agronin, who specialises in geriatric psychology in Miami, has written a memoir about his medical practice. It's a small book, with many short chapters of personal anecdotes, about how the mind ages and how different sorts of dementia, including Alzheimers', can be treated. This is not a "how-to" book, giving exercises that may postpone the advent of aging, but rather a look at how aging proceeds in the brain and how caregivers and medical professionals can best care for the aged, who are, of course, our parents, our siblings, our friends, and, eventually, ourselves.

Aging is rather like death-and-taxes, a part of life. We're all aging but Dr Agronin writes about good ways to adjust to the process in ourselves and our loved ones. In many cases, with the aid of new diagnoses and medication, Dr Agronin and his staff, have been able to help many patients who he has treated. And with others, Dr Agronin has helped to ease what are the emotional pains of aging - the remembrances that have been locked into their minds for many years. In one case cited by Dr Agronin, a music therapist worked through uncommunicative woman's only method of communication - verbal "clicks" - to recognise that she was "clicking" to a song that she and her late husband had loved. Her mind, almost totally closed by Alzheimers', had retained that song and that connection to a much-loved husband.

Dr Agronin's book is also a loving testimony to his family. Marc Agronin is a third-generation doctor and he writes that the memories he shared of his grandfather have helped him to be able to feel the compassion he does for his elderly patients. He also cites other professionals in his field, including Erik and Joan Erikson and Sophia Freud, with whom he has worked and studied.

A very good book, written for the lay person.
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This book is a thoughtful, in depth look into the heart of old age. Dr. Agronin pulls together his experiences in dealing with elderly patients, as well as their families, creating a masterful work and a poignant read.
Readers will come to have a better understanding of the aging process, compassion,and a general sense of how to lead a better life now...knowing we all tread into the same water in the future.
Dramatic, touching, heartfelt, thought-provoking, informative, and sincere...
Each chapter brings a new dimension as we journey through life!
BRAVO! Tugged on my heart-strings!
Dr. Marc Agronin...You are a credit to your profession!
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Aging isn't usually a topic most people place front and center in their lives. At least not until they become acutely aware of their age and the limitations, as well as the rewards, that follow from turning 80, 90, and even 100 years old. Dr. Agronin (a middle-aged clinician), however, does just that by way of his position as a geriatric psychiatrist in Miami, Florida. As the subtitle suggests -- "A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Growing Old" -- this book is as much about how and why Dr. Agronin chose his profession, what he has learned from his mentors, patients, friends & family, as well as an opportunity to present the reader with brief (albeit sobering and sometimes poetic) descriptions of what may lie ahead for those of us a long way from being "old old". In a youth-obsessed culture where aging and death are all too often minimized -- if not completely ignored -- Dr. Agronin steps up to tell it as he sees it: old age is full of pain and loss but it can also be greater than we ever imagined.
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This author is a doctor specializing in geriatric psychiatry who writes about his experiences with his patients. These patients are all old and have the various maladies that result when the body and mind start to fall apart. Pretty depressing, huh....well, maybe....but maybe not. Somehow, the empathetic Agronin manages to make his stories build into a crescendo of hope by the time you turn the last page.

*Francine said bugs were crawling out of her newspaper. The nurses told the doctor Francine was starting to hallucinate and needed to be medicated. Turned out, between the spilled jelly on the newspaper that attracted the ants and the lost glasses that made them look bigger and fuzzier, Francine's treatment plan called for insecticide, not Thorazine.

*Emma had been on the giving rather than receiving end all her life, yet, like Job, had been dealt far more than her share of misfortunes - 60 years of being traumatized, including the holocaust. She ended up in an assisted living facility alone, depressed, and ready to die - that is, until Rachel showed up, who couldn't speak English but had a lot in common with Emma. Emma became Rachel's caregiver, her escort to appointments, and her personal translator. "In turn," says Agronin, "Rachel brought great comfort to Emma. She no longer asked for death."

*Hannah's identity revolved around her beauty, her exile from Poland and then Cuba, and her dedication to social service. Unfortunately, this dignified woman was losing her memory and with it her identity. Then a generous neighbor offered to help Hannah organize her keepsakes into an elaborate scrapbook, her portable memory. "It was astounding to see the restorative transformation in Hannah as she proudly showed the book to others.
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