Book Review: ‘Aging and the Art of Living’

This ambitious and humane text reflects on aging as a deeply human condition. Baars (gerontology, Univ. for Humanities, Utrecht) thoughtfully situates his examination of age and aging in a historical and philosophical context. His premise is that chronometric dominance, or the standardized focus on quantitative measures of time and age, has increased through the ages; this dominance diminishes the uniqueness and creativity that is potential in aging. The author reviews philosophical texts from the classics to the present to examine a variety of views about aging. His critique of the domination of chronometric regimes and his review of philosophical approaches leads to an alternative vision of aging, one that is informed by the aging person’s story of reflection, vulnerability, and uniqueness, and one essentially embedded in relationship. This is a vision infused with hope and potential, and in this lies the art of living meaningfully. The last chapters in which Baars describes the rich possibilities of individual story and proposes an alternative idea of aging well are worth the trip. The essential creativity of narrative contains the hope of aging; acknowledgment of life’s finiteness infuses it with heightened awareness of its preciousness. 

— Reviewed by Renee Shield, Clinical Professor Health Services, Policy & Practice, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island , USA.