IF I Live to be 100 by Neenah Ellis

IF I Live to be 100 by Neenah Ellis
Publisher: Crown,2002
ISBN 0-609-60842-8

If I LIve to be 100 by Neenah Ellis has the subtitle, Lessons from the Centenarians. If you are looking for encouraging, hope filled books about longevity and aging, this book should be on your list. Neenah Ellis was a produce for National Public Radio, NPR when she obtained a grant to interview Centenarians in the United States and this book offers glimpses of Nineteen of those interviews.

The first few interviews are a bit stiff but Ellis soon develops a way of allowing her subjects to reveal themselves and what matters in their life. The reader soon realizes that there is no formula for growing old and that aging seems to reveal the uniqueness of our personalities more clearly. These men and women, all of whom have seen the age of 100 come and go, live unique lives. Some a physically able; others need assistance. Some, like Anna Wilmot still live alone, others, like Margaret Rawson, have hired caregivers and still others live with family or in assistend living facilities.

A few are still employed; others continue life long research and a few, like Anna Wimont, still can row across the lake each day. What makes this book far more readable than many written about the elderly is that Neenah Ellis develops an empathetic understanding for her subjects.

She learns to really listen and grasp the 'message behind the words' that is being offered and as she progresses with her interviews, she gets better at following up these lines of thought, rather than sticking with a scripted series of questions. As a result unique personalities shine forth from these pages. One comes away with the truism that people become more unique and more themselves as they age.

One can not help but reflect that this very uniqueness may so challenge the 'fitting in' and living 'my role' approach of most adults, that these adults may be just a bit uncomfortable in the face of such uniqueness. It takes a great deal of personal freedom to appreciate someone who lives a unique style. Perhaps the labeling of the old as 'eccentric' may come from adult needs for greater social conformity. But do not think that these centenarians are trying to be provocative or outrageous. Instead you likely to find them very appealing - just because they have found a way to live their own lives - in their own circumstances.

If you want some encouragement about growing older ....becoming a centenarian or even a super centenarian (over age 110), do pick up a copy of If I Live to be 100 by Neenah Ellis and plan to read and reread it on a regular basis. Oh, and if you know anyone studying 'gerontology' or nursing or any branch of medicine or social work, do give them a copy and suggest that they should read it at least once a year while they are studying.

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