Good Reading : August 2015
Rudi Westendor p is one of the world’s leading experts in ger iatric medicine. His new book, Growing Older Without Feeling Old, is a thought-provoking examination of our commonly – and sometimes wrongly – held beliefs about ageing. Westendor p acknowledges that longevity is partly determined by genetics, however he asks us to question our tendency to use the life stor ies of our parents and grandparents as a blueprint for the way our lives should unfold. In a short time period of 100 years the human life span has doubled, from a life expectancy of 40 years to one of 80 years. It has been said the first person who will reach 135 years of age has already been bor n. The causes for this increase in life expectancy range include improved hygiene, good public governance and the eradication of diseases. Westendor p says that people appear to die from new illnesses and conditions, but these diseases have always existed. They just previously slipped under the radar as no-one grew old enough to contract them. Westendor p says ‘there is no maximum age encoded in the human DNA’, but those looking for a fountain of youth will be disappointed. Humans will always face the r isk of dying, so he focuses on how to manage ageing personally and socially. The author, now working as Professor of Old-Age Medicine at the University of Copenhagen, says that dealing with issues concerning our ageing population will require a ‘revolution in the way people, and society as a whole, think’. How will we find the means for a continuing income and remaining active, while still enjoying a comfortable retirement? How will we deal with more diseases that will GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING AUGUST 2015 60 ar ise as we extend our lives further and further? How will houses need to change to adapt to our protracted lives? But it’s not all doom and gloom. Westendorp wr ites with great positivity and encourages you to think optimistically as well.You may be growing older, but you can retain your vitality and sense of wellbeing, despite impair ment or other limitations. It is possible for you to achieve a high level of wellbeing even dur ing your final year of life. This is a fascinating subject, approached through medical, biological and evolutionary lenses. It’s a well-researched and rational explanation of our ageing process, with a positive message as to how to we can integrate positive habits into our daily life to make ageing smoother and more enjoyable. It’s important to keep the discussion open about intergenerational responsibility, and gain the knowledge we need to become the architects of our own future. Westendorp has become a torchbearer for this pressing concern of the 21st century helping us on how to manage our increasingly prolonged lives whilst retaining our dignity. It’s a book everyone should read-allofus are ageing. Growing Older Without Feeling Old: On vitality and ageing by Rudi Westendorp is published by Scribe, rrp $29.99. UP CLOSE 2 In Rudi Westendorp’s new book, Growing Older Without Feeling Old, he shines a light on the most radical change in our society since industrialisation: the increase into the average Western life expectancy. gr reports.