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Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  829 ratings  ·  194 reviews
As revelatory as Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, physician and award-winning author Louise Aronson's Elderhood is an essential, empathetic look at a vital but often disparaged stage of life.

For more than 5,000 years, "old" has been defined as beginning between the ages of 60 and 70. That means most people alive today will spend more years in elderhood than in childhood, and m
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published June 11th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Silvia I did not find it depressing since defining and understanding a problem is the first step toward change. I'm not sure what I personally can do to help…moreI did not find it depressing since defining and understanding a problem is the first step toward change. I'm not sure what I personally can do to help bring about change, other than voting, but I like understanding the problem better and will be open to doing what might present itself. I do think the book needed a little editing, but I'm happy I finished it.(less)

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Elyse  Walters
May 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Medicine today
has become as much about prevention as well as treatment. It’s at least moving in that direction with many medical doctors today - re- educating themselves in Functional medicine — treating the whole person - looking for root causes rather than treatment alone.

It was only when Louise Aronson, a medical doctor herself - ( beginning in 1992), started having health problems in 2015 - face-to-face with the likelihood of ongoing discomfort and disability, that she began adjusting her n
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who is already old, caring for someone old, or intending to grow old in the near or distant future needs to read this book. Now! And that not only includes readers; it also includes policy-makers.

Elderhood is not a “how-to” book that treads over the same old tired ground. Rather, it’s a book that tackles why aging must be understood and redefined and why the medical establishment’s usual goals of saving lives and curing disease is misplaced and ill-advised in many older patients.

I’m going
Canadian Reader
At over 450 pages, ELDERHOOD, by San Francisco geriatrician Louise Aronson, is a big book. It’s an ambitious one, too. In the opening pages, the author states her intention to highlight relevant information from many disciplines about the last of the three acts in a human life: old age. (Childhood and adulthood are acts one and two respectively.) As the pages turn, several key themes emerge. One is that geriatrics (as a medical specialty) lags behind most others. Caring for the elderly has low s ...more
Oct 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-biography
On April 21, 2020, the Los Angeles Times ran an article that included the following:

California has made progress in protecting the healthcare system from a dramatic spike of sick patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But state public health officials are still planning for a "worst-case scenario," quietly publishing a sobering set of detailed guidelines to answer the troubling ethical question of who lives and who dies should California face a new surge in the coronavirus outbreak, resulting in
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Originally published on my book blog,

Louise Aronson subtitles Elderhood with the following: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life. I submit that she focuses primarily on the second of these topics, rather than the other two. And that makes sense because she has many years of experience as a geriatric physician, much of it in a house calls practice.

I’m a former caregiver to my now deceased parents and a person over 50. When I started reading, I hoped for mu
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author criticizes flaws and limitations in present medical care from the point of view of an elder care physician, with multiple personal and professional examples to support her argument. Recommended for those with little education on the topic since it will affect all of us.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I first heard about this book while I listened to an episode of Fresh Air with Terry Gross on my local National Public Radio station last year. Dr Aronson is a geriatrician on the faculty of the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and because I was fascinated with her comments and insights about the care of elderly patients during the interview I purchased this book shortly afterward.

Louise Aronson was a nontraditional medical student, as she majored in history in
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Yes, I read another book about the elderly and their treatment in America. I was filled with some foreboding when the author's note included the off-puttingly self-regarding guidance that "this book doesn't always walk a straight line from here to there. It dances," and indeed Aronson's style often proved to be nails on a blackboard. The chapter titles go through the life phases going from "Infant" and "Toddler" through "Elderly" and "Aged," though they're mostly talking about her career as a ge ...more
Bob H
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a sensitively written account of Dr. Aronson's career in geriatrics -- an autobiography centered on her life experience and medical career -- and a critique of geriatrics, US medicine generally and of how our society deals with aging. Along the way, she shows us a medical system almost caste-ridden in its hierarchy of specialties, in which geriatrics is low-rated, as well as US medicine's fragmented approach to patients, funding, medical training and hospital vs. home care generally. She ...more
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
While I completely agree with the points that the author is making, it feels waaaayyyy too drawn out. Yes. We (as a society) need to take better care of our beloved seniors. Yes. They absolutely need someone to advocate for them and to help them negotiate the ridiculous amount of red tape that has turned the American health care system into the dumpster fire that it is. But this reads more like a memoir of all the evils of our health care system, over and over and over. Ten members of our book c ...more
Kathleen Flynn
This book has some of my favorite things: Good writing. A doctor thinking about what it means to be a doctor, and telling interesting stories about her patients. Reflections on aging, dying, and the purpose of life.

Did I mention good writing? Elderhood was a pleasure to read, and I recommend to anyone who is currently old, taking care of someone old, or planning to be old one day.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
My father is 98, his wife is 85. His wife of 60 years (my mother) died in 2008. Five month’s later, after “courting” her just a few times, he proposed to his present wife. They married five months later once they found a date that would accommodate all their distant children. They traveled, partied, ate out most of the time, and went to the theater & symphony until, after almost 8 good years, my dad had a massive heart attack at age 95. His doctor told us Dad wouldn’t survive, but he did. Howeve ...more
Geri chesner
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I heard Louise Aronson on NPR talking about this book last summer. Due to my interest in working with elderly persons related to nurturing their creativity, I checked this book out of the library. I read it, slowly, learning so much from it.

I have had the book and have renewed it the maximum number of times- for 12 weeks. The book is due today and I have just successfully finished it and am happy that I spent the weeks (three months really) taking the time with it. This is a book that has not o
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Louise Aronson tackles the rampant ageism that is alive and well in the medical field in the US today. She covers how old age has been defined historically and how it has morphed to represent fear and death in current western society. She brilliantly knocks down ageist stereotypes not only in the medical field, but in society as a whole. Elderhood is a collection of stories from Aronson's career working as a geriatrician beginning with her training as a medical professional.

I have never made so
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed in this book. There was little new here for me. This book was 400 pages of stating the obvious, a rehash of multiple other books on the subject and very tedious repetition. The author repeats the premise of the book multiple, multiple times. The elderly are not treated well by the healthcare delivery system. We get it. The other reason I didn’t like this book is because the author indulges in WAY too much information and description about herself, her trials & tribulations and ...more
Jill Meyer
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'll admit I was a bit disappointed in Dr Louise Aronson's new book, "Elderhood: Medicine, Society, and Life's Third Act". I thought it would be a bit more practical and cover specific topics about aging. Instead, the book is really a series of essays about Dr Aronson's introduction and then choice to specialise in gerontology.

Now, that's not a bad direction for a book, and Dr Aronson's a pretty good writer. I enjoyed her writing on the various stages of life - as she sees them - beginning with
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
While there were things I learned and liked about this book, it is a disorganized mess.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Elderhood by Louise Aronson is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late April.

Oof, it looks quite deep from the chapter names in the table of contents, though I’d eventually learn that these didn’t bear much relevance on the stories being told as much as just marking where one story stopped and another began (i.e. you could pretty much just number the chapters, instead of name them so philosophically). Elderhood presented as being the latter part of someone’s life from the perspective of a doc
Julia Nock
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book about the intersection of the later stages of life, medicine, and society. Just as children are not simply, as once thought, small adults, but a time of life with its own developmental stages and needs, so aging is an articulated time of life with a broad spectrum of stages and a complex diversity of presentation. Aronson, a geriatrician, uses stories of patients, her own family, and her path in medical training and practice to show how we as a society and as individuals ...more
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aging, non-fiction
Excellent, conversational in tone, and erudite in execution. Filled with examples of how aging patients are viewed and devalued by the medical establishment. Should be required reading for anyone with aging parents and definitely medical school students who won't have time to read it.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medicine-science
If you are over 50, run, walk, or hobble if you have to in order to read this book, and switch ASAP to a geriatrics practice if you are over 65 and want a doctor who will look at your entire life and all your chronic conditions rather than focusing on fixing your presenting problem without looking at the big picture. If you are under 50 but love someone who is over 50, you should read this book, too.

Aronson is a geriatrician (a doctor for older adults, just as a pediatrician is a doctor for chil
Sandy Brehl
This is a weighty book, in length, complexity, and content. The anecdotal examples throughout lift the reading and make it more digestible and human, applying statistical and medical and societal realities to individual lives.
I tend to plow through books or pass on them, but this is one worth reading a chapter or two per day, and i've already recommended it to friends and relatives of many ages. One of the reviews below indicated that it is an important read for anyone who is now aging, nearing
Not quite what I thought it was going to be, but a useful tool for caregivers.
I had such high hopes for this book! I really loved Atul Gawande's "Being Mortal" and thought this would be somewhat similar. After the word "Elderhood" is "Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life". It sounded so hopeful! Most people do not relish the idea (or reality) of becoming "old" and my hope for this book was a paradigm shift that would give perspectives that could help me, and others, think differently about something that many people dread.

Early in the book there is a
Meghan Davenport
May 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am very glad that I came across this book- it is very well-written and has some powerful take-home messages at every level. Not only does Aronson argue for broad societal shifts that need to happen in regards to how we approach aging, she also illustrates practical steps that we should each take in our own lives (e.g. start conversations with loved ones and ourselves about end-of-life wishes). The book weaves together Aronson's own life experiences, history, philosophy, social science, medicin ...more
Karen Koppy
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a worthwhile investment in time! Her insight into the current attitude towards healthcare for the elderly is right on. We need more Geriatricians to provide best care for us heading towards end of life. Prolonging life that is no longer meaningful and without any sense of enjoyment is my nightmare.
Sometimes the author got a little carried away when writing of the many failings of medical care but what she says is very true. I worked in healthcare my entire career and saw it first han
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall I liked this book. Aronson is a good writer, and I felt that the stories of her patients were interesting. I felt I learned quite a bit. She points out the problems of our health care system, but she didn't go quite far as I would have liked. I would have liked more practical ways to help our aging population, but maybe that needs to be a sequel.
Karen Ng
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've read my share of books on aging, the definition of life, as well as problems with US healthcare. Dr. Aronson combined all three topics into one interesting book, flawlessly. Highly recommend if these topics are your cup of tea.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic and important book for our generation and every generation. Louise Aronson eloquently explains and examines both individual and systematic challenges with aging in a way that’s relatable and poetic. Everyone should read this book, meditate on it, keep it on their shelves, and read it again. This book is for anyone who gives a shit about humanity.
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy non-fiction and learned about geriatrics as an MD specialty. It helped me decide how I want to spend my remaining years, from a health standpoint.
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Louise Aronson is a writer, leading geriatrician, educator, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the author of the New York Times bestseller Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, and Reimagining Life. A graduate of Harvard Medical School and the Warren Wilson Program for Writers, Dr. Aronson has received the Gold Professorship in Humanism in ...more

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