Life Gets Better
by Wendy Lustbader

Tarcher, 2011. ISBN 978-1-585-42892-2.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 11/10/2011

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Elders; Nonfiction: Relationships

A delicious book. Wendy Lustbader weaves philosophy and sound observations into and around experiences of her own as well as those of others. In three sections, "Hope," "Transformation," and "Peace," she writes of the "unexpected pleasures" of aging. I feel as if I am with a quiet, sincere, kind and receptive good friend who listens well and coaxes the answers to my big questions out of my own mind.

Lustbader says, "I have been listening to older people's stories for almost thirty years, hearing them attest to later life as the source of ever-expanding inner and outer discoveries." She gifts the reader with these experiences in a flowing and cogent manner.

I enjoyed her self-deprecating tale of her awkwardness in yoga at the age of 50. She writes, "one woman came up to me before class to thank me: 'Without you always doing so much worse than me, I could never have stuck with it.'" I shared the story with a friend who takes yoga and is in the early stages of Parkinson's disease. We were able to identify with both women and laugh. We never know how or when we affect other for better or worse. Lustbader contributed to the well-being of both herself and a stranger. Certainly, a good reason to be thoughtful before we engage.

In later life, we will have had losses. When the day darkens, and night falls, we appreciate the sunlight. So it is when friends and family die or even move to a distant city. Lustbader writes that we cherish life all the more when we recover from loss. It may even lead to transformation. Another point she makes is that learning how to wait is essential to living well. Teens, especially, have difficulties with delayed gratification. We who are older, with so much less time paradoxically, realize that patience is rewarding.

Pithy gems abound in Life Gets Better. Each segment, "Self knowledge...Loss...Detours...Resilience...Attitude...The Body's Lessons," to name a few, could spark rich conversations or even writing topics.

Wendy Lustbader is an author, social worker and professor who works with older people and their families and caregivers. She lectures nationally. She lives in Seattle with her husband.

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