I was browsing the books at a local book festival when I came across Babara Bradley Hagerty’s book released in March 2016 entitled Life Reimagined The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife.
Being in my early 50s and having some midlife awakenings of my own, the title intrigued me. Written as part memoir, part feature story, part scientific study, Hagerty focuses primarily on the mental, physical, social, and emotional experience of people at midlife and beyond. She interviews scientists who’ve studied aging and people who are maneuvering through the challenges of midlife. The questions about this life-stage are numerous, but here’s a sample: Is there such a thing as a midlife crisis? What determines if a person will thrive at midlife and beyond or simply survive? Is Alzheimer’s preventable? What about dementia? How can one make the most out of this stage of life?
She addresses all that and so much more, including resiliency, purpose, “generativity”, attitude, midlife marriage and friendship, altruism, and work. In all of these areas, she interweaves her own experience, the experiences of others, and the research. This intermingling makes the text flow easily and never sounds like a news report or clinical research paper.
One note about the content –
The book has many, many footnotes, nearly 60 pages of very small print. They often include elaborations that offer additional perspective on the subject being discussed. Even with those details in the footnotes, the book is 378 pages. Lengthy, but loaded with memorable stories, characters and conclusions about midlife and well worth the read.
I had lots of takeaways, but the most memorable one touches on a topic that I blog about regularly: exercise. Specifically, exercise and mental acuity.
In the section “How to Build a Younger Brain”, the author spoke to Kirk Erickson, researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, who found that brain training and other mental exercises “help people preserve their cognitive abilities” but when he started conducting exercise studies, “He realized that nothing will keep you as mentally acute as raising your heart rate a few times a week. Nothing.” Exercise is good for your brain, from preserving brain tissue to improving memory. (p. 203)
Fork in the road
Midlife feels like a fork in a road, but at this fork, I feel a little more urgency. After all, I’m not getting any younger. What if I wind up in the weeds?
I liked Life Reimagined because it explores midlife from lots of angles and tells stories about what others have done, how it’s worked out for them, and what researchers have learned about how to continue to be happy and healthy for all your days.
Bette Davis once said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” In the end, it’s for each of us to decide our path and, by the Grace of God, live life to its fullest. Midlife is a good time to re-examine what that means.
Have you read any good books lately? Please share in the comments.