No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History

By Gail Collins – Little, Brown and Company, 2019

With her latest book, Gail Collins—best known for her op-ed columns in the New York Times—has become the history teacher we all wish we had in school. Engaging us with stories of women from the colonists to the present, she illustrates how attitudes toward older women have changed with the times and have very much been based on supply and demand (thinking of you, Rosie the Riveter). Collins brings to life the triumphs and travails of Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nancy Pelosi and many others less well known, all women considered “past their prime” who made their voices heard. The book is informative, lively and fun, shining a light on old beliefs that sound nothing short of ridiculous to us now—such as that an opinionated woman in the 18th century could be assumed to be a witch, or that hair dye and cosmetics could be merely lures to land a husband under false pretenses. The women are all remarkable, even more so because they didn’t let age stop them from blazing a trail. Here’s hoping this book can inspire our daughters and inform our sons.

Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying ‘Yes’ to Living

By Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle – Harper One, 2017

Tim and his wife, Ramie, lived frugally and invested wisely in order to retire early. Then they left the rat race to live as nomads. They kept in touch with family infrequently; Tim visited his parents once a year and called them from the road. On their visit in 2015, Ramie and Tim arrived at his parents’ Michigan home in their RV to find his father, Leo, in pain, with his organs failing. He died shortly after he went into the hospital.

At the same time Leo was admitted to hospice, Norma, 90, learned she had uterine cancer. Even if she survived surgery, the prospects for recovery were unlikely. Sensing his mother was a poor candidate for a nursing home, and that living alone would be out of the question, Tim and Ramie asked Norma to consider joining them on the road—mobile assisted living, if you will. Norma said yes.

Like so many of us with aging parents, Tim and Ramie had often planned to have “the talk” about end-of-life wishes and what ifs, but it wasn’t something they were ever able to bring up. Now that his mother was going to join them, the couple purchased a more comfortable RV (second sleeping area, wide enough berth for easy mobility, two-and-a-half baths, washer and dryer). 

Tim soon realized how little he knew Norma as an individual, away from his father’s shadow; to experience their relationship growing and deepening was heartwarming. What was her role in World War ll? Had his parents actually hoped to go hot-air ballooning one day? Had Norma really never been to the neighboring state? More than that, Norma became an unwitting celebrity when Ramie started a Facebook page of their experiences. Norma’s journey was featured on prime-time news stations around the United States. 

Their story takes us 7,000 miles to national parks, campgrounds and quirky roadside tourist spots, sharing them from Norma’s vantage point of delight and awe. Norma is a trailblazer and an inspiration, who said no to possibly life-saving surgery and yes to life. At the end of Norma’s time with us, we’re left with a grateful appreciation for being allowed along for the ride. 

 

Walking with Peety: The Dog Who Saved My Life

By Eric O’Grey with Mark DagostinoGrand Central Publishing, 2017

Do you know a yo-yo dieter looking for inspiration, maybe a couch potato who needs a nudge in the right direction? Eric O’Grey was in his early 50s, depressed and in a rut. His diets never panned out and he was easily 150 pounds overweight, spending a fortune on prescriptions to control his blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. And then a new doctor prescribed a trip to the dog shelter. There he chose obese, middle-aged Peety, and everything changed. Slowly, due to daily walks, the duo began to take off weight and put on energy. Their bond inspired Eric to finally commit to a radical diet to be deserving of Peety’s love. This is a charming success story that sweetly poses the question: who really rescued whom?

Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World

By Lynne Martin – Sourcebooks, 2014

If the idea of aging in place is too tame for you, you may want to take your retirement on the road—permanently. Lynne and Tim Martin, both in their 60s with grown children from previous marriages, find they have unrealized wanderlust. They empty their home of all they can bear to part with, sell the house and leave the country for one extended stay after another. Lynne is a writer/foodie/wine lover; Tim’s the travel planner. These nomadic retirees are outgoing, flexible and practical—qualities they’ll need along the way, living as locals in rented and borrowed apartments or as house sitters. This memoir is full of travel tips if you’re bold enough to follow the Martins’ lead, and it’s colorful enough to enjoy if you never want to leave your reading chair.

Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World

When Rita Golden Gelman’s husband asks for a trial separation, she realizes that, at 48, she has no idea where her life is heading. With her children grown (and financial security from her career as a children’s book writer), Gelman decides to travel—not as the Hollywood socialite she had been but as a backpacking nomad. She sells her belongings and hits the road. Fifteen years later, she has not looked back. Her one goal is to interact on a very personal level with the people she meets, whether she spends a few weeks in a Mexican Zapotec village or years with a Balinese royal family, with stops in Nicaragua, Israel, Borneo and New Zealand in between. Along the way, Gelman deals with her mother’s aging, discovers her children need her more than she believed and, yes, gets divorced. Tales is more than a geographical adventure. It’s the story of one woman’s spiritual and emotional journey in midlife to find her place in the world.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

By Ben Montgomery – Chicago Review Press, 2014

In 1955, Emma Gatewood became the first woman to hike the 2,168-mile Appalachian Trail in its entirety in a single season. Ben Montgomery, a distant relative, spins this inspiring tale of courage and determination from Gatewood’s diaries and her children’s recollections. “Grandma” Gatewood was 67 years old: mother to 11, grandmother to 23, divorced from her husband of 30 years and a survivor of domestic violence. Inspired by a National Geographic article that said no woman had accomplished the feat, she first tried in 1954 but was thwarted by broken eyeglasses. Not an experienced hiker by a long shot, Gatewood took no map or compass, not even a tent. She carried a handmade backpack with a blanket and a plastic shower curtain for the elements, relying on common sense and the kindness of strangers. She went on to hike the trail twice more, and her advocacy is credited for its rehabilitation for countless others to enjoy.

Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life

By Daniel Klein – Penguin Books, 2012

A trip to the dentist forces the author to consider dentures or implants—neither particularly appealing to septuagenarian Daniel Klein. This is the catalyst for a trip of self-appraisal to the Greek island of Hydra. There Klein, enjoying a laid-back lifestyle, contrasts the notions of the great philosophers to contemporary views on aging. He discovers that to age authentically is to make peace with your circumstances and to savor what you have. Witty and philosophical, Klein finds a “fulfilled life” means something very different to a person in his 70s than it does to a younger man. His perspective is delightfully and thoughtfully shared within these pages.