The baby boom generation has always been a prime market for books to help them keep fit – physically, mentally and financially. Now that they're 50-plus, they want memoirs that explore interesting lives and strategies for planning ahead.
Here are a few recommendations from this year's crop of books, those that can help you make the most of life now and even help you, as in the curious case of Benjamin Button, to "age backwards:"
1. What Makes Olga Run?
The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star, and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives By Bruce Grierson (Penguin Random House Canada, 241 pages; $29.95)
This best-selling book seeks to demonstrate that age is no barrier to living a longer, healthier life. Vancouver resident and five-time Canadian National Magazine Award winner Bruce Grierson argues this point by documenting the incredible life story of Olga Kotelko, the Canadian track star with 23 world records who competed in athletic events until her death in June at 95. To learn her secret of longevity, Mr. Grierson delves into the science of aging, visiting labs across North America where Ms. Kotelko’s age-resistant tissues and DNA are minutely examined. The conclusion? Staying healthy in old age is really a case of mental outlook. Olga was strong, both physically and mentally. She never allowed her age to be a barrier to anything in her life. An inspiration to us all.
2. Investing for a Lifetime:
Managing Wealth for the New Normal
By Richard C. Marston (Wiley & Sons, 277 pages; $55)
Taking a straight-forward approach to investing, Richard C. Marston, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania, aims to make investing and saving understandable to the reader. His book is a guide to key investment decisions made throughout a lifetime, starting with goal-setting for younger investors to sustained spending among retirees. Seasoned and novice investors alike need to devise rates of saving to allow them to maintain their goals by the time of retirement. Prof. Marston recommends sensible investing as way for savings goals to be realized. For the retiree in particular, he discusses the impact of a low interest rate environment on savings, and whether it is possible to fund retirement from interest and dividends alone. But how much money should you put away? Prof. Marston recommends saving 15 times current income. If that gives pause, the book includes model portfolios aimed at making retirement savings last.
3. Aging Backwards:
10 Years Younger, 10 Years Lighter, 30 Minutes a Day
By Miranda Esmonde-White (Penguin Random House Canada, 304 pages; $32)
A former dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, Miranda Esmonde-White developed a rehabilitating stretch and strength exercise program – the Essentrics technique – to cure her own extreme back pain, later sharing it with millions through her top-rated PBS show, Classical Stretch. Her exercise program is geared at pain-free living and a sculpted body. Aging gracefully is achieved by strengthening muscles. Her book includes eight basic age-reversing workouts that build core strength, lengthen and tone muscle, increase flexibility, and speed weight loss to achieve a goal of healthier, happier living. Fans of her workouts include the Montreal Canadiens, actress Sarah Gadon, supermodel Lily Cole, Olympic medalist Alexandre Despatie and the Cirque de Soleil School.
4. The Organized Mind:
Thinking Straight in an Age of Information Overload
By Daniel J. Levitin (Penguin Random House Canada, 528 pages; $30)
In this book, the author of This Is Your Brain on Music looks at how our brains organize the deluge of information coming at us each day from TV, the Internet and smartphones. He uses the latest scientific research to show what works, and what doesn’t, in making the brain better able to manage the overflow. Multitasking, for instance, forces information to go to the wrong places in the brain, depleting it of valuable energy. Daydreaming, a kind of nap time for the brain, is beneficial in that it serves as a nap for the brain, helping to restore and regenerate thought patterns. The book is written in a lively style, with chapters ranging from what to do when you lose your car keys to developments in cognitive neuroscience of attention and memory. Yes, it’s more information. But the kind that is meant to help: No more lost car keys.
5. They Left Us Everything
By Plum Johnson (Penguin Random House Canada, 288 pages; $22)
This touching memoir by award-winning Toronto based artist and writer Plum Johnson came about after the author set out to clean out her parents’ 25-room house in Oakville, Ont., following the death of her cantankerous 93-year-old mother. Ms. Johnson had cared for both parents in their dotage, including a senile father, for close to 20 years. When both were gone, she and her three younger brothers grappled with their conflicted feelings while also looking to declutter and sell the family home. But past memories were something they couldn’t altogether get rid of. There are other themes besides, among them the long-term care of elderly parents, and what to do with all of their stuff once they pass on. A book about love, loss and what it means to grow old from the perspective of adult children caring for their elderly.