Book Review: Claiming Your Place At The Fire (Richard J. Leider & David A. Shapiro)

“Two-thirds of all the people who have ever lived past 65 are alive today.  Never before in history have so many people entered into this later stage of life so vital, so healthy, and so free.  And never before have so many had such a hunger for direction in how to live this stage of life in a purposeful way.”

The above quote, taken from the the last chapter of the book, effectively sums up its entire mission — to explore the new frontiers of growing up, and growing old, and to tackle the changing meaning of the word “retirement” for the Baby Boom generation and beyond.  Containing dozens of inspirational stories about “new elders” who have continued to passionately pursue career avenues well into the second half of their lives, the book ranges wildly, at times, between sociology textbook and self-help publication.  At the end of each chapter, as well, the authors encourage the reader to hold a “fireside chat”with their spouse — and possibly other loved ones — to discuss the authentic issues, questions, and decisions that relate to achieving fulfillment during one’s senior years.

Sound a bit too “new agey” for your tastes?  Admittedly, much of this book has that feel to it, and some may find it a little too existential or idealistic for their liking.  I must also confess, as well, that a certain amount of the the content was likely lost on me, since I’m not yet a member of the age demographic this publication is aimed at addressing.  Despite these factors, however, the book was still a crisp and insightful reading experience, and given that I’ve had several clients recommend it to me over the years, I felt that it deserved recognition — and fills an important niche on the career management bookshelf.

Amongst the passages, there are also some great quotes and insights related to the aging process, in general.  One of many citations that caught my eye was the statement that “only 25% of what we call aging is rooted in the actual biology of being older.  The other 75% is ‘sociogenic’ and caused by the stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions that society and culture impose on older adults.”  How accurate this claim might be, scientifically, I can’t say.   But it’s an awfully thought-provoking concept!

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