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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Review of The Warmth of the Heart prevents your body from rusting
Article Type: Book review From: Working with Older People, Volume 16, Issue 3
This book has already been a best seller and was serialised on BBC Radio 4 in the UK, so it has reached a pretty wide audience. I am fortunate enough to work with and for older people so I was curious to see what was on offer and what might have attracted people to the book, and whether there were messages to share, ideas to act upon….But I also wanted to get an older person’s perspective (i.e. someone older than me!) so I have asked my mother to read and review it.
This was her response:
As an 81 year young person I found this book absolutely fascinating with so many points made that I could relate to.
Marie Hennezel is a person of passion, compassion, and great insight, and obviously with a longing (that almost jumps off the page) that all who read this book will learn it by heart, so that they can truly live it until they leave this world.
I have gained much from reading it, but feel that, in the final analysis, we all know we grow old, yet, because of the life we have lived, however much we want to think everyone could - with teaching - live to the end well, some people have too much baggage, have carried too much pain for too long. They cannot reach within themselves for all the joys she suggests are withineach of us.
One point I do not agree with is that everyone would benefit from talking to a Therapist, from my many years of meeting with and talking to people I feel the majority of folk can think things through for themselves, but agree there are many who need help. It would cost a great deal to make this available for all.
I thank God that I have found that inner contentment that she speaks of, and await my future with a real sense of ,”The best is yet to come”
June Mordey, Hereford, UK.
The title for the book comes from the song which the people of the Japanese island of Okinawa sing every morning. The island, nicknamed by the World Health Organisation as; ‘the island of long life’ has a large population of centenarians, whose ‘extraordinary longevity, like their happiness in old age, is also linked to a cultural state of mind and a well-developed social life’
The author describes the fact that older people on the island are part of the community, live in a spirit of mutual cooperation, practice tai chi, and ‘do not feel that they represent a burden on society – quite the reverse. In Okinawa people say: Tusui ya takara, ‘The elderly are our treasure.’
From that starting point the book, as I read it, is a treatise on how we learn to love the process and progress of ageing and growing old – she draws upon interviews with friends and colleagues who provide inspirational and uplifting stories of how they accommodate, even welcome older age. Her writing also serves to illustrate how the contrary experience – that of finding old age a burden, a terrible state of affairs - can occur, and ultimately this book is a sort of self help guide to accepting and being tranquil in old age, discovering joy in the state of being it entails and ‘Knowing how to die.’
I think it is a fine book, well written, coherently argued and of use to those of us who want to shift the discussion and debate about ageing away from such phrases and attitudes as ‘the demographic time bomb’ ‘the sliver tsunami’ and the like. And it represents a call to arms for those of us in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s as to how we are aiming to prepare ourselves for this final period in lives. I could also see it as a useful text for teaching the young about the ageing process – an area for addressing within the school curriculum?
My only problem with it, which I think slightly echoes the views of my mum is that this is a book written for people with the luxury of time, possibly money and almost definitely a certain level of education – whether the older person living in poverty and distress, whose journey across the life course has been characterized by despair and discomfort, would find it a comfort, I am not so sure. And, having worked in the NHS in mental health services, the suspicion that therapy is a “middle class option” lingers.
That said, I found it a valuable and refreshing read and would have no hesitation recommending it and would love to see the author’s ideas and lessons on life, and ‘ageing without growing old’ shared, to all and sundry.
Marc Mordey, Pembrokeshire, UK