By Katharine Esty, Ph.d.
Reviewed by Victoria Starr Marshall
Some years ago, I was following the creative promptings of the book The Artist’s Way and one of the exercises was to write a letter to me from my future 80-something self. What insights would my future, older-self share with me? I found the process to be cathartic: My 80-year-old self told me that she was just fine. That all the stuff I was fretting about was going to work out OK.
I remember feeling physical relief as I read my own words.
I felt much the same way reading EightySomethings.
Writer Katharine Esty, in her 80s herself, explores what she refers to as this “last life stage” by interviewing 128 80-something adults and 26 of their adult children; sharing some of their stories. Organized by chapter on the challenges, opportunities, transitions, and pleasant surprises this life stage holds for us and our loved ones, Esty lets her interviewees’ experiences shine through. She ends each chapter with questions 80-somethings should ponder for themselves, and tips for adult children to help them better understand and relate to their older parents.
If you are currently in your 80s, this book will validate some of your feelings and experiences and give you perspectives from other members of your cohort. It’s optimistic and encouraging; offering a celebration of your long life and ideas for living the rest of your life fully.
As someone with parents in their 80s, EightySomethings helped me to better understand my parents’ life stage and journey, and the reasons behind some of their behavior and choices. I also have a better understanding of what they may need from me, and what they won’t.
As for gaining insight on my future 80-something life, this book is pretty specific to the generation that is in their 80s, now. While many of the challenges and opportunities that arise will be the same, Boomers will likely rewrite the book starting in 2026, when the leading edge of this large cohort starts turning 80 themselves.