By Almeda Girod
“Most books about aging focus on the early years of retirement. They don’t address our later years.” This realization brought the Rev. Bruce T. Marshall to write, In Later Years: Finding Meaning and Spirit in Aging. Bruce has been the Unitarian Universalist chaplain at Riderwood for 10 years, and he has drawn upon that experience—as well as 50 in-depth interviews—in this book, his fifth.
Bruce grew up in Quincy, Illinois (population 40,000), located on the Mississippi River. His father was president of Gem City College, a business college established in 1870. His mother taught English at the school and encouraged Bruce in his writing. Bruce’s mother died in 2012 but his father, who is 97, continues to be active, driving to work each day.
Bruce and his wife, Amy Dibner, an architect specializing in theaters and museums, live in downtown Silver Spring. They have four adult children.
“I wanted to learn how people negotiate the inevitable diminishments that come with aging, when we can’t do everything we once could,” he said. At this stage of life, questions of meaning and spirit re-enter our lives. “How do we find meaning and what nourishes our spirit?”
A theme that emerged in the interviews was change. Those who adjust to the changes aging brings do better than those who cling to what has been. A Virginia woman said that as a younger person, she was “a pistol.” But now she has relaxed. When she finds herself getting frustrated, she asks, “In a year, will this matter?” If not, she lets it go.
Another woman settled in Colorado because she loved the mountains; her room offered a beautiful view. But then she moved into assisted living, where she could no longer see them. Her chaplain said to her, “Grace, I am so sorry about the mountains. I know you loved seeing them.” She responded, “Oh, but the clouds are so interesting!”
“Aging is not good or bad,” Bruce observed. “It just is. What matters is how we respond to it.” In Later Years can be ordered online from the publisher, Skinner House Books, or from Amazon.