At the age of 61, and two years before I stepped down from the church I served as pastor for 30 years, I began reading about retirement and aging. In the last five years I have read numerous books and articles about these subjects. In this post I want to recommend in some ways the best book I have read so far. I am recommending it to those who are retired and aging, those who hope to retire in the future, and those who know and love relatives and friends who are retired and aging. The title of the book is The Back Nine: Life Beyond Retirement by Doug Manning.
Readers do not have to understand the golf metaphor in the title The Back Nine to appreciate the book’s content; it’s about Life Beyond Retirement and much more. While Christians are not to worry about tomorrow (see Matthew 6:25-34) or boast about it (James 4:13-16), that does not mean we should not look ahead. Manning has much to offer to those giving consideration to the challenges and opportunities that retirement and aging bring.
There is a lot I like in this book, not the least of which is its brevity. It is divided into three sections comprised of 14 short chapters, and is only 100 pages. It is by far the shortest book I have read on the subject. It is also personal, practical, and real. Manning knows what he is talking about as he writes with the voice of experience. In his eighties, he is semi-retired, a widower, color blind, and almost blind as well. He asks that readers pardon his personal illustrations, but he adds “I have no other way of explaining what I mean” (p. 20). Later in the book he tells us “my opinion is just one man’s opinion and should be looked at as just that” (p. 55).
Manning doesn’t write in theory, but about reality. And that reality got this 65 year old reader’s attention. For example, in the introduction he acknowledges “My greatest dread is not death, it is living too long and living beyond my ability to not be a burden” (p. 13). Some of what he relates sounds pessimistic and almost depressing. He defines aging as “the slow process of losing people, things, health, significance, purpose, position and most of all what we hold dear in life” and acknowledges that “those losses hurt” (p. 17).
One of the most practical suggestions Manning offers deals with avoiding war between “aging parents” and “caring children.” In chapter two, he challenges parents to “change the relationship long before the care giving is needed” (p.24). And while it is not easy or quickly done, he thinks “the most important thing we can do . . . is build an adult to-adult relationship with our kids” (p. 24). I think it is unrealistic to think a parent can ever stop being one, but I certainly agree with the need for a changed relationship as children become adults.
Other chapters include practical and real discussions about legal issues, relocation, death of a spouse, living alone, and funerals.
The final two chapters in Section III continue the practical discussion, but also are positive and encouraging. Chapter 13 cautions “It is very easy for us to grow more and more self-absorbed as we age” (p. 87) and challenges us to live in the now by listening to others. In chapter 14, Manning calls us in our final years to rid ourselves of our anger and grudges, limit our limitations, embrace technology, cultivate gratitude, and to keep growing and loving.
Taking about gratitude, Manning tells about a friend who was diagnosed with an untreatable form of cancer. He went to visit him “to give comfort and perhaps some perspective or some answers to his questions.” When Manning arrived, his friend told him, “I have been so blessed in my life, if God heard me complain He would throw up” (p. 95). Manning notes, “I am convinced that gratitude is the thing that ties a knot we can cling to when we reach the end of our ropes” (p. 96).
I’ll be 66 next month and am resolved to continue growing and loving, as well as cultivating and expressing gratitude. How about you?
Feel free to leave a reply below and/or share this review on Facebook.
The Back Nine: Life Beyond Retirement is available at InSightBooks.com or amazon.com
(If you are interested, here are links to my two previous posts about this topic: https://bobmmink.com/2016/07/13/getting-older-retirement-and-aging/ and https://bobmmink.com/2016/08/09/more-on-getting-older-and-aging/.)
photo credit: Miradortigre <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/68018236@N03/32502037616″>Along the road</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>