Jimmy Carter’s book, The Virtues of Aging, was published in 1998 to generally positive reviews. The book details the former president’s activities after his forced early retirement from the White House in 1981, following a very embarrassing presidential elections defeat. As if mocked by fortune and circumstances, the former president not only suffered a kick in his pride due to the elections but also in his finances. He retired with $1million in debt. He had no plans for the future and the media did not entirely leave him alone. His whole life was open to the public.
Jimmy Carter outlines the significance of an open mind for success in role transition to senior-citizenry. He discusses the absolute importance of health care for the old and the lack of such care for the impoverished elderly in the United States.
This paper reflects on the book, its overall impact and the thoughts Jimmy Carter provoked in his readers.
Challenges and blessings of growing old
“We are not alone in our worry about both the physical aspects of aging and the prejudice that exists toward the elderly, which is similar to racism or sexism. What makes it different is that the prejudice also exists among those of us who are either within this group or rapidly approaching it.” (Carter, 1998)
Growing old usually creates a vision of a sickly me in my deathbed. The quote of Jimmy Carter above reassures me that I am not alone in my imaginings. A lot of people worry about many things that will happen during the time when our bodies and mental capabilities cannot support our aspirations in life. The funny thing about his quote is that, not only the younger generation has prejudice toward the elder group. Even they, among themselves, are prejudiced toward each other. For instance, in the case of mountain climbing, a lot of young people and even the older ones will generally raise eyebrows at the sight of an old man declaring to climb Mt. Everest. The old man can or cannot do it, but most likely, because of prejudice and general thought that a person’s body is weak, because of age, will not get him the chance to climb up on Mt. Everest.
According to Jimmy Carter, we are old when we think we are old, when we have a disposition of dependency, limited body and intellectual occupations. We are old when we have sternly restricted our association with other people. According to Jimmy Carter, this does not particular relate on the number of years we have lived.
Jimmy Carter’s philosophies state that as people get older, life is expanding and not contracting. If a conscious effort to maintain a program of diet and exercise is developed, better control of our own affairs, strong ties with others are established, then there will be a whole new meaning of life.
Physical ailments, according to the former president, are caused by our lifestyle. Good eating habits can just prevent premature death. Among the advice he provided are as follows:
1. Live healthy. Avoid smoking and maintain the recommended body weight for your age and height. Exercise regularly and avoid intake of high-cholesterol, high-saturated fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods. Exercise caution in drinking alcohol and drive safely. Also have regular medical exams and blood pressure tests.
2. Have a purpose in life.
3. Maintaining quality relationships with others means taking up any task you find challenging or interesting. It is best to be adventurous and take risks. There is no such thing as perfect conditions.
I find his advice highly practical and simple. I still believe that eventually, I will die sickly and ugly in my bed death but it will not hurt to try his advices.
In all fairness to Jimmy Carter, despite being as spiritual as he is, his book did not preach. He did mention in his book that as much as possible he wants to refrain from quoting the Bible. Though there are still some references to the Bible, these references were carefully paced and thoughtfully spread-out. He mentioned ways to overcome getting old but he was not intrusive in his lectures. Rather he applied it on his own experiences and described funny anecdotes of his life. Also, despite being a devoted Christian, the former president is respectful of other people’s religions.
In the book, Jimmy Carter said that everyone needs something “inspirational, exalting, transcendent.” According to him, family love, sexual love and love of friendship lead to human fulfillment. An even more important kind of love is Agape, love of God.
I believe that Jimmy Carter was honest in his depiction of himself in the book. A former most powerful man in the world, discussing his defeat and flirtation with bankruptcy requires a lot of guts and bravery. Admitting he is old, with just about nothing to do must harm a man’s pride. I admire the former president for this open admission.
The former president’s wisdom shines all throughout the book. I hope that whatever political party of the readers of the book can at least acknowledge this fact. The former president pointed out merely the obvious, but in a straightforward and poignant manner that readers just can not help but grin at his observations. He gave simple, plain and clear advice to aid people in their aging. This style of writing is something notable that I must point out. He also recognized that not everyone has the privilege of being a former president of not just any nation, but the United States.
Jimmy carter wrote in his book how to age gracefully. I am person who do not think I will reach the age of 70. I really refuse to live that long. I know, however, that a lot of people value their lives. There is nothing wrong with aging, people should not treat entering in the senior citizenry world as a limiting experience but rather, it should be embraced. I concur with this philosophy of the former president. Living the life of a valetudinarian will certainly make anyone pale and ghastly and old. My grandmother, for one, is 85 years old. She lived the last decade inside her room, fearing of every illness possible. She is sickly now and she can hardly stand up. I wish we had done something for her like engage her in physical and mental activities that would have kept her fit. Perhaps, she would not have been so miserable now.
I love the former president’s writing style. He wrote as if he is just an old friend of the family and he cares for our well-being. I know that I will age. Perhaps not so in the next twenty years as in the next forty after that. I just hope, I will age gracefully, and not be like my grandmother. I am also especially fond on how Jimmy Carter told the readers about his relationship with his wife. It seems theirs is a very strong union.
I was really surprised by the humility of the former president. How he discussed his financial woes, his defeat from the elections, is most humbling for any reader to read about the former most powerful man in the world. I am also a little surprised on how the former president did not shy away from describing the sex life of older people.
Overall, thinking about the book. I learned that growing old should not be treated with fear, otherwise, I will only get older and faster and this is what Jimmy Carter is avoiding.
Carter, J. (1998). The Virtues of Aging. Ballantine Books.