Sample Reading List


Week 1:  We supply a selection of quotations about aging and old age for week 1.  Each participant takes a quotation, considers it, and speaks to it, usually sparking a short discussion.  This exercise introduces themes that will be pursued through the program and serves as an ice-breaker. 


Week 2- 5:  Each week’s readings include one or two poems, as well as fiction, memoir, and journalism.  A typical program has included selections as follows:


Week 2

Poem:  Barrie Shepherd: At 77

Essay: Mary Morrison: Let Evening Come, from Reflections on Aging (excerpt)

Novel:  Rohinton Mistry:  Family Matters (excerpt from chapter 1)

Journal Article: William H. Thomas: What is Old Age For?

Poem:  Helen Vanier: Sugaring

NOTE:  Themes are broad and will recur through the rest of the program (seeing old age through new eyes/ sensual enjoyment (Mistry) / dependence and independence/ roles of elders in society (Thomas).

Week 3

Poem: Billy Collins: Forgetfulness

Poem: On Seeing Red

Memoir: Wayson Choy: Not Yet (excerpt)

Fiction: Constance Beresford-Howe: The Book of Eve (excerpt)

Memoir:  Sheila Solomon Klass: A Very Ungrateful Old Lady

NOTE:  Themes include shifts in abilities and identity; the symbolic role of material goods- people’s “stuff” (Choy); dependence and independence (Klass); use and importance of story (On Seeing Red). Note that the poem “On Seeing Red” was composed collectively, facilitated in a long term care home with participants with dementia.


Week 4

Poem: Elizabeth Bishop: One Art

Poem:  Wendell Berry:  VII

Memoir: Laurie Lewis: I arrived last spring at old age.

Fiction:  Richard Wagamese:  Indian Horse (excerpt- grandmother uses traditional knowledge to bring boy safely through winter bush to town)

NOTE: Themes include loss, love, new identity, and roles and special knowledge of elders (Wagamese).  


Week 5

Poem: David Ray: Thanks Robert Frost

Fiction: Joan Barfoot: Exit Lines (excerpt)

Graphic Memoir: Roz Chast: Can’t WeTalk About Something More Pleasant (excerpt)

Non Fiction:  Atul Gawande: Being Mortal (excerpt)

Note:  Themes include forgiveness, end of life issues, difficult intergenerational conversations. 

Week 6

Poem: Lorna Crozier: My Last Erotic Poem

Essay:  Maya Angelou: A Song to Sensuality

Poem:  Douglas Nepinak: Grandmother

Memoir: Roger Angell: This Old Man

Note:  Themes include sensuality, intergenerational roles, and isolation. 


Aging and engaging through the power of stories.