Author Emilie Griffin in Green Leaves for Later Years: the Spiritual Path of Wisdom says that Erik Erikson suggests that his seven stages of human development were not adequate for the longevity of modern life. So, he began to apply the word “wisdom” to the later stages of life and Griffin wants to apply a faith dimension to these same years.
Griffin’s reflections on old age include some famous people who have lived a long life such as Nelson Mandela, Renoir, P.D. James and Billy and Ruth Graham, Avery Dulles , Jimmy Carter and Peter Drucker as well as some of her own friends. She concludes each chapter with a set of reflection questions and a prayer. Her models for aging are Sarah and Abraham. The reflection questions are what make the book something of value on a second and third reading.
Green Leaves for Later Years is not a page turner but rather a book to read slowly to reflect on the poems, situations and illnesses that the author presents. For example, she quotes Jim Forest reflecting on his need for kidney dialysis: “Dialysis is part of my core structure each week”, meaning that it is his life, not an add-on which can be expected to change.
For those readers who have not reached their eighties psychologist Andrew Oswald writes in the New York Times this ray of hope: “…we can expect to be happier in our early 80s than we were in our 20s.”
Woody Allen when asked how he felt about the aging process replied “I ‘m against it, I think it has nothing to recommend it!”
The last chapter of Green Leaves for Later Years is the author’s memoir by decades with the suggestion that everyone should take up such a project. Since the writer is about my age it was interesting to read of the experiences and writers which influenced her life and which were influential in my life as well.
Griffin suggests that old age should not be spent on regret, something easy to slip into, but on the present and future. In this respect it was disappointing to note that she wrote little about the future which can hold so much promise for those ready to move on. She has a lot to say about religion of the past but little to say about the connection between science and religion which seems to hold so much promise for the future.