The audience for Mary Pipher’s Women Rowing North is obviously women. But the review I read in The Wall Street Journal suggested male readers would profit from reading this helpful guide to aging, too.

My favorite chapter in Women Rowing North is “Building a Good Day.” Pipher shows how our choices each day affect our happiness and health. Too many older people get stressed out because they over-schedule their days trying to jam in too much stuff. Pipher is definitely in the “Less is More” camp.

Friends and family become more important as we age. Dealing with increasing health problems and infirmities that come along with the aging process can be eased with a little help from our friends and family. I know my visits to the Alzheimer’s wing of the nursing home my mother resided in the last 8 years of her life lifted her spirits and resulted in better treatment by the staff. Yet I saw some residents who NEVER had a visitor. Their treatment was much different.

Aging tests us all. This wise and witty book can help us prepare for what’s ahead of us. GRADE: A
Introduction 1
I Challenges of the Journey
1 A New Stretch of the River 14
2 The Lay of the Land 26
3 The Worn Body 37
4 Intensity and Poignancy 53
5 Caregiving 60
6 Swept Away 69
7 Loneliness and Solitude 83
II Travel Skills
8 Understanding Ourselves 98
9 Making Intentional Choices 109
10 Building a Good Day 122
11 Creating Community 135
12 Crafting Resplendent Narratives 147
13 Anchoring in Gratitude 160
III The People on the Boat
14 Travel Companions 174
15 Co-Captains 184
16 The Lifeboat of Family 195
17 Grandchildren 206
IV The Northern Lights
18 Moon River: Authenticity and Self-Acceptance 220
19 The Long View 231
20 Everything Is Illuminated 241
Acknowledgments 252
Index 253


  1. Jeff Meyerson

    We are definitely in the “less is more” category. When we are in Florida in the winter (other than this one, of course), we get up, eat breakfast in the dining area of the hotel, read the newspapers, then use the exercise bike and check the internet (Jackie will sit out by the pool and read). By then, it’s time for lunch! We’ll drive to whatever restaurant we’ve chosen for the day, then, depending on the day, either go to a movie or the mall or drive to Palm Beach and walk along the beach before going to Starbucks, etc. We might go shopping or just hang out in Starbucks. We’ll get back to the hotel late afternoon most days. Monday through Wednesday they have some food in the evening, but many days a big lunch is enough for us. We rarely go out at night, maybe to a concert or for dinner with my cousins. And we will watch television and read.

    At home, things are not that different! We’re more likely to go to the theater (almost always a matinee) or a concert.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, same here. We rarely go out at night any more. Being retired makes matinees attractive. And Diane has a rule: do just one Big Thing per day. So today I have a routine dental cleaning. Diane has a Book Club meeting. We try not to overs-schedule. Time management is one of the keys to Happiness.

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        True. I have physical therapy twice a week. Jackie has her hair done and a manicure. Most weeks we coordinate them.

        When we were young we were the opposite. When we first started traveling to Europe in the early ’70s, I really overscheduled because I didn’t want to miss anything. So in London we were go to at least two “sights” a day, maybe more. And we also went to the theatre at night about half the days we were there. In later years, we went to shows EVERY day, sometimes twice a day! We realized how ridiculous this was when we would get off the plane and get tickets for a show that night, only to fall asleep in the middle due to jet lag. Or I would rent a car and drive from the airport (after an overnight flight) straight to York. That’s fine when you’re 30 but not when you’re over 50 or so.

      2. george Post author

        Jeff, same here. I used to try to fit in as much activity as I could when I was young. Like you, I didn’t want to miss a thing. But Entropy has a way of letting you know when you’ve over-extended. On the rare days when we have three or four activities (doctor’s appointments, ultra sound exams, lunch/dinner with friends) I end up exhausted!

  2. Rick Robinson

    Breakfast w/ newspaper, morning chores, errands, read or work on puzzle, lunch, walk or garden (Summer, Fall) or read, prepare dinner, news, maybe a movie or TV, bed. Typical day and that’s most days. Barbara goes to 24 Hour fitness weekdays, does most shopping and outside errands on her way home. We don’t go out at night. Pretty boring, I guess, but we’re comfortable and like it.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, at my Yearly Physical my internist asked me if I was happy. “Yes,” I said. He shook his head and said, “When I ask that question of my other patients, 80% say no.” Finding a life-style and a rhythm of Life that produces Happiness seems beyond a lot of people.

  3. Beth Fedyn

    I saw the ARC of this floating around the bookstore but never felt inspired to take a look at it.

    Despite being “semi-retired,” there’s a lot of free time in my life but I always need something to look forward to. When there’s nothing fun on my horizon, I’ll probably be ready to pack it in.

  4. Deb

    Because I got married and had my children relatively late in life, I’m probably about a decade behind on the “slowing down” part. I try not to overschedule (as my girls like to remind me, I once famously observed, “I don’t have any spare time, everything I do I do to free up time for reading”), but sometimes it’s unavoidable. I like Diane’s rule of only one big task per day. I also agree very much about keeping up with friends and maintaining social connections. I’m also a regular churchgoer (obviously not of the Trumpster Evangelical variety), and I do think that maintaining some spiritual element in your life—in whatever capacity—is also important.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, Diane and I married at age 29. Patrick arrived five years later and Katie arrived three years after that. In 1999, we took in Diane’s mother who lived with us for 16 years. With each step along the way, Diane and I planned for the time we would be retired and growing old together. So far, the plan is working fine! We try to go out with friends once a week. And this blog provides a lot of friendly conversation each day, thanks to you and all the other commentators!

  5. wolf

    Same here!
    I tell everybody that we’re
    – slower in every activity(especially work in the garden or the house and
    – less efficient
    so we’ve reduced our program too:
    One big thing a day!
    I also have to confess that I tend to forget a lot of little things – weith me it’s worth than wirh my wife, but it happens to her too so we usually prepare lists (especially before shopping).
    Re Alzheimer etc:
    A friend who’s a doc told me – forgetting something like where did you put your car keys? On the table, by the door, or maybe they’re already in the car …
    No problem!
    But if you think that the fridge is the best place for the keys …
    A friend of my wife just told us a sad story:
    Her husband came to her complaining that his feet hurt so much – and then she saw that he had put on some of her shoes!

    I’m so happy that I got my wife (we met when we were both over 60 already) to travel to all the interesting places that we could reach/manage in our first years together- now that I’m 76 it would be too much to take a car to NYC and Niagara Falls or to the Grand Canyon from San Francisco and back …

  6. Deb

    One more comment: I just read something the other day that said “older folks” should practice getting down on the floor and getting up again to keep that skill sharp. (I fold laundry sitting on the floor—getting down there is not a problem, standing back up again takes some maneuvering!) You do not want to be amongst the “Help me, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” contingent.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, we’ve had several friends who have fallen during the past year. One friend slipped on ice on his driveway, hit his head, and passed out. His wife discovered him unconscious about a half hour later. She and a neighbor loaded him into their SUV and drove him to the nearby hospital (5 minutes away). He had a concussion and still experiences memory issues. And, he doesn’t drive anymore.

      1. wolf

        A year ago I had a similar, but not as bad experience.
        On new fallen snow I slipped on grass (luckily!), tried to compensate with my right arm and then it started to hurt …
        I made it home and the next day was told by the doc that I had a tear in the tendon in my right shoulder which hurt a lot at first.
        The surgeon told me they could repair this but it would mean a cast for several months …
        And my doc said:
        Just get used to it, in a year you’ll be as before. Massage helped too.
        When I’m in a mood for a bad joke (sorry in advance for this) I tell people that I can’t do the Nazi salute any more …
        But I can use my right arm, work and drive .

        So you really have to be careful getting older – even if you feel you’re still as strong as a teenager! 🙂

      2. george Post author

        Wolf, Jeff Meyerson fell in his apartment and injured his shoulder. Physical Therapy is helping Jeff recover. But we can all fall anywhere at our ages!

  7. Prashant C. Trikannad

    George, I’m just over the halfway mark and I’m already thinking what ageing or old age is going to be like. I’m already taking the necessary measures to keep myself as healthy as possible, especially mentally and emotionally.

    1. george Post author

      Prashant, you’re doing all the right things to make your later years manageable. Sadly, some of our friends are dealing with health issues–cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s–and others are finding they didn’t plan their finances adequately.


Leave a Reply to Beth Fedyn Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *