A 2016 Census Bureau report puts numbers to something that many people have intuited already: the United States is getting older. Baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—began turning 65 in 2011, marking the start of trend that, according to the report, will see the nation’s 65-plus population almost double over the next 30 years. In 2015, those 65 and older made up about 15% of the total U.S. population; by 2050, they’ll make up more than 22%.
What does this mean for the publishing industry? First and most mercenarily, it means there is and will continue to be a large readership for books on aging. It also means that this readership may be looking for new kinds of aging books: guides not only to stalling decline but also to aging well—and enjoying it.
“Baby boomers are used to being self-sufficient,” says Jennifer Levesque, v-p and editorial director at Rodale. “They don’t necessarily want to be stuck in the house or stuck in a home. They want to live their best life for as long as possible.” Several forthcoming books look at this question—how to live not just longer but also more fully—from various angles.
Some titles aim to equip readers with the knowledge to combat the effects of aging through diet, supplement regimens, and exercise. Levesque edited The Fountain: A Doctor’s Prescription to Make 60 the New 30 (Rodale, Mar. 2018), by orthopedic surgeon Rocco Monto, which advises a range of practices—an hour a day of exercise and “mini-fasts” are two examples—that, he writes, can prevent precipitous physical decline. In Yoga for Healthy Aging (Shambhala, Dec.), a pair of yoga instructors—Nina Zolotow and Baxter Bell, who is also a family physician—demonstrate how the practice can address health issues especially pertinent to older people, such as balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular health.
Fit at Mid-Life by Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs (Greystone, Apr. 2018), both professors of women’s studies at Western University in Canada, suggests, through the story of the authors’ efforts to get fit as they neared 50, that women in particular need not despair over their bodies after they’ve hit a certain age. Greystone’s Nancy Flight says the authors divorce “looks” from physical health altogether, combating the idea that a woman should get fit in order to validate herself in the eyes of others. “Exercise gives you confidence; it’s empowering,” Flight says. “Women who are active are the most likely to be happy with their bodies.”
This focus on how fitness benefits a woman’s mind and health—rather than simply her appearance—resonates with a turn away from the term “anti-aging” in the beauty sector. In April, Allure magazine’s announcement that it will no longer use the term was widely reported and commented upon. As Michelle Lee, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, told USA Today of the decision, “Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle.”
The Big Picture
The topic of aging sparks larger questions—about the best way to live and the process by which we get older—that hold interest for more people than just those getting on in years. In The End of Old Age (Da Capo, Jan. 2018), geriatric psychiatrist Marc Agronin draws on his experience working with seniors at the Miami Jewish Health System to offer a revised view of aging, one that looks at the process realistically and that acknowledges the psychological benefits of getting older.
As Da Capo’s publisher, John Radziewicz, puts it, aging “is not something to be dealt with as if it’s a disease somehow to be gotten rid of. It’s something to be reckoned with”—both in terms of its negative aspects, such as physical and cognitive decline, and its positive effects, such as the wisdom and resilience that advanced age can bring.
Another book that takes a wide-lens look at the topic is The Longevity Code (The Experiment, Jan. 2018), by health researcher Kris Verburgh. The book examines the science of aging, offering insights into why and how we and other animal species age and what we can do to better manage the process. Matthew Lore, publisher at the Experiment, says that, because the book focuses on the science of aging in addition to offering prescriptive advice, it may also appeal to readers whose twilight years are well off in the distance.
Eat to Live
Of course, there continues to be a place in the category for prescriptive and subject-specific titles. Several forthcoming books examine the role diet can play in how we age.
The Miracle of Regenerative Medicine (Inner Traditions, Dec.), by nutrition and homeopathy specialist Elisa Lottor, puts forth the idea that certain effects of aging can be traced to inflammation, which occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to harmful bacteria or stimuli. She discusses the foods that can cause inflammation and the various nutrients, herbs, and fitness practices that can reduce it.
In What You Must Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration (Square One, Nov.), optometrist Jeffrey Ansel and his coauthor, researcher and nutritionist Laura Stevens, offer information about an eye disorder that, according a report by the National Eye Institute, may affect as many as three million people by 2020, most of them over age 60. Among the book’s topics are the foods that affect eyesight, both negatively and positively.
Other titles delve into fighting cognitive decline with the right nutritional choices. Diet for the Mind by Martha Clare Morris (Little, Brown, Dec.), who created the MIND diet (a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH anti-hypertension diet), spotlights foods, such as whole grains and leafy greens, that she says can keep the brain healthier for longer. Genius Foods by Max Lugavere (Harper Wave, Mar. 2018 ), a filmmaker with a focus on health, and Paul Grewal, an internal medicine practitioner, looks at how certain foods speed up, and how others slow down, various cognitive processes.
For Lugavere, the matter is personal: he became interested in the link between food and brain health after his mother was diagnosed with dementia. His story bolsters the idea that there may be an alternate audience for aging-focused books: younger readers, who want not only want to provide better care for their aging parents but also to learn how to forestall effects of aging for themselves.