Connect Hackney

By Margaret Smith, Connect Hackney Media Group

With older people living longer and longer, there is now a sizeable body of modern literature – novels, plays, poems – where authors are portraying the subject matter of older age, older people and the issues that are important to older people. These issues cover everything from retirement, to how older people see their body image, older people and spirituality.

We are all encouraged to age successfully and make the most of our later years. I think that we can read this growing body of literature and find ideas on how to age successfully and pick up tips on what not to do if we wish to thrive in older age. The literary stories can help us and inspire us to think about older people’s issues in new ways.

Insights from literature

The stories may be fictional but professional gerontologists recognise their importance as a cultural resource to tell us about the experience of getting older. By reading these literary texts, we can find ways to cope with the ageing process or just discover new ways to grow older. Older characters are increasingly being portrayed as the hero or heroine in the text as opposed to just being portrayed as supporting characters. We can use these characters as role models for example and get ideas on how to age successfully etc.

It’s something that we have considered encouraging the students in the Connect Hackney media class to work on or we might set up a completely new reading group which people who are interested in reading could join.

Novels that refer to older age

I have chosen a few novels below that refer to older age:

  • Meet me at the museum by Anne Youngson 2018
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova 2007. Made into a film 2015
  • Guppies for Tea by Marika Cobbold 1993
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand 2011. Made into a film 2011
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce 2012
  • The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick 2016
  • The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson 2009. Made into a film 2013

Website links

Below some links to some websites where readers can explore similar books.

And this final refers to some poetry about old age.

What do you think?

Let us know by commenting or emailing us if you have any ideas about older people featured in novels…

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