Another Country: The Emotional Terrain of Our Elders

ISBN: 0671044753
ISBN 13: 9780671044756
By: Mary Pipher Joan Allen

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About this book

Writing from her experience as a therapist and from interviews with families and older people, the author of "Reviving Ophelia" offers scenarios to help bridge the generation gap. Through poignant and hopeful stories of real children, adults, and elders, Pipher helps readers understand that the landscape of age is truly of another country.

Reader's Thoughts


I've read all of her books because she is one of my favorite authors. Her voice is friendly, without secret agenda and she also gives other books titles in each of her chapters so I can easily make note to read the ones that interest me while I remember why I want to read them. Her voice is positive, hopeful, and accepting.


You know those books where you read a great little remark and you want to share it with whoever's there with you? This whole book is like that. This is my second reading, and it's like a reference and a support group all rolled into one. "Another Country" helps me to calm down, understand what's happening, remember what's important, ask for the help I need, and give the best help I can. Pipher writes anecdotally, and the case studies present the information in an easy-to-read, personal way, rather than the more dry, academic approach. Highly recommended.


So good that I called up my best friend right after I finished it to make sure she would read it next! There is some very helpful advice in it about dealing with issues of aging and forgetting.

Sara Van Dyck

This is a thoughtful, sensitive, practical book designed for those who are trying to improve relationships with the elderly in their families. Basically Pipher says that we need to consider the background and attitudes of elders. They had experiences, perhaps of war or struggles, that we today have not shared. Pipher calls these”time-zone” problems. They learned to cope, not complain, but also were not expected to share their feeings easily, and it takes time and patience to understand them. From a societal perspective, Pipher explains that these elders grew up in a more “communal” atmosphere in which families and neighbors helped each other, while independence is valued today. As Pipher discusses, recent research is acknowledging the importance of social ties and close connections to mental and physical health. However, today’s realities don’t foster this.Pipher recommends several ways to enhance these valuable inter-generational relationships, such as having children visit nursing homes, and neighborhoods that provide places for elders to meet. However, at the start she states that her subjects are mostly rural and middle-class, and I feel this limits her viewpoint. Her recommendations at the personal level are excellent, but it’s going to be hard to translate some of her ideas into a model for an urban, mobile society. I wonder if technologies such as e-mail or Skype help maintain closeness. But again, many older people find these methods too difficult to use.


I read this for a class in college called "Later-life Family Relations." I really enjoyed this book. Great anecdotal research. Helped me to appreciate the older generation. I've recommended this to a friend who recently got a job as an RN at a nursing home, thought it would help her in her job, too.


This is a great book for anyone who wishes or needs to understand more about what our loved ones are going through in old age. Unfortunately most of what the "old-olds" experience is loss. Through interviews and case studies, the author helped me be much more empathetic while providing some strategies for coping.

Sally Martin

Another great book by Mary Pipher. Shares moving stories and psychological/cultural insight about aging gleaned from participation with elders in family, community, institutional and therapeutic contexts. Much food for thought as I reckon with my own aging and interact with both younger and older generations. What an important discussion!



Karin Coppernoll

I wasn't as impressed by this book as many others. I found it to be quite limited in scope. The author claims to have interviewed a cross-section of older Americans, but she has limited herself to those in the rural parts of America, whose views and lifestyles will be vastly different from those living in urban areas. I also found her use of language simplistic and her style was too rambling for my taste. She spends pages telling a detailed story but never makes the connection to the reader. She never makes her point clear. She also seemed to value self-sacrifice above all. Those individuals who spent their lives taking care of others were lifted up as heroes in the face of their own lack of living. I did find that she did do a good job on the shifting paradigms our elders face, which did help me stop and think about what my own elderly parents are facing. But all in all, I found this book very dry and far different from what it is was meant to be.


Again, I was surprised to be led to this book's message. I have this notion that I know everything (a few notable exceptions).To be reminded that the experiences that each generation has do not necessarily translate to the next one is important. Most important, however, is the fact that there is a gulf that may or may not be bridged. This book is quite readable with life stories.

Dottie Parish

Another Country is an outstanding, valuable book for anyone who is concerned about parents or grandparents who are aging and need help. The book is beautifully written – it’s a New York Times best seller. Pipher, a clinical psychologist, is knowledgeable about seniors and researched this subject extensively. She comments on the fact that our culture has changed dramatically – people are living longer yet our culture worships youth; families live at great distances from each other leaving grandparents isolated and alone. Pipher offers many vignettes of adult children and their aging parents. Some of these stories demonstrate the helpfulness of a counselor in thinking through tough family decisions and in solving contentious family relationships. Pipher invites us to overcome our aversion to thinking and talking about death and helps us understand elders. She says adult children live in “different time zones” from their parents and this causes difficulty understanding each other. Throughout the book she emphasizes the need for intergenerational community and offers ways to implement this. There is a wealth of information here for all generations to learn from and put to use in their relationships with each other. It is also a delightful book to read.


This is a good book for anyone with a very elderly parent to read. Although there seem to be more stories of elders who are doing well emotionally, and more stories of "good" deaths, it still presents some issues and ideas I hadn't thought of regarding our aged parents.

Sandy H

I read this when it first came out (before the days of Goodreads!). I've re-read it now as part of some work responsibilities. I remember liking it quite a bit back then. Now, twenty years later, as both of my parents are gone and my in-laws are facing many struggles of aging there were parts of it that had more richness for me now; and parts that were just hard to read because they struck too close to home. Still, overall, I do still like it quite a bit. Twenty years ago, I'd likely have given it four stars. I did find myself wondering, however, whether certain chapters might not be written differently now that 20 years have passed since Pipher first published this book. When she wrote the book, she was in her early 50s and the young-old/old-old (her terms) she was writing about were in their mid-60s to 90s, with a few references to those older. The generational issues she addresses are from the perspective of someone in the Baby Boomer generation writing about people from the Builder generation. If the same book were written now, twenty years later, it would be from the perspective of a Buster or Millenial writing about people from the Boomer generation. I wonder how some of her pyschological portraits might be drawn differently? The book mostly addresses universal realities of aging, of course, but there are significant portions that relate directly to a generation's historical experience and group personality that I suspect would feel somewhat different if written today. (I also find myself, simply out of curiosity, wanting to ask her: "Now that you're twenty years older, do you still agree with everything you wrote then? Or has your own experience shifted some of your perspectives?")That being said, there is still much of value in this book. Her style of all of her books is to string her theories and statements together with narrative case studies; to some, it may sometimes feel disjointed. Certainly, the last couple of chapters feel more case study than other, but there's reason for that. Still, I do find this book a good overview of issues related to aging; the case studies do help illustrate what she's talking about in the chapter; and the stories of young/old and old/old and their families did make me remember what I've experienced in similar situations and helped me think through how I would like to behave and think as I grow older as well.I especially recommend this to adult children of even adult-er parents. It will help you see things through your parents' eyes as they begin to experience some of the realities of advanced life themselves.

Maggie Sievers

I read this book when it first came out, probably 15 or 20 years ago. I remember it as very insightful at the time. Might be interesting to read again from the perspective of a more senior age.

Joan Colby

A study by a psychologist of the effects of aging. Well written with many case histories. An ideal resource for middle agers with elderly parents; however, for those in the latter bracket, it is rather a depressing read.

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