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

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.


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.


Excellent, very helpful book about the challenges of being an adult child of aging parents. How best to be helpful, loving and present. A good insight into the specific difficulties faced by both generations in attempting to care for each other particularly when illness or other needs are present. Very helpful.

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.


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.

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.


This was a very eye-opening book. I grew up without grandparents - all died by the time I was 10 - and the little I knew them was from a distance. My parents did there best to create grandparents for us, but my exposure to elders was not a lot nor consistent. As I read this book, I realized that I am not the only one at a loss as to what to do and how to behave with elders.Other thoughts it opened up:*The importance of getting my kids lots of experience with elders - not just their grand-parents, but as much great-grandparent time as possible (which will be hard, one lives in North Carolina and 2 live in Canada). *What does my life, my kids' lives, and my parents' lives look like when they move from this early-elder/retirement phase of health and energy and into some of the more traumatic experiences that come with age? I got a lot of good thinking about what we (as a family) need to talk about now to get ready for then and hopefully negotiate the whole terrain with dignity and grace. I loved the stories of the peoples lives. The generation that is passing on now is the last generation to (possibly) remember a life without electricity, when horses were still used, life before television, and so on. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone with parents of grand-parents. Reading it could be one of the best things you ever do for those people.


From the author of Reviving Ophelia comes this book about aging. It added some insight into my constant struggle between the joys and sorrows of my aging parents.


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.


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.


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.


I appreciate the way elders are considered and valued.I am loving the encouragement for middle aged who are sandwiched between bringing up children and their life changes in helping aging parents. How to pace selves, listen and respect the elder and siblings in the process, and deal with the elder's fear and loss of control over their lives.I especially love the importance Pipher puts upon the elders; who they are in the family, who they are becoming in spirit & character (not body), and the part they play in the solidifying identity of the grandchildren. They have the privilege of being the family historian, preserving generational pics, language, songs, traditions, and stories. Despite differences in age, health/activity, living proximity and distance, , and character maturity (gentle & self-controlled-vs.-not so much) the gp/gc relationship can be the most pure of all-- from acceptance and deep love from birth of the child, in the family by belonging, they develop a positive sense of self. Obviously, closeness varies as all the stories suggest.The point that brings this writing together with all the individual stories is that generational relationships need to stay intact. Disintegration of these in a culture is shown to bring emotional and intellectual "stagnancy".Don't I become mature as I slow down to mind emotional disconnect, acknowledge my feelings, take my thoughts off myself, and become self-controlled to listen? I hope to be purposed to grow and become more whole as I age. I guess it all starts very early developmentally. It's my responsibility to see where I am stuck and deal with it. I like this book because I like becoming aware of the tendency of cultures to drift. Pipher's comment at the end is that "the lesson in the last developmental stage is acceptance." I liked reading what she learned in bringing this book project together and how it changed her.I'm glad I read it!!

Kristine Manwaring

I really liked it - as did everyone in our group. This is primarily written about the parents of older Boomer generation children. I wonder if it will be as relevant when the Boomers are the elders.


With the onset of aging parents this is a good overview of the situations that can arise. The author also discusses possible solutions, some work, some don't. Overall it gave me a little security and perspective as life keeps trekkin' on down that road.

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!

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