By Elyse Notarianni
“Dear Reader: Are you a woman over 65? What is your story? Tell me about the joy you find in nature, the love you feel for your cat, your dog. What is it like to live off the grid miles from the nearest house, or in the same small town or community in which you were born? How does it feel to be struggling with poverty, with prejudice, with language barriers in a country in which you have just landed after a life of horrors somewhere else? And all those other life experiences I cannot even begin to imagine?
“Your story would not only awaken you to a deeper appreciation of your own life, it would expand the world’s understanding of the trials and possibilities life holds for old women.”
Dr. Ann Burack-Weiss, a social work clinician, educator, consultant and member of the COHME Board of Directors, wants to explore what it means to age —and what stories can be told along the way. That’s exactly what she does in her newly-released book, Old Woman and the City.
Through a series of essays, Burack-Weiss gets personal — from love to loss to experiences that continue to shape her life well into her 80s.
“I wanted to start a conversation among my peers - to reflect on what they’ve lost and what they’ve gained as well as to provide guidance to our younger sisters as they climb the ladder of time.”
Burack-Weiss is the author of two books based on the writing of individuals coping with life challenges - The Caregiver’s Tale and The Lioness in Winter – which led her to believe the time had come to write her own.
“The buzzword of today is ‘anti-aging.’ We read of people being 90 years young. Ridiculous! The only sure anti-aging strategy is death,” she says. “And what is wrong with being old? It is a time of life as every other time – with its own sorrows and joys. The trick is to meet it with courage and grace.”
It’s a sentiment reflected in her own life.
“I am not coy about my age,” Burack-Weiss writes in the book. “I sometimes volunteer it when no one has asked. Not because I expect anyone to be amazed at the number (no one has yet remarked that they imagined me to be younger) but because I myself am amazed to have lived so long, still putting one foot in front of the other, grateful for each day.”
Now 86 years old, writing has helped her learn more about herself.
“Seeing these essays gathered together in one book, I was able to see the pattern of my life, its main themes, the things that matter to me – and the things that don’t,” she says.
The goal of the book is to bring comfort and hope to herself and others. By sharing her journey, Burack-Weiss hopes to inspire others to do the same.
“On these pages, I share my lived experience in all its ordinariness,” she writes. “What if it prompts another old woman to speak into the recorder, pick up the pen, sit down at the computer and tell her story. What if another, and another, and another old woman follows? What would happen?”