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Andrew Weil is such a well-known
personality these days that it is easy to take his work for granted. It may be
difficult to get excited about another book from him, giving more of the same
advice that he has been given for decades. It is certainly true that Healthy
Aging overlaps in its discussion of diet, dietary supplements, and exercise
with his earlier books. However, Weil's discussion of the science of aging,
the many purported "anti-aging" products that are available, and the
value of aging is mostly new and interesting. He argues that we should accept
aging and let ourselves age gracefully, maintaining a high quality of life,
rather than searching for the fountain of youth. Weil argues that while there
are obvious problems that come with age, there are also advantages and we
should not forget the value of old people and objects.
Healthy Aging is divided into
two main parts. The first part examines the science and philosophy of aging,
while the second part examines more practical issues about what to do in order
to stay healthy. It is the first part of the book that is the more original,
although it can be useful to hear Weil's practical advice about food, drugs and
supplements even if one has heard it previously. In his discussion of the
science of aging, Weil sets out some of the main scientific theories of aging
and explains the difficulties in assessing their plausibility. He uses simple
language to help the reader comprehend quite complex issues, and this part of
the book is a triumph of popular human biology. He moves on to a more personal
and free-ranging examination of anthropological, sociological, and cultural
issues to do with aging. Weil emphasizes the ways in which age brings wisdom
and merits respect, and in some rather idiosyncratic reflections, he highlights
the reverence we attach to some old wines and whiskeys, violins, trees, and
people. While he is surely right that the Western obsession with youthfulness
is unmerited and unfortunate, he does not make a strong case that cultures that
demand high respect of the aged are have an insight that is missing in the
West. In particular, he makes no particular case that age brings wisdom.
Personally, I'm not inclined to think that people get wiser as they age, once
they have reached adulthood; the words and actions of older people seem no
better considered than those of younger adults. I would have liked more
discussion of the concept of wisdom. Nevertheless, Weil's survey of aging is
still more thoughtful than most of the opinions that one normally sees on the
Weil reads the audiobook himself.
He is a good reader of his own words, sounding natural and mostly spontaneous,
although his voice is occasionally sleep-inducing. At various points, Weil
reads out website addresses or gives technical information, and at those
points, it would generally be easier to the print version of the book to follow
up on the information he gives. There is very little extra printed information
with the box of the audiobook.
So on the whole Healthy Aging is
a worthwhile book that should be interest to people concerned about the quality
of their lives as they get older.
Metapsychology Reviews of Andrew Weil's books:
© 2006 Christian Perring. All
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also
editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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