Welcome to my website. My life has been quite the journey and I am so happy that I can share some of my experiences and insights about aging well with you.
At age 80, I had a rude awakening when I could no longer hike to the top of my favorite mountain. I was also experiencing several small annoying changes in my body. I felt like I’d entered a foreign land. Since neither of my parents lived to 80, I had no idea what to expect. I was curious if the negative stereotypes of diminished health and lower vitality held true for today's eightysomethings. I also wondered if people had lessons for me and others as we age.
All I knew was that I dreaded growing old—there just didn’t seem much to look forward to and lots to fear. I knew I was not alone with my dread.
People in their eighties have not gotten much attention from the media. Baby Boomers and GenXers—the adult children of people my age— get lots of attention, but not the cohort of people over eighty, even though this crowd is growing faster than any other older group.
I couldn’t find a single self-help book written for people in their 80s. Or a user-friendly explanation for my four middle-aged sons on what life was really like for their aging parents and how to relate effectively to them.
I saw the need for a practical guide to this strange and uncharted territory of old age that included the important transitions that usually happen in the eighties and also the psychological tasks confronting people in their eighties. I also saw that the adult kids of aging parents don’t know how to talk to their aging parents about their concerns and worries. So as I wrote my book, I included Conversation Starters for eightysomethings and helpful Tips For Families.
There weren’t many research studies about eightysomethings either. I realized to get an accurate picture of today’s eightysomethings, I would need to interview people myself. That began my three-year journey to write Eightysomethings. I ended up interviewing a diverse group of 128 people in their 80s, as well as twenty-six of their adult children.
Katharine Esty celebrating her 80th birthday in Burgundy, France
Katharine celebrating her 85th birthday.
Pictured with her daughter-in-law Raquel and boyfriend Peter
What I learned from my conversations was how many people in their eighties are flourishing. I’m pleased to share that unexpected happiness among eightysomethings was one of my key findings. I learned that one’s attitude is almost as important as one’s circumstances. I also saw possibilities for a whole new vision for old age, a vision far larger than eldercare or geriatrics.
Let’s continue the conversation on facebook where you can follow me. I’d love to hear about your experiences. What is it like for you to be eighty? And I’d love to hear from those of you have parents or other relatives in their eighties. What is it like to relate to them?
Katharine Esty, PhD
Author. Expert on Aging Well & Family Dynamics.
Almost all of the people were amazingly open about their lives. Of course, as a psychotherapist for thirty years, I was used to exploring deep and personal issues. I delved into many aspects of their lives—health, dementia, family dynamics, grandchildren, friends, love and sex, spirituality, survival skills, and caregiving.
From my interviews, I saw the difficult transitions that the eightysomethings encounter, including the journey to a smaller world as they downsize and shed possessions. I saw fireworks can flare when the adult children take on responsibilities for mom and dad, a phenomenon I call “Upside Down Parenting” so I give advice for parents and adult children on how to navigate this tricky phase.
"I gave this book as a gift to my mother, recently widowed and in her late 80's. She doesn't read any self-help books or that kind of thing, but I had a hunch she would love this one. She did! She's riveted seeing her world reflected in the author's wise words. Here's what she wrote me:
'Thanks so much for sending the book. I started reading it right away. More than interesting.. This is nuanced, positive without sugarcoating, real without whining. I can't put it down.'"
— Michael Sean Davis