the story behind the book | kate tuttle

Facing advancing age with courage and wisdom

david wilson for the boston globe

When Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle’s husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the couple decided they would weather his illness with all the wisdom they had gained as psychologists and teachers of meditation. “We approached it consciously and lovingly,” Hoblitzelle said, and “we became wiser.” She wrote about the end of her husband’s life in her book, “Ten Thousand Joys and Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s.”

With her husband’s death nearly 20 years behind her, Hoblitzelle has a new book out, “Aging With Wisdom,” in which the 80-year-old Cambridge resident, a longtime therapist, teacher, and speaker, counsels readers on “how to age gracefully, how to age consciously, and how to have a more open approach to death and dying than our culture does.” While the book is not a memoir, Hoblitzelle said, “it came out of a very personal place. I’ve always loved older people,” she added, laughing, “and now I am one!”

Many cultures revere and honor their elders, Hoblitzelle said, but “our culture is all screwed up about age. It’s very harmful for older people. We know how much our perceptions of aging affect how we age.”


“Obviously the body goes through its diminishment. But that doesn’t have to touch the spirit or the energy or the inner resilience.” With age comes “a kind of tectonic shift in the psyche,” she said. “We want to simplify; we want to cultivate our inner life more than we have; there’s a call to some of life’s deeper questions.”

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Meditation can nurture resilience, she said, and so can an awareness of what she calls the heroic aspect of aging. “The later years come along when our energy is declining; we don’t have the energy we had when we were 30, 40, or 50. I think it’s heroic to deal with what comes to us at a time when we’re increasingly impaired,” she said. “It’s all about how we live with the challenges that come to us.”

Hoblitzelle will read at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, at Newtonville Books.

Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at