The Ninth Decade

An Octogenarian’s Chronicle


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2021
188 pages 5 ½ × 8 ½ inches
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“Carl Klaus, to whom all American essayists should be indebted for his ruminations on the form, has blessed us with a scouting report of what lies ahead for those lucky enough to make it to our eighties—in prose that is intimate, warm, impeccably honest, flavorful, and attentive to the minute surprises of daily life.”—Phillip Lopate, editor, The Glorious American Essay: One Hundred Essays from Colonial Times to the Present

“An intimate yet hands-on lesson on how to face the inevitable infirmities and losses of our eighties with grace, resilience, and composure. In place of the usual stoical bromides, these contemplative journals offer a different, more constructive message: the key to a satisfying old age may be simply a matter of learning to maintain the enthusiasms that have long sustained us. The Ninth Decade is a major contribution to the growing literature of aging.”—Robert Atwan, editor, The Best American Essays

“As one by one, beloved friends and family members meet their demise, Carl Klaus perseveres, as he must, his acute mind making as much sense as can be made of each challenge and loss while savoring life’s remaining pleasures. With this honest account, he ensures that our own journey through old age will be a little less daunting and a little more conscious, principled, and fulfilling.”—Julene Bair, author, The Ogallala Road: A Story of Love, Family, and the Fight to Keep the Great Plains from Running Dry

“An eminent scholar of the essay, Carl Klaus is also a fine practitioner of this versatile art form, as he demonstrates once more in these reflections on old age. Facing bodily ailments, quirks of memory, and funerals of friends, he writes with verve and wisdom about life’s final phase.”—Scott Russell Sanders, author, The Way of Imagination

“In The Ninth Decade, Carl Klaus gives the reader an insightful look into what it means to age in place and deal with the challenges of life in one’s eighties—from medical issues, to housing, to relationships, to finances, to planning for major transitions. With courage, wisdom, and a huge dose of realism, Klaus shows us what it means to be an active, involved, elder. A comforting read from a master of creative nonfiction.”—Mary Swander, author, The Maverick M.D. 

The Ninth Decade is a path-breaking and timely book on aging: the first to focus explicitly and at length on eighty-somethings, the fastest-growing demographic in the industrialized world. Covering eight years in lively six-month installments, Klaus tells a vivid story not only of his own ninth decade and survival routines, but also of his loving companion, Jackie, who is strikingly different from him in her physical well-being, practical outlook, sociable temperament, and vigorous workouts. Cameos of their octogenarian friends and relatives near and far add to a wide-ranging and revelatory portrayal of advanced aging, as do bios of notable octogenarians.

The multi-year scope of his chronicle reveals the numerous physical and mental problems that arise during octogenarian life and how eighty-year-olds have dealt with those challenges. The Ninth Decade is a unique, first-hand source of information for anyone in their sixties, seventies, or eighties, as well as for persons devoted to care of the aged. Though the challenges of octogenarian life often require specialized care, The Ninth Decade also shows the pleasures of it to be so special as to have inspired Lillian Hellman’s paradoxical description of “longer life” as “the happy problem of our time.”

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