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number our days

             Barbara Myerhoff's book, Number Our Days, is a wonderfully written book, which brings to mind, many hot topics such as gender, race, class, and the issue of aging. What I found most striking about this book and the people of which the study was about, was how well, especially the women, accepted and handled old age. Based on the lives of a group of elderly men and women in their eighties and nineties, many of them originally from Eastern Europe. Perhaps proceeding from the idea that one day their fate will be her own, Myerhoff takes much more than an academic interest in the ways her subjects deal with poverty, illness, loneliness, and old age. She shows how they find important solace in the company and activities of the center. With unusual warmth and compassion, she explores their histories and records the texture of their lives, where nothing is taken for granted. .
             Barbara Myerhoff found, during the four years that she spent with these people, that most of the women were either themselves immigrants from Eastern Europe or the daughters of immigrants who had come to this country from Eastern Europe. All of these women were mothers of children who were upwardly mobile and who were, therefore, either too busy or who lived too far away to come visit them very often or to pay their mothers much attention. In spite of this, the women were able to age with grace. Barbara points out, that these women were remarkably successful in filling their lonely lives with enough meaning to master the process of aging. She writes: "Compared to the women, Center men were less connected and less needed by each other, by the women and children" (262). Therefore the women were at an advantage with respect to getting old. The men at the Center seemed more worn out and weary than the women were. .
             The difference between men and women and how they deal with the difficulties of old age has a great deal to do with how they have spent their younger years, and as Barbara suggest their biology could contribute as well (263).

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