Literature for Older Adults

Books for older adults

As we age, many people ask life’s “big” questions more often. “How can I find meaning in my later years?” “What is dying like?” “What kind of legacy am I leaving?”

These questions are normal and natural. They can be challenging, but also incredibly rewarding to explore. Older adults may come to you, as a faith leader, for answers to some of these questions. While you can be an invaluable sounding board and guide, you don’t have to know everything. In fact, many experts have already delved into these topics, creating a wealth of resources. Pointing older adults and even family members to these resources can help aid their reflection.

Reading Recommendations

Here are some books and tools you might recommend:

Let Evening Come: Reflections on Aging
By Mary C. Morrison

The author wrote this when she was 87 in an effort to explore the changes that come with age and the shift in life’s focus. The title was inspired by the Jane Kenyon poem “Let Evening Come” (another wonderful resource). Morrison embraces the beauty of aging without shying away from its more difficult aspects.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
By Atul Gawande

This book explores the physical process of aging and death, providing a safe space for people to explore and better understand what is often considered a morbidly taboo topic. Told from a medical perspective, it provides a lot of insight. It can also help family members as they contemplate end-of-life options like hospice and palliative care.

Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults
By Missy Buchanan

By relaying conversations with older adults, Buchanan addresses some of the limitations that come with age while uncovering the richness to be found during this period in life. Buchanan has written numerous pieces about aging, including: Voices of Aging, Joy Boosters: 120 Ways to Encourage Older Adults, Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Bodyand Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms.

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson
By Mitch Albom

In this former bestseller, Albom reconnects with an old college professor, Morrie Schwartz, who is nearing the end of his life. Once again, Albom becomes the student as he meets with Morrie on Tuesday afternoons to discuss some of life’s big questions.

The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life
By Katy Butler

Drawing from true stories, the author explores how to navigate changes that come in later years. She addresses topics like aging in place and how to talk openly with a healthcare provider. Butler also wrote Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death.​

Other Resources

Stories in general can provide a wealth of insight and opportunities for connection. They can come from anywhere including personal experience and the news.

Rev. Dr. Patty Brown-Barnett, chaplain at Meadowlark, said she finds inspiration in creative places to connect with older adults and explore certain themes. 

As you speak with congregants who are approaching their later years or adults managing their parents’ later years, these books and stories can provide an opportunity for connection and reflection. Depending on the circumstance, you might want to point them to additional resources on how to plan a funeral, living funerals, advanced directives and dying well.

“You never know where you’re going to find a story. I like stories because they give you a way to remember a concept. Many stories are multi-faceted, so you can choose what to emphasize, to focus and build around.”

Rev. Dr. Patty Brown-Barnett, Chaplain, Meadowlark