Our project

For this anthology, we asked geriatricians (specialists in the care of older people) to nominate their favourite pieces of prose or poetry. We are very grateful to our colleagues for their diverse suggestions. The book celebrates the wisdom and resilience of ageing and is a showcase of the very best literature on the subject.

The project is not for profit, and we will donate any proceeds to age-related charities.

Read on for the Preface to the book by the editors, Shane O'Hanlon and Paul Finucane, two geriatricians.

‘I’m telling you . . . Joxer . . . th’ whole worl’s . . . in a terr . . . ible state o’ . . . chassis’.
So spoke Captain Jack Boyle in Sean O’Casey’s 1924 play Juno and the Paycock. Almost a hundred years after they were first uttered, Boyle’s words still resonate. By any definition, 2020 has been a year of chaos (‘chassis’) the like of which many of us will not have previously encountered. Yet, the old, and particularly the very old in our midst, will have seen it all before. An Irish person born in 1924 might well argue that his/her entire life has been conducted against the background of regular ‘states o’ . . . chassis’. Think of the events that such people will not only have lived through but in which they will have participated: the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s; the Economic War with Britain; World War II; further economic depressions that resulted in mass unemployment and mass emigration; the threat of nuclear war; domestic and international political instability. Add to these some of the major health issues of the past 100 years: epidemics of poliomyelitis and diphtheria, the scourge of tuberculosis, the threat of BSE and of HIV/AIDS. Further add the individual and personal losses that no nonagenarian will have escaped, such as the death of parents, spouse, siblings and even of children.

In experiencing and surviving such events, the old and the very old in our midst will as a matter of course have been obliged to come to terms with their life experiences, to develop a sense of perspective and to build resilience. Such resilience generates the ability not only to survive the chaos, but to find meaning, satisfaction and causes for celebration in life and in living. As health professionals who encounter older people every day, we are regularly inspired by the stories that they share with us and by their wisdom, patience and tolerance. We’ve witnessed their times of sadness, loss and pain and have been further inspired by daily examples of courage, acceptance and resilience. For those who choose to see it, ageing and the attainment of old age are matters of great beauty.

Against this background, it struck us as an opportune time to bring together this collection of poetry and prose relevant to ageing. In so doing, we invited geriatricians on the island of Ireland, whether still working or retired, to nominate a poem and a piece of prose for inclusion. This has generated a huge variety of material, reflecting the broad experiences of those contributing.  We hope that readers enjoy the anthology as much as we have enjoyed drawing it together.

Shane O’Hanlon and Paul Finucane
October 2020