Books: If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White

In If You Ask Me, Ms. White explores her a variety of life experiences and favorite stories. Sections of interest specifically exploring aging and health were the sections on “Growing Older,” “Health,” “Loss,” and the last chapter titled, “I’m Eighty-Nine?”

In “Growing Older,” Ms. White opens with the idea that “if one is lucky enough to be blessed with good health, growing older shouldn’t be something to complain about. It’s not a surprise, we knew it was coming – make the most of it.” She goes on to say, “So you may, not be as fast on your feet, and the image in the mirror may be a little disappointing but if you are still functioning and not in pain, gratitude should be the name of the game.”

In “Health,” Ms. White discusses maintaining her weight: “I make it a point to never let my weight vary more than five pounds in either direction.” About vision she says, “I wear glasses to read or to drive.” For her exercise regimen, she has had the luxury of having “a two-story house and a bad memory, so all those trips up and down the stairs take care of my exercise.” Ms. White also keeps herself busy with crossword puzzles, which she subscribes to monthly. She refers to this as her “mental gymnastics.” She attributes her good health in avoiding sickness and colds to her daily vitamin C dose. She attributes her endless energy to her father, who was also very energetic and reflects on how hearing problems isolated her father in later life. “My father never enjoyed parties and avoided them whenever possible. He always said he couldn’t hear anybody in a crowd.”

In “Loss”, Ms. White says, “I think the toughest thing about loss, and the hardest challenge is the isolation you feel in its aftermath. You spent so much time sharing your life with someone, talking through issues, even disagreeing about things, and all of a sudden there’s a hole. There’s nobody there and you think, Well, who’s in charge? My God it’s me. I have to make the decisions. I can’t share the decisions any longer. And that’s tough because you don’t fully trust your own judgment.” The loss of Ms. White’s husband, Allen Ludden, left her compassionate and willing to reach out to others experiencing the loss of a partner. With regard to fan mail, she answers personally on just a few topics. “There are a few categories…to which I do respond, those who have just lost a life partner and need to share their pain with someone who has been through it.”

In her last section, “I’m Eighty-Nine?”, she says “One thing they don’t tell you about growing old – you don’t feel old, you just feel like yourself.” She goes on to say, “But I don’t get depressed as the number climbs. Perhaps because I don’t fear death. To some it is such a bete noire that it ruins some of the good time they have left.”

White, B. (2011) If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t). New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.