Over 80: Reflections on Aging

by Marilyn Reynolds

Silver Prize award for memoir from the Northern California Publishers & Authors!

A collection of twenty-eight personal essays on aging, covering health, family, faith, memories, grief, longevity, and sharing a dog. The tone ranges from wry humor to poignant reflection as the author shares her thoughts on life in one’s ninth decade.

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Dear Reader

This is a collection of reflections and random thoughts dealing with various aspects and experiences of life in my ninth decade. I now fall into the “old-old category,” a stage of life we don’t often see reflected back to us in books or other media. I hope Over 80 is at least a small counter balance.

When I first started this project near my eightieth birthday, I was thinking that my 80s would probably not be much different than my 70s. But they are. Although I continue to be in good health it’s obvious my body is farther along into the decaying process. I’m slower in speech and getting in and out of a car. In some public situations I’m less visible. Although I pass the basic cognitive function test with flying colors, I definitely don’t remember names or other specific details as I once did. So, not exactly like the 70s.


In the process of assembling all these essays, I became aware of important aspects of my 80s life that had been given short shrift. The subjects range from light-hearted, even silly, to darker aspects of loss and impending death, but music was missing; how did that happen? Music is, at various times, a comfort, an energizing force, a door to the past, or a quick kick of grief. Not a day passes without a musical offering. “Standing on the Promises” transports me back to the age of four or five, sitting on the bathroom counter, watching my father shave, my own face lathered with Yardley’s shaving cream, my father humming in his soft tenor voice, adding the words once both of our faces were cleaned with the hot wet towel, then patted dry: “Standing on the promises of Christ, my king . . .”

With “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth, I’m walking down the aisle to meet the one with whom I’ll share the next thirty-eight years. With Burl Ives and “The Little White Duck,” women now in their sixties are girls again, singing along. A Chopin waltz brings to mind Arthur Rubinstein at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, rising from the piano bench to drive a phrase home. “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” brings back the loss of Mike in unexpected ways, and “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” has me laughing again at the perfect comic timing of his remembered antics. How could I not have included the necessities of music in my reflections?...

Reviews:Cynthia Davis, hospice chaplain wrote:

Through humor, acceptance and wisdom, Reynolds shares stories and insights about “…the unknown territory of aging…” as she shares reflections on being in her ninth decade of life. This book is about finding meaning in daily life at any age, and most poignantly, Reynolds shares what has fed her soul from her many years of being an educator. Dealing with unknown challenges and loss, she takes us on a journey as she names the necessities of life, explores healthy aging to the richness of memories and what makes life worth living. It is full of life lessons.

Katerina Christiansen, MD wrote:

While there’s no universally accepted description of healthy aging, Marilyn Reynolds provides a humorous, relatable, and refreshingly honest perspective on a topic that can be as hard to face as it is inevitable. Her self-deprecating wit make concerns about aging that are daily brought up in my office approachable and provide an inspiring example of navigating unavoidable challenges with both pragmatism and hope. While I can’t completely support her red meat, martinis, and wine diet, she makes a strong case that a lifetime of curiosity crossed with a touch of skepticism and an underlying resilience can carry you a long way. Her journey provides countless insights and a thoughtful perspective that would benefit all my aging patients. You won’t regret joining her for this ride.

Ruth Saxton, author of The Book of Old Ladies wrote:

Reading Marilyn Reynolds's Over Eighty is like having a conversation with a close friend. Neither depressing or sugar-coated, Reynolds' anecdotes and insights are a bit like answers to the questions many of us in retrospect wish we had asked our mothers and grandmothers. Her narrative voice is friendly, interesting, and honest. I highly recommend her book and warn you that you may be motivated to begin writing your own reflections.

Jane Manaster on San Francisco Book Review wrote:

Wisdom suggests that as we grow older, we hold onto our attitudes, beliefs, and other lifelong characteristics. Marilyn Reynolds, at eighty-six years old, admits to slowing down and memory loss, but defies wisdom by having found gratifying new interests. Spirituality, less prominent when younger, has become important. Writing groups continue to fulfill a space between pleasure and need, though COVID-19 almost killed book clubs by introducing Zoom, keeping reading companions away. And those significant new interests? Dogs were always welcome, but now, as it gets harder to keep up with animal care, she has found a friend to pet-share. What a creative idea!

In Over 80: Reflections on Aging, Reynolds has leapt into the practice of keeping a little free library. Instead of buying an expensive build-it kit, she has adapted a toy truck to hold books found abandoned in the neighborhood for bulk collection. Just stepping into her yard, she has an ever-changing selection to give and take. Her memoir offers humor and poignancy, a wealth of “let’s share” even the less welcome changes, suggesting a trouble shared is almost a trouble halved. Reaching the age of eighty is no longer a rare achievement, but it still deserves respect and empathy.

What does it mean to live well in late life? Marilyn Reynolds showcases twenty-eight essays on how to survive a sudden health crisis, create your own form of spirituality, share a dog, and think about the past without becoming mired in it. Reynolds’ voice is unsentimental, wry and realistic with a take-no-prisoners love of life and other people. Over 80: Reflections on Aging will appeal to anyone looking to live a meaningful life, whether aged 20 or 90.

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About the Author

Marilyn Reynolds is the author of eleven books of realistic teen fiction: Telling, Shut Up, No More Sad Goodbyes, If You Loved Me, Love Rules, Baby Help, But What About Me?, Beyond Dreams, Too Soon for Jeff, Detour for Emmy, and Eddie's Choice, all part of the popular and award-winning True-to-Life Series from Hamilton High. Ms. Reynolds also co-wrote the Emmy-nominated script for the ABC Afterschool Special teleplay of Too Soon for Jeff.

In addition to books for teens, Ms. Reynolds is also the author of a book for educators, I Won’t Read and You Can’t Make Me: Reaching Reluctant Teen Readers; Over 70 and I Don’t Mean MPH,a collection of essays on the gifts and challenges of longevity; and 'Til Death or Dementia Do Us Part, a memoir chronicling her husband's descent into Frontal Temporal Dementia. Her newest book is Over 80: Reflections on Aging, a collection of essays.

Ms. Reynolds worked with reluctant learners and teens in crises at a southern California alternative high school for thirty years. She remains actively involved in education through author visits (Zoom or in-person) to middle and high school students ranging from struggling readers to highly motivated writers who are interested in developing work for possible publication. She offers staff development workshops for educators and is a frequent guest speaker for programs and organizations that serve teens, parents, teachers, and writers.

To request a visit, ask a question, or learn more about her work, visit http://www.marilynreynolds.com/

Other Books By Marilyn Reynolds