Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old by Steven Petrow

EXCERPT: Perhaps you remember a few years ago, ‘Saturday Night Live’ spoofed the American Echo, better known as ‘Alexa’, beginning with this cautionary sentence: ‘The latest technology isn’t always easy for people of a certain age.’ Referring to a fictitious partnership between Amazon and AARP, the announcer declares that the ‘American Echo Silver’ edition is designed specifically for the Greatest Generation. It is super loud, and responds to any name remotely like Alexa, including Allegra, Odessa, Anita, Alberta, Alisha, Alessandra, Excedrin and Alopecia. I especially liked the SNL promo for the Echo Silver’s handy-dandy feature that helps old people find things.

‘Amelia, where did I put the phone?’
‘The phone is in your right hand.’

Alexa also provides the latest in sports:

‘Clarissa, how many times did Satchel Paige strike out last night?’
‘Satchel Paige died in 1982.’
‘How many did he get?’
‘Satchel Paige died. Is dead.’

Unlike other Alexa editions, this one also provides an ‘uh-huh feature’ for long rambling stories – because you know the stereotype of old people always repeating themselves.

Simultaneously hilarious and ageist, the skit highlighted several of the ways that our parents generation struggles to master new devices, social media apps and plain old email. Sure, we laugh – but it’s not like we’re doing so well right now, either.

For instance, one friend told me about her mother’s struggles with the new TV she and her siblings had given her. ‘Mom loved the picture quality, but the remote just about did her in. We heard from neighbours that every so often, they’d get a call asking for help,’ she said. ‘We finally figured out that every time Mom accidentally hit ‘menu’, she practically had to dial 911 – she could press up and down on volume and channels, but the options on the menu were beyond her, so she’d need help getting back to a screen she recognized.’

This friend got a good laugh out of it at the time, but now reports a new found sympathy for her mom. ‘I have a new smart TV that’s definitely smarter than I am,’ she told me.

ABOUT ‘STUPID THINGS I WON’T DO WHEN I GET OLD’: Soon after his 50th birthday, Steven Petrow began assembling a list of “things I won’t do when I get old”—mostly a catalog of all the things he thought his then 70-something year old parents were doing wrong. That list, which included “You won’t have to shout at me that I’m deaf,” and “I won’t blame the family dog for my incontinence,” became the basis of this rousing collection of do’s and don’ts, wills and won’ts that is equal parts hilarious, honest, and practical.

The fact is, we don’t want to age the way previous generations did. “Old people” hoard. They bore relatives—and strangers—with tales of their aches and pains. They insist on driving long after they’ve become a danger to others (and themselves). They eat dinner at 4pm. They swear they don’t need a cane or walker (and guess what happens next). They never, ever apologize. But there is another way . . .

In Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I’m Old, Petrow candidly addresses the fears, frustrations, and stereotypes that accompany aging. He offers a blueprint for the new old age, and an understanding that aging and illness are not the same. As he writes, “I meant the list to serve as a pointed reminder—to me—to make different choices when I eventually cross the threshold to ‘old.’”

Getting older is a privilege. This essential guide reveals how to do it with grace, wisdom, humor, and hope. And without hoarding.

MY THOUGHTS: Getting older. We’re all doing it, until we stop, and Steven has written about his parents and his own journey with an easy humour and realism that had me simultaneously laughing and recognizing little bits of both myself and my husband, and our parents.

He has written a checklist of pitfalls and ways to avoid them as we reach certain milestones. He hasn’t confined himself to those amongst us who are aging healthily – he himself hasn’t, and he offers great advice tempered with experience on judging just how much people want to know, and just how much and how to tell them.

Along with the amusing anecdotes and sage advice on aging both with and without familial support, Steven takes us through the journeys to the end of some of his beloved friends, and how well, or otherwise, they handled their impending demise.

There is plenty to take away from this read. It offers a wonderful insight for children struggling to deal with the changes in their aging parents, and for those of us who have no idea how we got to the number of years we are so rapidly. I am closer to 70 than 60. Some days I feel twenty one and some days I feel ninety one. I have no idea where all those years went, and so fast! but I enjoyed them and I intend to enjoy the years left to me, without being a burden. Thanks to Steven’s lists I now have markers to recognize, and actions I can take.

A book for everyone, no matter your age.


#StupidThingsIWontDoWhenIGetOld #NetGalley

I: @mrstevenpetrow @kensingtonbooks

T: @StevenPetrow @KensingtonBooks

# health #memoir #aging #practicalguide #nonfiction #life

THE AUTHOR: Steven Petrow is an award-winning journalist and book author who is best known for his Washington Post and New York Times essays on aging, health, and LGBTQ issues. He’s currently a contributing writer to The Post and The Times as well as a columnist for USA Today.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books, Citadel, via Netgalley for providing both a digital ARC and an audio ARC of Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old by Steven Petrow, and narrated by Michael Butler Murray, for review. I really enjoyed the audio narration. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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Yates Garden Guide – seventy-sixth edition


Yates Garden Guide was first published in 1895 specifically for New Zealand gardeners and has been our gardening bible ever since. Throughout the more than 100 years this has been in publication, the entries have been continuously updated and revised making it as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.

It begins with a potted history of gardening in New Zealand, from the time of the Maori, who voyaged from East Polynesia bringing with them Kumara, taro,yam,gourd and the pacific cabbage tree. The first Pakeha (Europeans) to arrive in New Zealand gardened because they had to. It was a case of survival. Their basic ‘shacks’ were surrounded by bush, there were no shops and were often miles from the nearest neighbour. Although they had little time or resources for ornamental gardening, plants from their home countries would have brought a little comfort in familiarity. In the mid 1800s,creative gardening was fast gaining popularity and, at around the same time, it became fashionable for women to garden. The lawn also became popular in the mid 1800s, with borders of neatly spaced flowering shrubs and perennials. By the turn of the century, a more informal garden was replacing the formal geometric layout of the Victorian era, and reflected a newfound subtlety and prosperity. There were breakthroughs in plant breeding including the first hybrid tea roses and ramblers.

Through the 1920s, 30s,and 40s, gardens became simpler due to the influences of the war and economic depression. The advent of state housing meant smaller suburban sections, and a demand for more compact plants. As prosperity returned in the 50s and 60s, outdoor living spaces began to make an appearance with courtyards, pool and barbecue areas.

In the 70s, the ‘native’ or natural garden began to gain a strong following, symbolizing our new environmental awareness which continued to be popular into the 80s.

The 90s saw a return of the more formal garden, including the decorative vegetable potager garden. Now, in the 21st century, New Zealand’s gardens reflect many influences – cottage, English, subtropical, Mediterranean, and native among them.

This latest edition includes an invaluable month by month gardening calendar, handy hints from New Zealand gardeners, in-depth information on a wide variety of plants, ornamental, fruiting and vegetable, plus a guide to gardening in special conditions.

My Nana (we were never allowed to call her Grandma. Apparently her own grandmother, whom they had called Grandma, had been a bit of an old battleaxe) gave me my first ever copy of this book almost fifty years ago. I, in turn, gave my children a copy, and will do the same for my grandchildren should I still be alive.

This is an invaluable resource. I consult mine monthly to plan my planting and harvesting schedule. In particular, the guide to gardening in clay soil has been particularly useful. Never has my garden looked so good, and never has my vegetable garden been so bountiful. And while this may not be relevant to those of you living outside New Zealand, I am sure that there is something similar relevant to your country.