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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old

1. Is there one character you related to more strongly than the others?

2. Did the book change the way you think about old age?

3. The author said he envied the closeness of the Willigs, and wished his mother approached her life with Fred’s positive outlook. Are there traits among the elders you’d like to model in your life? What part of Ping’s character do you wish you had more of? How about John’s?

4. Love and sex are of widely different levels of concern to the various elders. Why do you think Helen puts such a premium on her attractiveness and her relationship with Howie, while some of the others are content to put that behind them?  

5. Did the book make you reconsider at what point a life is no longer worth living?

6. The “paradox of aging” --- that older people are more content than younger ones --- seems contrary to our cultural assumptions. How do you explain this contentment? Why do you think it isn’t more widely recognized?

7. Did Fred’s example inspire you to practice gratitude in a more concentrated way? If so, what were the results? If not, why not?

8. Did you find the author’s personal story relevant to the account of the six elders?

9. How much influence do you think we have over our levels of satisfaction as we age? Are some people just born to be happy, others not?

10. What do you think about the idea of “gerotranscendence” --- that as people get older, they give up less important concerns and focus on what really matters?

11. The book cites research showing that people with negative attitudes toward aging die earlier than people with positive views. Yet negative views of aging are all around us. What examples have you observed in the last week? How can people resist absorbing these views?

12. The book talks about the value of accepting our mortality. Do you think it’s really possible to do this?

13. Is there someone in your life who you think needs this book?

Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old
by John Leland

  • Publication Date: January 23, 2018
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Psychology, Self-Help
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
  • ISBN-10: 0374168180
  • ISBN-13: 9780374168186