Alan Heeks shares the roots of his fresh approach to creative ageing…
I see the core of my writing as natural happiness: showing people how to cultivate their wellbeing and resilience through parallels with Nature. However, my second and third published books are both about creative ageing. My first book, The Natural Advantage: Renewing Yourself, was published in 2000, when I was 52, and was one fruit of my mid-life crisis. It took another 10 years, until I was 62, for me to get some perspective on my own mid-life journey, and to start writing what became my second book, Out of the Woods: A Guide to Life for Men Beyond 50.
I wrote my second book specifically for men for three reasons: firstly, I believed that I understood their journey quite well, not only from my own experience, but from many years of involvement in men’s groups. Secondly, because I could see that men needed help more than women, as shown by the high rates of depression, addiction and other problems at this age. The third reason was that I was afraid that if I wrote a book on creative ageing for men and women, women would bite my head off and tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about.
By the age of 67, I realised that I was hitting another stage in my own creative ageing process, with turning 70 now on the horizon: this felt seriously old, and I realised that I was not entirely walking my talk about the upsides of growing older.
It’s fair to say that the impetus for writing Not Fade Away was quite personal: I wanted to unpack and work through my fears of turning 70, and I was guessing that if this landmark was bothering me, it would also be bothering many other Baby Boomers. My research for the book, among women and men, suggests that many of the issues at this life stage are similar for both genders, whereas I saw more differences in the fifties. Not Fade Away aims to cover all the major issues around ageing for the Baby Boomer generation, with three major themes:
Value what you have
This theme is the focus of part 1 of the book, Finding your Gifts. Especially for people who are temperamentally anxious, like me, it’s easy to get preoccupied by worries about ageing. We need to make repeated, conscious choices to put more attention on the blessings of our life, and giving thanks for them. Doing this can really raise our morale, and make our experience of the average day a lot happier.