Forty Something and Fifty Something by Dr Robert M Fleisher

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Forty Something: A Guide Through Mid-Life and Mid-Life Crisis
Dr Robert M Fleisher
Paperback: 188 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1438917009, April 2009

Fifty Something: You Still Have Time to Redeem Your Body and Soul from Past Neglect
Dr Robert M Fleisher
Paperback: 256 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1438916347, April 2009

Reading Fifty Something immediately after reading Forty Something is an odd experience, like aging a decade in a few days. Of course these books are written for different audiences, though in 10 years, the audience for one could well become the audience for the other. The Forty Something book covers a range of possible issues that might (probably) happen to a forty year old, including such things as the loss of hair, vision, hearing, bad teeth, dry skin, weight gain, sensitivity to weather, stress, mental illness, loss of memory, sexual function, and so on. It’s not good news if you’re approaching the big four oh, but Fleisher, who is actually a dentist (Endodontist), treats the subject with sensitivity, intelligence, and above all, humour. After all, he’s aging too, and knows full well what it feels like. Much of the book is enriched with anecdotal evidence from Fleisher’s own experience. Although there may be instances where Fleisher could be accused of assuming that his own experiences will be similar to others, it makes for lighthearted, interesting reading, and he is always open about his assumptions.

The book is well organised, and easy to both read through, or refer to later. Fleisher not only informs readers what’s going to happen when you reach your forties, but how to minimise the negative and maximise the positive. In the name of science, the good Doctor tries out many of the remedies including some of the more expensive or outrageous ones, himself in order to honestly report back on what works and what doesn’t. One of the more interesting experiments he undergoes is a personal trial of Human Growth Hormone. If you’re considering trying this expensive product that promises miracles, it’s definitely worth buying Forty Something first to see what Fleisher’s experiences were. Other snake oils, potential elixirs, vitamins, herbs and mineral supplements are also examined.

Of course, as one would expect, Dr Fleisher is most informative when it comes to teeth. Covering such topics as discoloration and bleaching, sensitivity, plaque, losing or breaking teeth, gum disease, root canals, crowns, and temporomandibular joint (chewing muscle spasm), the book provides excellent advice on how to make the most of dental visits, and to avoid the more painful forms of deterioration. There are also chapters on exercise, with more anecdotes and stories, the midlife crisis, and how to deal with events such as reunions.

Fifty Something is quite similar, and some of the chapters are even the same, although the book moves forward in time as you would expect, dealing with greater aches and pains, worse forms of deterioration, “andropause” (a good name for the male menopause), specific medications that might be needed in the fifties, and other emotional/crises type issues like separation and divorce, Cancer , Empty Nest syndrome, retirement, and um, death. In some instances the book follows on nicely from Forty Something, referring to the progression. There are lots more insights, personal trials, and anecdotes, including stories about glasses, a new exercise program, and even a personal story of a colonoscopy (Too much information? Maybe if you’re under 50, but not if you are planning to have one yourself). The Cancer chapter in Fifty Something is particularly well researched covering a range of Cancers, including symptoms, treatments, and ways to manage and mitigate.

Overall the premise for both of these books is that, as you age, the lifestyle choices you make can have a major, drastic impact on the quality of your life. In a relaxed, funny, and easy to read way, Fleisher points out exactly how to make the most of what you can, and deal with what you can’t. Both of these are good manuals that prescribe rather than preach and are as entertaining as they are informative.

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. She is the author of the poetry book Repulsion Thrust, the novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book, The Art of Assessment, Quark Soup, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Cherished Pulse , She Wore Emerald Then , and Imagining the Future.