Picture book helps women picture getting older

Lucy Rose Fischer is considered an expert on aging.

During a 25-year career as an award-winning gerontologist, she directed numerous studies, authored three books and contributed numerous professional articles in the field of aging. She was honored as a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America for her “outstanding achievements and exemplary contributions to the field of aging.”

But when it came to her own experience, she said she was surprised.

“It’s a universal phenomenon,” Fischer said about aging. “You know it’s coming, but it’s still a surprise.”

After she turned 60, Fischer embarked on a second career, following her dream of becoming a professional artist. Now, she has combined her experience in those two fields to create a new book titled “I’m New at Being Old.” It was published in May.

 “This picture book is for women discovering they’re not as young as they thought they were,” Fischer said. “It’s a combination of the difficulties of getting older and how scary that can be, and the wonder about it.”

Using witty and carefully chosen text, combined with vibrant, whimsical art in a variety of media — collages, paintings, black and white sketches — Fischer captures her own experience, which is like that of so many others. The “Sisterhood of Sleeplessness,” for example, was created after a conversation with friends who, like Fischer, found themselves “wakeful through the night.”

“There are things that are worse, such as not remembering names or words,” Fischer said. “But there’s a richness in my abilities that have grown throughout my life. And I can use my experience to create new things.”

Though the book is not specifically Jewish, Fischer said that subtle Jewish references can be found in its pages. She refers to her Israeli grandchildren as “delicious,” and a list of family and friends who have inspired her includes some Jewish names.

As an artist in Minnesota, Fischer is known in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area for her glass art, painting “upside-down, inside-out and backwards” on hand-blown bowls and vases. Her work has been featured in more than 50 exhibitions in the Midwest — as well as in Europe and Israel — and she is the founder and coordinator of the Jewish Women Artists’ Circle of Minnesota.

Her work currently is featured at a museum in Iowa and at in the main library in Minneapolis. She is also part of an upcoming documentary produced by Twin Cities Public Television.

Through her book, Fischer said she hopes women will realize that they’re not alone.

“There is so much negativity about getting older; my mission is to promote vitality,” Fischer said. “The experience is universal, but women can find new insight and a new perspective.”

“I’m New at Being Old” by Lucy Rose Fischer (80 pages, Temuna Press, $19.95)