A celebration of the baby boomer generation is set to show at the Simon Gallery. “Still Becoming,” a coffee table book containing profiles of people in their 60s — sexagenarians — is an idealistic look at life changes as people age. Those profiled include state treasurer Deb Goldberg, head meteorologist at Channel 5 Harvey Leonard, songwriter Livingston Taylor, and former Celtic basketball player Jo Jo White and his wife Deborah.
Sisters-in-law and authors Elinor Svenson and Betsy Banks Epstein spent three years conducting interviews for “Still Becoming,” and writing the essays. Local photographer Peter Simon did the portraits for the book. The subjects range from acquaintances of Svenson and Epstein to recommendations, to people who contacted them to be interviewed.
“Debbie and Jo Jo White are still on my mind. Sitting and talking with them was a spiritual experience,” Epstein wrote in an email to The Times. “They shared their strong sense of faith and love and their personal mantra of perseverance even in the face of adversity.” Jo Jo was diagnosed with hemangioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, in May 2010. The Whites’ interview centers around how quickly their lives changed in response to his health crisis, and how they managed to overcome it.
While the book isn’t necessarily about advice on how to best live the beginning of your golden years, a lot of the responses centered around the happiness people got from enjoying career and family success. “A theme of wishing for economic security and health for themselves and their loved ones emerged,” Epstein said. “Although many experienced career success, they saw being comfortable with themselves and their relationships as keys to their happiness. Younger people who read our book have been uplifted by the idea that there will be a time in their futures when they will be less stressed and able to achieve a sense of peace.”
Sexagenarians themselves, Epstein and Svenson found that “Still Becoming” gave them a chance to capture their generation and reflect on the new stage in their own lives. “We are at a time where many of us have the chance to chart our own course,” said Svenson. “One’s task before this decade is to grow families and build careers, and most felt that they accomplished this. All spoke about this new chapter as a time for reflection about their past, their focus and choices. As they spoke about this next chapter, the conversation was positive, reflected aging wisdom, and a desire to prioritize bringing harmony into their lives.”
Sixty heralds changes in family life, with empty nesting or increasing need to take care of parents or elders. It also signifies the beginning of career changes, with retirement beginning to take shape within the next few decades. The interviews in this book reflect the tree rings printed on its cover. The people are building upon the past years of their lives while they continue to grow.
The authors will be at the Peter Simon Gallery on Main Street in Vineyard Haven during the First Friday event on August 3.