The New Old: Dr. Ken Druck’s new book touts advancing years as opportunities

Dr. Ken Druck’s latest book, “Courageous Aging: Your Best Years Ever Reimagined,” was already gliding up the Amazon charts upon its release Oct. 3, due partly to pre-orders based on the author’s reputation.

Then, Druck’s 91-year-old aunt, a Holocaust survivor, called him from her home in New York and raved about the work.

“I was in tears listening to my Aunt Marion,” said Druck during a recent interview at his Del Mar Terrace residence and office overlooking the Los Penasquitos Lagoon.

“What really means something to me is to be No. 1 on Aunt Marion’s best-sellers list,” he said. “The Aunt Marion list is about touching one person’s heart — making life better one person at a time.”

The aunt’s engagement corroborates the 157-page paperback’s theme that getting older should be redemptive rather than regressive. Essentially a how-to book, it is as instructive as it is philosophical.

“Each season of life presents challenges,” said Druck, who is 68. “Now is not the time to quit. It’s the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work using the advantage of our experiences, the wisdom we’ve gained, the skills we’ve developed and the emotional freedom we’ve earned.

“We’re in a stronger position to find happiness and peace than perhaps at any time in our lives, but we’ve got to do the work.”

While discussing the challenges presented by the aging process, regardless of how old one is, Druck details how individuals can overcome their feelings of inadequacy and capitalize on their experiences to improve their lives and the lives of others.

“All the exercises I’ve designed in this book are designed to help people to get from Point A to Point B,” he said. “It’s not just conceptual. It’s a workbook.”

Much of the work involves overcoming preconceptions and misperceptions about what it means to age with the aim of forging a forward-looking approach that Druck labels the New Old, which is independent of glib equations like “70 is the new 50.”

“The better version of us and best possible future are not things with a complement of Botox or Viagra. They come from within,” he writes.

Druck’s message already has generated both national media attention — an interview on CNN with Don Lemon — and on the local level. KPBS’s Midday Edition Oct. 5 featured Druck, who was introduced by host Maureen Cavanaugh as an old friend of the program.

Druck also was one of many speakers featured at the Successful Aging Expo held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds Oct. 7.

Druck is no stranger to acclaim, having been thrust into the national spotlight in the 1980s with the publication of his first book, “The Secrets That Men Keep,” based on the thesis he wrote to earn a doctorate degree in clinical psychology.

His subject was a reaction to the women’s movement that was inspiring myriad classes, programs and books devoted to female psychology.

“Women’s centers were going up like fast-food restaurants,” he said. “I said, ‘That’s great for women, but what about us guys?’”

Assisting in the transformation of his academic work into literature, Druck said, was the late Norman Cousins, who had served as editor-in-chief of the Saturday Review for three decades.

“He wanted the title to be ‘The Secrets Men Live By,’” Druck said.

The book became a best-seller and led to nationally televised appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Donahue and other programs.

Other books followed, reflecting his psychological inquiries, often entwined with the stages of his personal life, including “Healing Your Life After the Loss of a Loved One.” The book was inspired by the death of his daughter, Jenna, who was killed in a bus crash near the Taj Mahal in India in the mid-1990s.

The experience led Druck to form a now-defunct foundation in his daughter’s name that was dedicated to assisting others in coping with losses. Through his exploration of the psychology of bereavement, he developed an approach he labels “grief literacy.”

He is frequently sought as an expert commentator in the aftermath of catastrophes, which was the case following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Columbine school shootings. He is fielding requests in the aftermath of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas massacre, he said during the interview.

In his latest work, Druck references his experiences overcoming his grief with the loss of his daughter, as well as many other anecdotes and examples drawn from his life, acquaintances, counseling subjects and professionals.

His personal capacity for empathy began at an early age, reinforced by his mother, the New York native said.

When he was still a tot, he said, the child of a neighboring family came over to the Druck household after his father had died of a heart attack.

“The room was filled with sadness,” he said. “For reasons beyond what I understood, I knew what to say and I knew what to do. ... The reason I could walk into the first town hall meeting after 9/11 is because I’m not uncomfortable in the presence of emotion. I’ve become a student of human beings, of what our humanity is.”

For more on Druck, visit kendruck.com. “Courageous Aging” is also available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

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