Marie de Hennezel

Marie de Hennezel is a respected psychotherapist and author. The French Ministry of Health gave her the mission of raising palliative-care awareness. She is the author of two ministerial reports about caring for those with terminal illnesses, and has written ten books about growing older. Her books have been translated into 22 languages.

In Her Own Words

“I wrote The Warmth of the Heart Prevents the Body from Rusting to help my generation – the ageing baby boomers – to get its bearings. We are told we will live longer and in good health. And yet we are afraid of growing old. I myself went through a difficult time while writing the book, when I reached the age of sixty. I felt how much my generation suffers from the disparaging way our society, which idolizes youth, looks on old age. I realized that there lay a challenge that we had to meet.”

“We must learn to age without becoming old. Like the Okinawa super-centenarians, from whom I borrowed the title of the book, who are considered by the younger generations to bring luck, as “lucky charms”. We must accept to grow old, while remaining open to all the new things that old age brings with it. The body ages, but not the heart. I have met many very old people for whom the experience of old age is a happy one, because they remain dynamic, emotionally young and curious of the world and of others.”

“You have to invest in growing old. One must learn to detach oneself, because there are bereavements, and to age well one must be reconciled with life. One must also work on being alert to new experiences, and there are many. One has more time. One does things more slowly. One becomes more attentive, more sensitive, more sensuous. One of my friends who speaks Hebrew tells me that in Hebrew the same work, Guil, means both what is old, and joy. What my generation must develop is the capacity for joy and wonder, if it doesn’t want to be a burden on the younger generations. If we want to be old people that radiate warmth.”

We are not helped by the way our society looks on old age, hiding it as if it were something shameful. Faced with the prospect of living longer, we ask ourselves “How and where will we grow old?” Will we still be lovable?”(1)