I found his book, Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives by David Snowdon, Ph. D. a human and compassionate study of these women who have dedicated their lives as nuns: School Sisters of Notre Dame, of the Mankato, Minnesota province.
(As a little aside, I'd like to mention that as a young girl I received my catechism lessons from the nuns of the Baltimore, Maryland province of this order.)
You can't help but admire the selfless service through their time spent with the researcher and their final gift to medical science of donating their brains to be examined for signs of the ravages of Alzheimers disease.
What was surprising to me was that even some nuns who showed decayed brain matter after death were still leading active lives with fully functional communication skills. I would have thought that brain deterioration would have meant that nearly all the time communication and higher functioning skills would be affected.
The nuns in the study lead lives teaching or in related services to the convent, so a wide range of women involved in various jobs were studied. I think that is important to get a well-rounded view in the study. After all, we each have our specialties in life, no one a carbon copy. And though the women were all nuns, they each had their own personality and strengths.
What tied them together as nuns would be their daily spiritual practices, prayer, meditation, reflection: those activities that help us stay inspired in service to humanity no matter what our tasks in the world.
I think you'll enjoy getting to know the individual nuns as Dr. Snowdon talks about them and seeing a close up view of mental acuity in advanced age or how the ravages of dementia affect both the brain and daily functioning.
Studies like this are important because depth of interaction over a period of time gives the researcher time to see the small changes along the way. And perhaps this research will help others learn how to age gracefully.
Highly recommended reading!
Details - 256 page paperback; Bantam Books (April 30, 2002); Size: 9.1 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches ISBN-10: 0553380923 ISBN-13: 978-0553380927
Available from Amazon.com
Aging with Grace by David Snowdon, Ph.D.
Review by Susan Helene Kramer