The Gray Zone: Sources from 2022 Offer Inspiration for The New Year

By Kathryn White

I appreciate many things about writing this column and ranking high among them is the growing list of interesting people who have become my sources. In 2022 I leaned on more than 30 people for my coverage and I’ve invited a few of them back as we enter 2023.

Kathryn White

I asked the following individuals if there was a book or podcast they learned from last year—one that brought inspiration, new ideas or interesting information—that they’d recommend readers of The Gray Zone check out in 2023.

They responded with an incredible range. Enjoy! Amy DelPo, Manager of Older Adult Services for Denver Public Library (August column), recommends “Poetry Unbound.”

“This podcast about poetry is nothing like studying poetry in school. Instead, host Pádraig Ó Tuama, an Irish poet himself, makes poetry feel visceral and gritty and highly relevant to our everyday chaotic lives,” DelPo said. “Each episode focuses on a single poem, which Padraig reads with a voice and accent that are an art in and of themselves. But then he explores the poem and opens it up for you like a gift.”

J.E. Thomas, the middle grade and young adult book author whose confidence was fueled at an early age by teacher Helen Yeager (centenarian, July), said, “I really enjoy the podcast ‘12 Hour Sound Machines.’

There aren’t any words after the obligatory ads at the beginning. If you enjoy background noise, this podcast is awesome! I’m also a big fan of Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday’ podcast.”

Look for Thomas’ middle grade book “Control Freaks” coming in May 2023.

Stormie Foust, now annual giving manager for Christian Living Communities, was instrumental in my coverage of inclusiveness efforts to improve the experiences of LGBTQ+ elders in residential care settings (March).

“I am happy to recommend ‘Monarchs of the Sea’ by Danna Staaf, a funny and engaging look at the astounding 500 million-year history of cephalopods that led to our modern squid and octopus sea friends,” Foust said. “Cephalopods are bound up in the evolution of life on Earth, which started as life in the oceans. I promise you won’t look at a plate of calamari the same way again!”

Rabbi Dan Roberts, who spoke to me about men and aging (October), says “Jewish Sacred Aging” is a great podcast. Roberts recently read “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown, the story of the rowing team from the University of Washington that won the 1936 Olympics, and found it to be a page turner.

Readers can also check out Roberts’ two recently published books, “Once Upon a Kingdom: Parables of Morals, Values and Kindness” (for adults to read to children) and “After the Suicide Funeral: Wisdom on the Path to Posttraumatic Growth” (for suicide loss survivors).

Anne Button, program director of CU Denver’s Change Makers (November) said, “A book that absorbed me this year was ‘The 100-Year Life,’ by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, about making the most of the longer lives we’re likely to experience. The linear three-stage life—education, employment, retirement— will be a thing of the past, as we’ll likely experience more transitions, experimentation, and reinvention. I loved this line in particular: ‘The longer your life, the more identity reflects what you craft rather than a reactive response to where you began.”

Janine Vanderburg, director of Changing the Narrative (August) has two suggestions. Her first is Dr. Becca Levy’s “Breaking the Age Code.”

“Read this book and encourage your friends, family members, and book clubs to read it. This is THE book that will end ageism,” she said. Next, Vanderburg recommends Aye Birsel’s “Design the Long Life You Love.”

“Despite the messages that society sends us, life is not over as we age,” Vanderburg said. “This book by a product designer pairs lessons learned from people who have lived a long life with practical exercises to help you design the long life you will love.”

Johnn Young, community resource navigator with the Center for African American Health (October) points to “a book that is a simple read but has influenced me: ‘The 5 Second Rule’ by Mel Robbins. I was stuck and not sure how to move forward. I had the ideal, the plan, but could not move, get off the pot! I asked the universe for guidance and then I ran across this book. It not only told me why I was stuck, but how to get (into action).”

Are there topics you’d like to hear more (or less) about in The Gray Zone? I’m currently following legislation impacting older adults in the Colorado General Assembly and, at the suggestion of a reader, looking into local end-of- life topics and resources. Send your ideas to

Kathryn has lived in North Denver since around the time the Mount Carmel High School building was razed and its lot at 3600 Zuni became Anna Marie Sandoval Elementary. She’s raised two children in the neighborhood, worked at several nonprofits, and volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter.


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