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review 2018-06-01 22:01
A very tender story about senior citizens
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old - Hendrik Groen,Hester Velmans

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ years old-Hendrik Groen, author.

This is a very tenderly written epistolary novel written with a subtle humor. Hendrik Groen lives in a nursing home in the wing for independent seniors. His friend Evert lives in his own apartment in the same facility. His dear friend Eefje lives in the same wing as Hendrik, and she has had a positive effect on his life and he on hers. They have a deep and comfortable friendship that keeps growing until the consequences of life intervene.

Hendrik has made a decision to keep a diary for the year 2013, to let people get to know the real Hendrik Groen through his private entries. His daily posts are heartwarming comments are genuine, alternating, at times, between melancholia and wit, depending on the events of his day. During the year of 2013, he turns 84 and expresses a hope to be around a bit longer, but realistically, he knows that his days are numbered and chance plays a big part in his continued presence in the world.

As his entries reveal what life is like for him and for the other residents, in this sterile institution, it also reveals how the residents look upon their own lives. Their moods and ideas run the gamut from hopefulness to hopelessness. They have dreams, although they have little to hope for, they have fears, although they have little control of what is coming their way. Some of the elderly make the most of every opportunity, facing everyday optimistically; some face the future with dread. Some don’t venture outside for fear of what the future will bring. Some have decided to behave in anyway they please since consequences have little effect on them so late in the game. They may even take risks.

When a small group of residents decide to form a group called The Old But Not Dead Club, planning bimonthly mystery outings, it gives them a purpose they had not had before. It gives them a reason to go on living. However, this tight knit intimate group of friends is causing angst in the world of other nursing home residents because they resent the fact that they were not included in the group, not asked to join in their fun. Each of the actual members of this group has his/her own distinct personality ranging from cantankerous to compassionate, but they all get along regardless of their different ways of approaching life, because they all like and respect each other, and they all enjoy being with each other. They accept each other’s little idiosyncrasies and forgive them their little lapses.

As the friendship between Hendrik and Eefje grows, his nature begins to soften; he is so comfortable with her, whether or not they speak or stay silent. They tolerate each others differences and enjoy each others similarities without judgment. For Evert, she becomes an important stabilizing part of his life, a part that brings him joy and contentment, a part that inspires him to continue to live and participate in life rather than sitting by a window and vacantly staring outside at the lives of others. He begins to take greater chances, buys himself a scooter and wishes he had done so sooner since it opened up the world for him. He accepts his need for a diaper to keep his hygiene up to snuff rather than fighting the inevitable. He begins to make plans to do things and to care more about each member in his growing group of friends. When some of the members begin their decline, he is kind and considerate, doing what he can to help them. He investigates ways to help Grietje deal with her Alzheimers and Evert to deal with the loss of a limb. He walks his dog for him. When Eefje is ill, he reads to her and gets her an ipod so she can listen to music. He visits her daily, sometimes more than once. However, he still continues to make a conscious decision to live out his own life and not give up, albeit with the help of Evert who puts iron in his back. Evert convinces him to stop wasting his time, convinces him to decide, move on or give up. He decides to continue to live each day to its fullest. Evert, on the other hand, is determined to make as much mischief as possible until the end of his. How bad can the consequences be?

The book deftly handles the inevitable issues that will arise in a home for the aged. Old people are in a state of decline that will never improve, but instead, will steadily get worse. Some will become physically ill; some will have strokes, falls or other mishaps, while others will sink into the world of mindlessness, dementia or Alzheimer’s. Not all will follow that road, though. Some will live out all their days, self aware and healthy until their last breath. The trick is for the resident to keep on hoping, keep on doing, to keep on creating encouraging ideas, to keep a stiff upper lip and an optimistic view. The trick is for the residence management to provide that atmosphere for them.

As the residents are subjected to the bureaucracy that controls what they can and cannot do. They are subjected to the slings and arrows of life. Some handle them more delicately than others. Some are dignified and some behave poorly. Some rail against the end of life and some appear to welcome it, preferring to choose the time of their death. None, however, wish to die in pain or in a vegetative state. Laws and the powers that be will often prevent their merciful release, however and will often take away their power to decide for themselves, and instead, treat them the way they once treated their own children, guiding them in the direction they thought was best. These are not children, however, and many want the right to decide things for themselves. Once they are able to taste that feeling of freedom that they once had, they are less afraid to face the future, and they are far happier.

I chose to read this book in small increments to enjoy the pleasure from it in small doses. I kept it on my nightstand and   simply picked it up at will, reading a few entries at a time to put a knowing smile on my lips. None of us, if we are lucky, will escape the aging process, but we all need to deal with it. Hendrik’s diary lays out our options for us, clearly. He seems to come round to the theory of a friend of mine, someone with troubles galore, who announces to all that she has a choice to be happy or sad, and she chooses to be happy. I think that the year 2013, was the year that Groen chose to be happy, to find hope and opportunity where it presented itself and to deal with life’s foibles, great and small, gracefully. It is a lifestyle he hopes to continue as long as he can. He will continue writing in a diary.

It was heartwarming to witness the way he cared for those in greater need than himself and to read about the way each of the friends and residents rallied around each other when the need arose, providing comfort and care as necessary, although there was the curmudgeon or two that defied that image.

In my research, I discovered that Hendrik Groen, the author’s name, is a pseudonym for Peter de Smet, a Dutch author who does not seek fame, ergo little is known about him. He is not a resident of a senior home, and this is not his diary. In his words, “Not a sentence is dishonest, but not every word is true.” Yet he has authentically captured the feelings of the elderly, their dreams and hopes, their stress and disappointment, their fear and their frustration.

The book presents Interesting topics for discussion in a book group. Groen illuminates the real degradation and debilitation that aging causes and also illustrates its effect on the elderly as their lives diminish in size and scope. Opportunities and possibilities no longer exist as they used to when youth prevailed. The formation of the group that conducted twice monthly trips was literally a “lifesaver” for these elderly residents because in spite of the dead end that they all faced, they all had hope to live, and more importantly, to enjoy another day.

The right to die would be an interesting topic for discussion as is the availability of services for the elderly who sometimes outlive their money because they lived a lot longer than they expected. The elimination of services for them because of cost cutting is traumatic for them, but inevitable when others deal with it. They think they will die anyway, so why waste money on them. The bureaucracy that interferes with their quality of life, the rules and regulations that control their ability to be independent because of a fear of accident and litigation is also an interesting topic for discussion. Everyone goes down this road; everyone needs to address the concerns raised in this book.

Although it is told with tremendous warmth and humor, it is also very heart wrenching as the residents succumb to the inevitabilities of life that aging brings to them, from diapers, to lack of mobility, to slower reflexes and forgetfulness, to mention a few. Losing friends forces them to deal with a constant overlay of sadness, forces them to face the path open to them from independence to dependence, to deal with the depression and a desire to try and control what is left to them, of life. Unfortunately, regulations interfere with their quality of life on all levels. Where they used to make their own decisions, others step in to make the decisions for them, often decisions they disagree with but are helpless to change. Aging brings helplessness to its victims and it is a constant effort to find ways to bring back strength and control to their lives, to bring back hope.

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review 2018-01-15 15:12
The Old-But-Not-Dead Club strikes again. A truly inspiring read, whatever your age.
On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 85 Years Old - Hendrik Groen

Thanks to Net Galley and to Penguin UK-Michael Joseph for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

A while back I read The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old (check my review here) and loved it. I was on the lookout for the next one, and when I saw the next one was available for download at NetGalley I did not hesitate. It has now been published and I could not pass the chance to share my review.

Hendrik explains what has happened since his last diary (yes, he is older now) and decides to write his diary for another year, as a way to keep his brain going. He is now 85 and he needed some time to get over some of the sad events of the last book. But the Old-But-Not-Dead Club is still going strong, with new members and plans, including regularly exploring international cuisine (more or less), a short holiday abroad, and an attempt at local (extremely local) politics. Hendrik’s voice is as witty and observant as it was in the first book, although there is perhaps a grittier and darker note (he is feeling low, everything is getting tougher and unfortunately, life gets harder as the year goes along). But not all is doom and gloom and there are very funny moments, as well as some very sad ones. His comments about politics and world events, always seen from an elderly population’s perspective, are sharp and clear-sighted and will give readers pause. Some of them are local and I suspect I was not the only one who did not know who many of the people where or what anecdotes he referred to at times (I must admit that although I know a bit about Dutch painters, I know little about their politics or music, for example), but even if we cannot follow all the references in detail, unfortunately, they are easily translatable to social and political concerns we are likely to recognize, wherever we live. Funding cuts, social problems, concerns about health and social care, crime, terrorism, global warming feature prominently, although sometimes with a very peculiar twist.

The secondary characters are as wonderful and varied as in the previous book. Some of them have moved on (physically, mentally, or both), and we get to know better some of the ones that only briefly appeared in the previous volume. We also have new arrivals at the nursing home, and a more direct involvement in the home’s politics (with anxiety-provoking news present as well. Is the nursing home going to close?). I loved some of the proposed and adopted rules (a complaint-free zone to avoid wallowing in conversations about ailments and illnesses, a high-tea facilitated by the residents, an art exhibition, even if the artist is not the most sympathetic of characters…) and the sayings of the residents. Of course, life at a nursing home comes with its share of loss and although I don’t want to reveal too much, I can say the subject of death is treated in a realistic, respectful, and moving way.

I shed some of the quotes I highlighted, to give you a taster (although I recommend checking a sample and seeing what you think. And, although it is not necessary to read the first book first, I think it works better knowing the characters and their journey so far):

The idea of using care homes to look after the comfort, control and companionship of the elderly is fine in principle. It just fails in the execution. What old age homes actually stand for is infantilizing, dependence, and laziness.

One in four old people who break one or more hips die within the year. That number seems high to me, but it’s in the newspaper, so there is room for doubt.

It’s always astonished me to see the wide support clowns and crooks are able to muster. Watching old newsreels of that loudmouth Mussolini, you’d think now there’s a bloke only his mother could love. But no, millions of Italians loved him.(Yes, I’m sure this can make us all think of a few people).

Difficult new terms that tend to obscure rather than clarify, especially when uttered by policy-makers. It often has to do with hiding something —either a budget cut, or hot air, or both at once.

Managerial skills alone don’t make for better care, it only makes for cheaper one.

And, a great ending (and one we should all take up this year):

A new year —how you get through it is up to you, Groen; life doesn’t come with training wheels. Get this show on the road. As long as there’s life.

The tone of the book is bitter-sweet, and, as mentioned, it feels darker than the previous one, perhaps because Hendrik is even more aware of his limitations and those of his friends, and is increasingly faced with the problem of loneliness, and with thoughts about the future. But, overall, this is a book that makes us think about the zest for life, about living life to the full, and about making the best out of our capabilities. As I said on my previous review, I hope I can meet a Hendrik if I get to that age, and I’ll also make sure to join the Old-But-Not-Dead Club and be an agitator and enjoy life to the end. Don’t ever settle for the easy way out.

A great book for those interested in the subject of growing old, in great characters, and in an out-of-the-ordinary setting. It has plenty of adventures and events (even trips abroad and international cuisine), although it is not a book I’d recommend to people who love fast action and high-octane thrillers. If you enjoy first-person narrations, love older characters, and don’t mind thinking about the long-term (ish) future, I recommend this very inspiring book.

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review 2017-07-27 15:24
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old - Hendrik Groen,Hester Velmans

Hendrik Groen is embarking on his 84th year. In order to keep boredom at bay he decides to keep a diary of his days in the care home he in which he now resides. His diary charts the ups and downs of the coming year and how he fights the boredom that threats his days. Who says you have to grow old gracefully?

I have to admit I’m not really looking forward getting older with the potential for loneliness, misunderstanding and my body letting me down. I am, however, looking forward to being curmudgeonly and have been happily practising that for years. I liked the sound of Hendrik Groen’s diary and so thought it would be interesting to read about aging from someone in the know.

The diary format makes the book easy to read, the justification for at least finishing the month meant that I soon found myself well into Hendrik’s year.

The care home houses a host of wonderful characters. The Old But Not Dead Club members are a lovely bunch of people determined to enjoy their twilight years rather than waiting for the end by sitting in their chairs. I looked forward to hearing about the latest trip organised by a member of the club. Hendrik’s new found freedom with his motorised scooter was lovely to read as was seeing his burgeoning friendships develop.

It was interesting to read about the dynamics of the care home, that bullies will emerge whatever the age, that some were only too happy to live in the past, rather than face a potential bleak future and that some fight aging in whatever way they can.

There are also touchingly sad moments. The health scares of Hendrik’s friends, the sad prospect of Alzheimer’s, the risk of falls and the waiting of the inevitable casts a pall over the end stages of life. The book also highlights how easy it is to forget that the elderly were once young. They once fell in love or had their hearts broken, raised families or suffered loss. They danced and sang and were happy and vibrant. And all of their experiences shaped them, made them who they are and remain with them until the end.

The book discusses a wide range of topics in a humorous and often moving way. The political landscape of The Netherlands is discussed, as are the arrangements and funding for elder care, race and religious issues and the question of euthanasia. All of this is told with gentle humour and occasional, understandable rancour.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen is a funny, moving, thought-provoking and poignant portrait of aging and society’s view of the elderly.

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review 2017-05-09 18:05
Rezension | Tanztee von Hendrik Groen
Tanztee: Das neue geheime Tagebuch des H... Tanztee: Das neue geheime Tagebuch des Hendrik Groen, 85 Jahre - Hendrik Groen,Wibke Kuhn



Der rüstige Rentner Hendrik Groen erzählte in seinem ersten Tagebuch „Eierlikörtage“ von seinem Dasein als Rentner in einem Amsterdamer Altersheim, seinen Freunden, und wie er gemeinsam mit ihnen den Alt-aber-nicht-tot-Club (Alanito) gründete. Hendrik und Co. sind nun etwas älter geworden, strahlen aber noch immer jede Menge Lebensfreude aus und so schildert Hendrik in „Tanztee“ die neusten Ereignisse und Veränderungen aus seinem Rentneralltag, erzählt von den Unternehmungen des Alanito Clubs und lässt ganz nebenbei seine Sicht auf die Welt einfließen.


Meine Meinung


Nach dem Erfolg von Hendrik Groen’s Tagebuch „Eierlikörtage“ folgt nun mit „Tanztee“ eine weitere Veröffentlichung eines Tagebuchs aus der Feder des niederländischen Rentners. Für ein rundes Gesamtbild ist es von Vorteil den Vorgängerband gelesen zu haben, es ist allerdings nicht unbedingt erforderlich da sich die Tagebucheinträge mit gegenwärtigen Ereignissen beschäftigen und der Fokus nur selten in die Vergangenheit geschwenkt wird.


Mit lebhafter und (selbst)ironischer Stimme betrachtet Hendrik seinen Alltag im Altersheim, von Arztbesuchen über Tischgespräche hin zu der ungewissen Zukunft des Altersheim selbst. Innen- und Außenpolitische Ereignisse sowie das Königshaus bleiben von Hendriks treffender Beobachtungsgabe nicht verschont. Im Vordergrund steht aber die Freundschaft zu anderen Senioren in seinem Umfeld und die gemeinsamen Unternehmungen des Alt-aber-nicht-tot-Clubs der frischen Wind in das Altersheim bringt.


"Und obwohl mir mein Vater das wunderbare Lebensmotto »Nicht ärgern, nur wundern« mitgegeben hat, kann ich einfach nicht aus meiner Haut und ärgere mich dumm und dämlich." (Seite 367)


Ich mag die Erzählungen des Rentners, der nichts weniger leiden kann als Gemecker und ewige Schwarzseherei unglaublich gerne. Gerade weil Hendrik Groen seine Erlebnisse so klar, authentisch und selbstkritisch darstellt, bekommt der Roman eine gewisse Tiefe und Emotionalität der man sich nicht entziehen kann. Die Palette reicht von ulkigen und fröhlichen Begebenheiten über ganz normale Probleme älterer Senioren bis zu traurigen, aber unausweichlichen, Ereignissen. Im Anbetracht dessen, dass Hendrik und seine Freunde am Ende ihres Lebens angekommen sind, und ein Todesfall nichts seltenes sondern etwas unausweichliches darstellt, kann man Hendriks positive Lebenseinstellung nur befürworten. Realistischerweise bekommt man nicht nur das Bild des rüstigen Rentners präsentiert, sondern auch das mögliche Schicksal der Demenzerkrankung wird angerissen sowie einige kleinere Unannehmlichkeiten und Zipperlein die das Alter so mit sich bringen.


„Tanztee“ ist ein Roman der nicht durch eine besondere Spannung lebt, sondern durch facettenreiche Alltagssituationen aus Hendriks außergewöhnlicher Sichtweise an Reiz gewinnen.




Eine gelungener Folgeband voller Alltagskomik, Sarkasmus und Ironie.

Source: www.bellaswonderworld.de/rezensionen/rezension-tanztee-von-hendrik-groen
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review 2016-11-11 05:10
Rezension | Eierlikörtage von Hendrik Groen
Eierlikörtage: Das geheime Tagebuch des Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Jahre - Hendrik Groen



Mit seinen 83 1/4 Jahren mag Hendrik Groen schon zur alten Bevölkerung zählen, doch er ist noch lange nicht tot. Das sieht nicht nur er so, sondern auch noch einige andere Bewohner eines Amsterdamer Altenheims. So finden sich ziemlich unterschiedliche Menschen, die noch mehr erleben wollen als Kaffeekränzchen und schlechte Laune, und gründen den Alt aber nicht Tot Club.


Gemeinsam planen und unternehmen sie Ausflüge, die das Leben wieder schön machen. Leider gibt es nicht nur positive Erlebnisse, sondern die Gruppe muss auch mit Rückschlägen und traurigen Nachrichten, die das Älter werden leider mit sich bringen, umgehen. Seine ganzen Erlebnisse und Gedanken hält Hendrik Groen in seinem „geheimen“ Tagebuch fest.


Meine Meinung


Hendrik Groen lebt in einem Amsterdamer Altenheim und hat das einfältige Leben dort entgültig satt. Im Gegenteil zu den meisten anderen Senioren ist Hendrik mit einem scharfen Verstand und einer großen Portion Lebenslust gesegnet. Um sich aus dem Alltagstrott zu befreien, beschließt Hendrik seine Erlebnisse vollkommen ungeschönt in einem Tagebuch niederzuschreiben, und nicht mehr zu allem ja und Amen zu sagen, sondern seine Meinung zu vertreten. Immer an seiner Seite, sein bester Freund Evert.

Da sich Hendrik und Evert von den anderen Bewohnern des Altenheims in jeder nur erdenklichen Weise unterscheiden, haben sie nicht gerade viele Freunde. Außerdem stellen sie sich nur zu gerne, bei jeder sich bietenden Gelegenheit, gegen die Heimleitung, was in den Augen der anderen Bewohner einem Skandal gleichkommt. Kurzum Hendrik und Evert sind ziemlich direkt und treffen damit meistens den Nagel mit dem Kopf.


Als eine neue Bewohnerin, Eefje Brandt, einzieht ändert sich Hendriks Leben noch einmal hin zur Sonnenseite, denn auch Eefje kann nichts mit dem Geschlurfe, Gestöhne und Gejammer der anderen Bewohner anfangen. Kurz darauf ereignet sich die Gründung eines Rebellenclubs, mit dem Vereinsnamen Alt-aber-nicht-tot (kurz Alanito). Unter den Mitgliederen: Hendrik Groen, Evert Duiker, Eefje Brandt, Edward Schermer, Grietje de Boer und Graeme Gorter. Die Club-Gründer haben wolhlweislich die Mitgliederzhal vorerst auf sechs Personen begrenzt um den ganzen Nörglern ein klares Zeichen zu setzten.


Der Alanito Club erfüllt den Zweck, den langweiligen Alltag im Seniorenheim zu bekämpfen, schöne Ausflüge zu planen und einfach jede Menge Spaß zu haben. In regelmäßigem Abstand organisiert nacheinander jedes Mitglied einen Ausflug, der unter Betrachtung der finanziellen Mittel und Gebrechen der Mitglieder möglich ist. Schnell blüht das Leben der Gruppe auf, und schon bald sind sie unzertrennlich. Doch leider bringt das Alter seine Gebrechen mit sich, so dass sich der Gesundheitszustand einiger Mitglieder verschlechtert.


Solltet ihr der Meinung sein, ein Leben im Seniorenheim ist langweilig und fad, dann beweist euch Hendrik Groen mit seinem Tagebuch „Eierlikörtage“ genau das, und vor allem, dass das Gegenteil durchaus im Bereich des möglichen liegt. Mit seinen klaren und treffenden Beobachtungen hat mich Hendrik Groen zum schmunzeln, lachen und weinen gebracht. Ein wirklich herrliches Werk, dass nicht nur durch seine sarkastische Seite glänzt, sondern auch zum nachdenken anregt. Daher vergebe ich 5 von 5 Grisekatzen.


Über den Autor


Hendrik Groen veröffentlichte die ersten Einträge seines Tagebuchs auf der Website des »Torpedo Magazines«, bevor es in Holland zu einem überragend erfolgreichen Buch wurde und sich im ganzen Land Hendrik-Groen-Fanclubs gründeten. Er sagt über seine Romane : »Kein Satz ist eine Lüge , aber nicht jedes Wort ist wahr.« Die Fortsetzung ist soeben in den Niederlanden erschienen. (Quelle: Piper Verlag)




Ein scharfsinniges und humorvolles Tagebuch über das Leben im Seniorenheim.

Source: www.bellaswonderworld.de/rezensionen/rezension-eierlikoertage-von-hendrik-groen
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