Gero-Punk Public Service Announcement: Gero-Punks of the World, Unite!

geropunk jennyOkay, it’s that time again. Actually, it is well past that time again. But as I always tell my students, it is always better late than never.

What time is it? It is time for a Gero-Punk public service announcement!

But first, let me say hello to those of you residing both far away and close by who have recently come around to see what we are up to here at the Gero-Punk Project. Hello, and thank you for your curiosity and interest.

I’ve been doing a ton of stuff in the community lately and I’ve enjoyed meeting new folk – students, community members, and residents at the CCRC next door to the campus where I teach. The best part of being out in the world convening conversations is, without a doubt, connecting to new old and young and everything-in-between comrades.

Truly, the more of us gero-punks in the world, the merrier will be our journeys through the life course.

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Perhaps you are feeling a bit confused about what this “gero-punk thing” is. Perhaps you need to know a bit more about what’s what before you’ll feel willing to venture further.

That’s understandable. How about I say more?

The Gero-Punk Project provides a venue for telling and sharing stories about our travels through the life-course. Together we create a space for trying out alternative ways of experiencing and writing about time/space/place, about age and aging, and about the complexities of being human beings, creatures who are aware of the passage of time and how time has its way with us.

We take seriously the idea that we are time-travelers: a particular age, all ages, and no age at all. We give  voice to our flummoxing, fascinating, mundane and profound, odd and perhaps transgressive thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to this grand and strange adventure of being and becoming human in and through and outside of time.

We legitimize confusion, uncertainty, and vulnerability, states of no-sense. As well, we harness our inner authority, our sovereignty, our growing expertise about our own inside experiences and our curiosity about the inside experiences of others.

We ask questions such as:

Where does age reside?

What does it feel like to be the embodied creatures we are right now in this present moment? (And what might it feel like to be a differently embodied creature?)

What assumptions are we holding about what a particular age should be like, or look like, and where did these assumptions come from? (And are we served well by these assumptions or do we want to blow them up and create something new?)

How might our confusions, mishaps and missteps as we muddle through this life be sources of learning and wisdom, for ourselves and, by sharing them, for others?

(And for those of us who are formally engaged in the work of gerontology) We ask to what extent do we see our aging experiences reflected in the official Gerontological theory and research? And to what extent are our aging experiences and our capacities to support others with their aging experiences informed by Gerontological theory and research? What are the connections and disconnections? What is missing and what might we add? What new questions might we ask?

As well, we ask: What capacities for self-care and intentional aging do we want to develop so that we can live vibrant and purposeful lives, no matter what challenges we might face as we continue our travels through the life-course?

Also this: What are the ways in which we might be of service to others, to the larger community, and to the world that allow us to enact our deepest longings and commitments,  help us grow in all directions as human beings as we continue to ripen?

And perhaps most important of all, we ask: If we had play-dates with our 8 year old selves, what would we do? If we invited our future older selves over for a glass of wine, what would we talk about?

Will you play with us?

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Got any plans on Friday, May 1, 2015 besides dancing around the maypole and celebrating International Worker’s Day?

If not, and you live around the Portland, Oregon metro area, consider attending the Oregon Gerontological Association annual conference from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Marylhurst University. The theme of this year’s conference is Creating Age-Friendly Environments: Now and in the Future. What does “age-friendly” mean, you ask? (Great question!) Well, join us for a day of presentations on how you might know age-friendly environments when you see them and, more importantly, how you might contribute to creating them. As well, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with many fine folk studying and working in the field of aging. We’ll even have a special session just for students where we can discuss anything that’s on your minds about gerontology, aging, old age and later life.

If you’d like more information about the conference, visit the OGA website: www.oregongero.org

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Gero-Punks of the World, unite!

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Gero-Punk Celebration: Happy Birthday, Harry R. Moody!


Upon the occasion of his 70th birthday, I celebrate Dr. Harry “Rick” Moody, Ph.D.

I first met Dr. Moody in 1998 shortly after his lovely book The five stages of the soul was published.  Rick came to Marylhurst University to give a public reading sponsored by our then brand-new gerontology program. I had been following his work as a critical gerontologist for quite some time, taught his gerontology textbook Aging: Concepts and controversies (which I now co-author with him) and, truth be told, designed the interdisciplinary gerontology program at Marylhurst inspired by the critical thinking and liberal education approach embodied in that text. He is amongst the most influential North American gerontologists; there are few areas in the field of aging that Rick hasn’t influenced in lasting and powerful ways.

So you can imagine my excitement when Rick not only accepted the invitation to give a presentation at my university but offered to meet with me for a mentoring session!

And you can also perhaps imagine my distress when I developed laryngitis the day before his visit and could only manage to communicate with this gerontology luminary – Dr. Moody! – by speaking with a barely audible croak.

If you know Rick you are lucky. And if you know Rick you will probably not be surprised to hear that he was patient, kind and generous as he engaged with me for over an hour in a conversation about the challenges and opportunities I faced as I began my first official post-doctorate faculty position, as well as my aspirations for development in and contributions to the field of gerontology.

I would have conversed with Rick for far longer had my voice not quit.  There were so many questions I wanted to ask him, so much common-ground and new territory to cover. He promised the conversation could continue in the future and by the end of our time together he extended to me the gift of his ongoing mentoring, a gift which I accepted immediately and have received countless blessings from over the past seventeen years.

In addition to serving as an important professional mentor, Rick has also become my close colleague and friend.  I admire his intellectual brilliance, boundless energy, emotional generosity, unique vision, and commitment to service.

And I am inspired and held up by his well-examined belief in the power of radical praxis animated by wisdom, love, and compassion.

Rick is a human being par excellence.

For all of these reasons (and so many more!) I proclaim: Happy birthday, Rick Moody! And many (many!) happy returns!

(And: Thank you.)

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Gero-Punk Update: Betty

In my most recent Gero-Punk dispatch, I wrote about Betty and Jake. Well, I have an update to share.

When Happy and I were on a walk on the last cold, sunny day Portland has seen for quite some time, I followed an impulse and headed down Betty’s cul-de-sac, hoping to spot her car and thus determine which condo she lives in.

I was hoping to find Betty.

As we walk towards the condo complex I notice – again — that there aren’t any cars in front of any of the condos and I fear that this is another thwarted mission to try to locate Betty. Then I suddenly realize that each condo has a garage and I figure that most likely the residents park their cars inside their garages, which means that I may never find Betty unless I happen to spot her driving down the street and I chase after her car.

But I am undaunted.

I decide to use my intuitive powers to suss energetically which of the four condos Betty lives in. As I approach the first one on my left, I think it might be the right one because of the care with which the occupant has created a welcoming display of plants and objects by the front door. But as I draw closer I see that the name on the door is an unfamiliar male name. I remember that Betty live alone, so I cross the first condo off my list.

Then I stand in the middle of the cul-de-sac and take a look at each of the other three condos, wishing that I might discover which of the three contains Betty. Happy-the-dog is incredibly patient during this process, by the way. I have a spooky feeling about the next condo on the left, that it is Betty’s, but in case I am wrong again I resolve that I will knock on every door and inquire after Betty until I find her.

So we approach the second condo on the left. I feel jangly, brave and shy. I have never been one to just show up at someone’s house.   I don’t just show up at my mom’s place, nor Erica’s, nor Simeon’s, not without asking permission and making arrangements first. And I’m always a bit disconcerted when someone – even someone I am close to and would enjoy seeing – shows up on my front stoop unexpectedly.

I knock on the door, Happy standing next to me. Nothing. I wait 15 seconds or so and then knock again. I hear rustling from within. The door opens and there is Betty!

Upon seeing each other we simultaneously shriek like girls. And then I exclaim, “We found you!” Betty opens the screen door and we hug. And by “we,” I mean the three of us: Betty, Happy-the-dog, and me.

There is a young man who resembles Betty who appears from behind her. He takes a look at me as if to make sure everything is alright and then he disappears. (I find out later this apparition is Betty’s grandson, who is living with her for a few months. Long story!)

Betty says to me, “Let’s go for a walk!” She grabs her shoes and jacket and, saying nothing to her grandson, joins Happy and me for a walk in the park on this cold, clear Friday morning.

We amble for quite a while, catching up and talking about the books we are reading and what we did over the winter holidays; our daughters, all of whom are living adventurous lives; and the hooded mergansers dabbling on the stream. We also talk about Jake and how much Betty misses him; she says she is happy to have some time with Happy, a dog friend who lessens her grief, but only a bit.

We are like two reunited lifelong friends, not park acquaintances with a thirty year age difference. We exchange numbers at the end of the walk, promising to text and get together again soon.

As Happy and I walk back to our house, I find myself wondering about other old park friends whom I haven’t seen for quite some time.

There’s Dave, about whom I have written before. Stunning in his 70’s throw-back track suit, stiff and bent over from the waist — such an awkward upper body — but fleet and sure from the waist down. Whenever we’d pass each other in the park, Dave walking and me running, he’d say, “Looking good!” And I’d say, “Hi, Dave,” to which he’d respond, “How do you know my name?”

And the wizened, toothless Asian man who preferred to do Tai Chi under one particular tree by the casting pond. When we spotted each other I’d wave and smile and he’d yell “Goo Mornin!”

I don’t have any notion about where the two gentlemen might live so I don’t have any means of pursuing them like I pursued Betty. But I’ll keep keeping my eyes open for them.

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