Gero-Punk Preoccupations: Writers Write

A writer writes. Or fantasizes about what they hope to write. Or cogitates fragments of what might become future writing (and then hope they can record the fragments before they evaporate). Or worries about not writing enough or, sometimes, about not writing at all.

A writer writes. Or tries to get their “other work” out of the way first so they won’t feel guilty spending the rest of the day writing. Or tries to push their “other work” to the hours after they’ve put in some writing time but feels anxious that perhaps they’ll get punished (by whom?) because they’ve prioritized their “real work.” Or gets trapped in indecision about how to prioritize let alone discern what work is actually important and then the day is mostly gone. Or obsesses about how to regulate their limited energy and time only to succeed in dissipating both.

A writer also lingers over morning coffee, exercises, washes up, meditates, cleans the dishes and starts a load of laundry, walks and feeds the dog, waters the garden, wakes-up and talks to the daughter home from college for the summer, makes breakfast, answers a bunch of email, runs necessary errands, and then makes lunch (already?). That’s a lot for a morning’s work, don’t you agree? (Mostly) necessary, (sometimes) pleasurable tasks. But when strung one-after-the-other, necessary — even pleasurable — tasks can poach several prime morning hours that had been pre-designated as “writing time.”

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These days everyone I see who knows me asks how my writing is going.

What am I writing, you ask? (Thanks for asking!)

Well, clearly I have not been writing Gero-Punk Project essays! It has been some months since I’ve published anything here for you to read – a situation about which I feel some regret, disappointment, and concern. Though let it be said that I never aspired nor claimed to be the world’s best blogger, nor did I intend to be posting little keen tidbits most days of the week. Rather, I wanted to create the causes and conditions for sharing stories about our travels through the life-course, 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.

The gero-punk approach to experiencing, reflecting upon and writing about such juicy stuff takes the time it takes.

So, now that I’ve gotten out of the way what I’ve not been writing, how about I tell you what I’ve been up to these past couple of months?

I’m working on a fantastic project (with back-up played by Harry R. Moody, my mentor and co-author for Aging: Concepts and controversies) which truly embodies my commitment to bringing Gerontology – specifically Critical Gerontology* (see below)– to the streets. The project will result in a book, Gerontology: The Basics, part of The Basics series published by Routledge. Look for it sometime in 2016.

What’s really cool about this book is that it is meant to be a primer, an introduction to the complex human aging experience and the multi-faceted field of Gerontology, written for a wide-range of readers: secondary school, college and university students and teachers, as well as curious members of the general public. Our intent is to provide readers with a way into exploring the complexity not only of the field of Gerontology but of the human experiences at the center of Gerontological inquiry and practice: the aging journey. We hope to instigate readers’ critical thinking about and reflection on their own aging journeys, to compel them to apply what they are exploring in our primer to their own lives. In other words, we aim to emphasize the idea that aging isn’t something that happens only in later life but is a life-long process, nor are old people strange “others” but are our friends, kin, and future selves. Even if old age seems to be in the distant future, there is much we might wish to be present to and ponder as we travel together through the life-course.

Doesn’t it sound like the perfect project for a gero-punk?

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I want to take a moment to thank those of you who continue to follow this blog, read what’s been published here, and even send me love notes about how what I’ve written has inspired your own gero-punk adventures. (You know who I’m talking about, Ryan!). I’m grateful — thank-you!

I’d also like to invite you to think about contributing some writing of your own. I’m always accepting submissions for publication, so if you’ve been carrying around inside yourself an idea for an essay, feel free to email me and we can have a dialogue about your ideas.

And if you have something ready-to-go, you can just go ahead and send it to me at: jsasser@marylhurst.edu

But 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?

Gero-punks 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.

Gero-punks 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.

Gero-punks 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?

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A writer writes. So off I go. Thanks for the chat. More soon, I hope.

*(For more on the principles of Critical Gerontology, see my essay Transforming Trauma through Reflection and Praxis: Embracing the Principles of Critical Educational Gerontology Life-Wide, published by the journal SAGE Open.)

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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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