Gero-Punk Salon: The Soundtrack for Our Travels through the Life-Course

Hello to those of you dwelling in and around Portland, Oregon! What’s up? How’s it going? Any juicy questions you’ve been pondering about which you’d like to think together?

Well, as you might (or might not!) know, one of the central aspirations of the Gero-Punk Project is to create the causes and conditions for coming together to reflect upon and discuss Big Questions about our travels through the life-course. And so, on April 17th, from 2:30-4:30 p.m., we will be convening our second Gero-Punk Salon of 2o16 (with the wonderful support of Elders in Action).

Here are the details. Scroll down for more information!


The questions we’ll be exploring together during the Salon are:

How does music accompany our travels through the life-course?


When you envision yourself in the outer reaches of your life-course, what are the songs in your soundtrack?

Also — and this question takes courage to ponder:

From the vantage point of where you are and who you are now in your travels through the life- course,  when you contemplate your own dying process, what songs might you want to be listening to as you greet the Great Unknown?

All are welcome, so please join us for an afternoon of play, creativity, and thinking together! (Hey–feel free to bring some songs to share!)

–Jenny Sasser (and Dana Rae Parker, co-host and creator of the concept for and splendid art promoting this Gero-Punk Salon)

P.S. Have more questions about what we’ll be up to?  Feel free to contact me at

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Gero-Punk Provocation: The Fourth Car

By Guest Essayist

Libby Hinze


“I will be created in the best of your image and you will be created in the best of mine. Joy in the quest.” –Dr. Cornel West

When we arrived the line was long, an energized crowd. Even the bitter cold and wind could not dissuade the eager fans, for we knew that standing in the long line would guarantee us the opportunity to hear one of the great philosophers and political commentators of our time. We had to scurry to the back of the line but once we finally took our spot the night air didn’t seem so cold. Strangers huddled together chattering away. A young man behind me talked to his friend about an up-and-coming trip he was taking across the country. This immediately sparked my interest and I took the opportunity to share some of my favorite stops. A new friendship sparked by our combined love of exploring our planet and meeting others from all walks of life. Our conversation took my mind off the long wait so before I knew it the line was moving forward and suddenly we were inside the auditorium with a crowd of others waiting to see Dr. Cornel West.

The event took place on February 11th, 2016 at the John Greene Hall at Smith College in Northampton, MA. The auditorium seats a little over two thousand people and that evening’s event was certain to be a sell-out. Jenny sat in the final row and I right behind her in a free-standing chair. Wiley (my 18-year-old daughter) ran off to sit with friends. I did what I often do when I first arrive in a room full of people or in this case a room quickly filling up with people, I cased the joint! I watched people as they moved about the room, sometimes noticing a familiar face or two. I told myself stories about some of the characters who presented themselves, I imagined their lives. Then there were those persons who didn’t just show up but, rather, they arrived! There was a presence when they entered the room, the energy shifted a little and I was drawn to them like a magnet to steel.

cornel west

One such character became part of the gravitational pull and found himself sitting right next to Jenny. In the beginning I was too busy observing the crowd to notice. I mean the energy was everywhere so it does not surprise me that he slipped in and sat down before I noticed. As a matter-of-fact, to be completely honest, I didn’t even notice him until I realized that Jenny, who was sitting so near to me, was already far away in deep conversation (which, as you can see, is a common habit between the two of us, we are always picking up new friends along the way).

He sparkled in a room that was already filled with electricity. Initially, I could not hear his words but his hand gestures, facial expressions and over all body movement drew me in from afar. He was with friends who he had left behind to engage with Jenny, though they sat right next to him. He called himself Christopher and he was ecstatic to tell his story (so much so that I wondered if he had ever felt heard before). Beside him sat Jenny, eager to hear every word and in Sassy fashion “take him deeper.”

Christopher is in graduate school and has spent time in South Africa on a study abroad program, working on behalf of human rights for trans-gendered people. He is probably in his late 20s, black and (by his own declaration) gay. When he spoke it was more than words he expressed. There seemed to be an urgency about him, a need to spill out all of what he was feeling and desperately trying to understand. He was raw in the experience of not knowing where he belonged. He didn’t particularly believe in labels or fitting into a box, but by not “fitting in” it seemed that he was a far distance away from opportunities to enrich his life experience by being with others who in one way or another shared his commitment to freedom and equity. He explained his isolation from others like this:

As a gay black man if I was to break down in my car on the side of one of these Western MA country roads I better have a cell phone because nobody is going to stop to help me. Just imagine a car drives by and it is occupied with white folks. The driver doesn’t even think about pulling over to help me. They just keep on going, perhaps wondering, “Why is that black guy out here? He looks like he’s up to no good.” Then the second car drives by, all its riders are black, they may pull over and ask if I need help but the moment they realize I’m gay they’re outta there saying something to the tune of, “That just ain’t right.” The third car drives by and this time there is a white lesbian couple in the car. They think: “Is that big black man safe for us to help?” Now people might not come right out and say it but believe me they are thinking it. And me, I’m still standing on the side of the road with a dead car. I’m still waiting for the fourth car to show up, the car with the person who will stop and help me. Who is driving that fourth car? This is what I need to know.

I have spent the better part of the last 6 weeks thinking about Christopher and his quest to find the driver of that fourth car. I have asked myself to be honest, really honest with myself when I ask, am I that driver?

Despite our differences, we came together to listen to Dr. West speak. During his speech he asked the crowd, “What kind of human being are you going to be?” In my fifty years of life there may not be a better time to ask myself this question, nor to ask others to reflect on it as well.

In other words, or perhaps how Christopher would put it:

What does it take for you to be that fourth driver?


 Libby Hinze is a Master’s student in Social Work at Smith College in Northampton, M.A. Born and raised in Portland, OR., she has has her B.A. in Human Studies from Marylhurst University and is a certified gerontologist.  Currently she is doing her second year internship at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. in the Inpatient Palliative Care and Geriatric Department.  She is the single mother of two fabulous young women and the auntie and great-auntie to many more.  Her goal after graduation is to return to Oregon  and host a gathering where her street is lined right down the middle with a long table where there is room for all to gather and enough food for all.






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Gero-Punk Press-Release: World Tour 2016

I thought you might like to know that the next leg of my 2016 Gero-Punk World Tour commences next week. Just to remind you: I kicked off the Tour with a play-date at the Treehouse Community in Easthampton, Massachusetts, then bombed on down to So. Cal. for the AGHE conference. Next stop? Missouri!

I’ve been invited to participate in the Women’s History Month activities at University of Central Missouri. My colleague and brilliant (Of course! Aren’t they all?) former student Jo Anne Long Walker is the Coordinator of the Social Gerontology Graduate Program and she cooked up the idea of having me come for a visit. I’ll be giving the keynote presentation and visiting a few gerontology courses. So, off I go, hosted by Jo Anne and Wendy Geiger, Chair of Sociology & Gerontology and Cross-Disciplinary Studies. I cannot wait!

My presentation takes place on Tuesday, March 15th, 4-5 p.m. The title is:

Grandmother Hands, Grandmother Feet: Embodying Women’s History

grandmother hands grandmother feet

I’ll be weaving together personal narratives from the Gero-Punk Project with provocative questions and theoretical insights to explore the exquisite particularities of women’s multi-generational, interconnected lived experiences traveling through the life-course. I intend to engage the audience in reflection and discussion about the ongoing dance in which we are all participating: the dance between personal agency and freedom, on the one hand, and the social structures and contexts that shape our lives, on the other, especially as we grow into deep adult womanhood.

As I’ve been designing the choreography for my presentation, especially the framing of the personal narratives I’ll be reading, I keep coming back to the fundamental question: Who is a woman? I’ve also been pondering the very idea that there is such a thing as “women’s history,” deconstructing the idea, asking lots of ultimately unanswerable questions, thinking together with others about it (thanks, friends!),  and rereading stuff I’ve used in my teaching in the past but am now viewing through a somewhat different lens.

Also – and this is wicked fun – I’ve been time-traveling, imaging how a “history” of the times in which we are now living might be read and narrated (certainly, one thing I know for sure is that there will be multiple, even contradictory readings and narrations). I mean, look, the extent to which in our lifetimes the normative gender binary has been disrupted by the complexity of embodied lived experience is stunning, isn’t it? I have people in my life who were born in a body sexed one way but their authentic selfhood demands that they gender themselves otherwise (I use the term “otherwise” intentionally as they have embraced their state as “other” and through this experience they have cultivated great wisdom). They are a them/they now, or a he rather than a she, or a she rather than a he, or they go by a potent new name they’ve given themselves or have been endowed with by another.

There are parallel questions we might (and I do!) ask about the social construction of age and aging. As I’ve pronounced before (and will, I am sure, countless times again), the proper response when hearing a statement about “the elderly” or “older adults” is to ask: Which older adults? Who, exactly, are being referred to?

We humans are so complex, so staggeringly creative that ultimately we can’t be contained within and constrained by convenient categories. One way or another, complexity always triumphs, though the fight is often (always?) messy, painful, even bloody.

History has weight; so does lived experience. Social structures are powerful; so is individual agency.

What will history have to say about they/he/she/we who are living in these times?

Perhaps an even better question is:

How do we want to intentionally embody the history we are creating as we live our precious human lives?

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