Gero-punk Lexicon: “Intentional Aging”

So, if intentional aging is anything, it is the commitment to and enactment of certain strong principles life-wide and with as much gero-punk passion as one can muster on any given day.  Okay, that’s cool, you say. But exactly what, you ask, are these so-called “strong principles” that live at the heart of my conceptualization of intentional aging? Thank you for asking and for reminding me to be as  precise as I can even if my ideas are always provisional and emerging.

Here they are, the so-called “strong principles” (And please let me know what you think, what you’d like to add, what you don’t agree with, what does or doesn’t make sense) :

Aging is a lived experience, a life-long journey that we are all embarked upon, though we are at different stages in the process depending on our chronological age and life-course stage.

We travel through the life-course together and we have much to learn by embarking on this journey together; we can develop deeper understanding by intentionally creating opportunities to interact and know each other, to discover our shared interests as well as all the ways we are unique creatures. More specifically, we can think together about difficult issues, we can solve problems and create new ways of thinking and being in the world in order to make life better for all creatures. We are experts on our own lives, and we are teachers for each other. And coming to deeply know each other, being present before each other, thinking together, is about telling each other our stories, as well as creating new stories together. This can become a form of shared legacy-creation.

(Nested glossary moment: Legacy is not only about planning for the future, but it is an activity that happens in the here-and-now, in the context of our present relationships with each other, it happens in all directions and amongst people of all capacities, not only from elders to youngers, but it goes in the other direction, too, and between age-peers, as well, and not only from the well-resourced to the less-resourced.  Creating legacy is about planning for the future, certainly, but it is also about how we care for each other now, how we are present to each other and share our greatest resources, ourselves, most especially our loving attention, with the wisdom that what we do now for each other shapes how the future looks for all creatures on the planet.)

So, the provisional punch-line is:

Intentional aging is a radical concept that has at its core the notion that there are always opportunities for deep development and new ways of thinking and being throughout the human life-course. By “intentional”, I mean to convey that as individuals and communities we can create together ways of thinking about and experiencing the challenges and opportunities of adult development and aging. Wherever we are in our travels through the life course, whatever our lives look like at any given time, we can choose to be present as fully as possible to our experiences.

For me, the promise of intentional aging is that is offers a pathway for deep and meaningful learning, development and growth throughout the life-course. Together we can explore the frontiers of human experience with curiosity and hope, we can transform meanings of aging and old age, and we can make a profound difference in one another’s lives.




About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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1 Response to Gero-punk Lexicon: “Intentional Aging”

  1. Erica says:

    “we are experts at our own lives”–that’s a radical notion, isn’t it? I mean, every other voice out there wants me to believe that they are the expert of my life, and I need their messages/products/services to be able to adequately manage my life. I love the idea that I know myself best, that I can not only be trusted to conduct my own life, but that I might also have knowledge to share with others. Hooray!

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