Gero-Punk Adventures: Field Notes from Gero-Cafe

An essay by Guest Gero-punk

Jennifer Ortiz


I was 70. They were 20. I was 30. They were 10. We weren’t any particular age at Jackson Café.

Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, shoes, sandals. Feet.

It wasn’t that I decided to become a chameleon in the midst of my generation’s elders. Nor did I intend to act as if there were no differences in our stations in life or condition of our bodies. But we were eating together in a place just happened upon. A table placard said it was a senior center and a teaching kitchen for young culinary students. I ordered the day’s special: salmon with chutney, rice and salad. “Oh, and just so you know, the Coke is bottomless. Just let me know when you needed refilling,” she smiled.

Hunger, thirst. Drink, live.

The room was flooded with florescent lights and open spaces – function over style. My three traveling companions were glad to relax. We gazed at the walls of countless bulletin boards tacked with activity schedules and community events. I people watched: the group of women in matching pastel sun hats; the man in the wheelchair with an unseasonably warm plaid jacket sitting alone. He laughed with the food server.

And then she walked in. An accordion was strapped over her crisp white blouse. She wore a red felt beret. The man in the wheelchair clapped his hands.

Rhythm, swaying. Memory songs.

Voice tones and clinking tableware streamed into familiar melodies. We moved like the ocean; lulled away into a singularly liminal streak of light. White hair, brown hair, green veins, folds, creases and scars formed the scene. We breathed in and out with the accordion’s bellows and keys. Collective energy can be intoxicating. I sat there, buzzed.

Dancing, humming. Breathing, dying.


Jennifer M. Ortiz is a social observer and Progressive Era historian. She holds a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from Marylhurst University, and has worked as a writer for the past several years in the non-profit sector. Jennifer and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, with their three sons.




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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