Something Got Ahold of Me and I Started to Create a Musical Revue on Aging
by Guest Gero-Punk
In 2009, which now seems almost like another lifetime ago, I decided to write a musical revue on aging. The fact that I had never created a musical revue did not dampen my enthusiasm in any way– and to that I say this: sometimes it’s better not to know what you’re getting into or you may never begin.
What spurred me to urge my horse into this new territory? It was simply this. I find our society’s largely unconscious, unchallenged ageism and gerontophobia completely unacceptable. I am unwilling to accept the toxic, unreal stereotypes about aging and older adults that pervade media, healthcare, the workplace and community. I felt I had to do something in self defense!
So I made a list of the topics and issues I wanted to cover and set to work writing songs. The first song I wrote was Passing for Young, which investigates our society’s obsession with acting and appearing young, rather than embracing aging as a natural stage of life. Then I wrote another song titled Baba Yaga’s Raga. Baba Yaga is a rather fierce, magical hag from the tradition of Slavic folklore. She is unconfined by convention, ageless and because she is an archetype, she’s bigger than life. As it turned out, Baba Yaga became the mythsinger for A New Wrinkle. She puts the trials and tribulations ordinary humans in perspective—and she has no qualms about sharing her unique way of looking at the human predicament.
I was surprised about the way that songs began to pour out of me. In fact, it often seemed that there were several of them standing around waiting for me to pay attention to them. When you are a creative type, this is not a bad thing, not at all. The songs poured out.
I wrote Sex after Sixty because I find the stereotype that older adults are sexless rather annoying. Sex after Sixty is a hymn to intimacy, no matter what your age. It has a marvelous, lilting calypso feel, thanks to composer Laura Rich, who has created the entire musical score for the revue.
According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Once you make a decision, the Universe conspires to make it happen.” That certainly is true of the way that dear Laura Rich appeared in my life with her considerable musical expertise and her enthusiasm for the pro-aging messages of A New Wrinkle. Thanks to our collaboration over the past 4 years, we now have 20 marvelous songs about various aspects of growing older, with the emphasis on growing. I love all of the songs. It’s like having 20 very different, marvelous children.
The bluegrass song Are You Gonna Take it with You to the Grave? takes a humorous look at long-held grudges and the value of forgiveness. In a song titled Retirement and Refirement the singers explore what to do with this part of life—move to Belize, join the Peace Corps, take to the road in an RV?
Hip Hop Elder’s Rant is a real protest song. In it, Hip Hop rants against marginalization, stigmatizing and other forms of dismissing elders. He is “a righteous sage with a bit of an edge.”
The Silver Tsunami spotlights the global aging phenomenon and how being part of such a huge demographic could make it easy for elders to be a potent force for change. Very politically apt and it is also a very funny song.
I Can’t Remember Shit is a song about Alzheimer’s. I wondered whether I could do a good job on writing a song about Alzheimer’s. I think I did. It’s bittersweet, heartbreaking, and that is appropriate.
Death is Right around the Corner is actually five songs in one. It’s poignant, hilarious and thought-provoking, with Death himself giving some insights on how he thinks about his job.
I wrote Scintillating Secrets of the Older Brain to counter the popular obsession with “senior moments.” The song investigates the exciting integrative capabilities of the older brain. Why focus on stereotypes about what doesn’t work, when there are wonderful things that do work?
Now, we are very close to finishing the songs, dramatic sketches and monologs that make up A New Wrinkle. We’ll be moving into the next stage: fundraising, promotion and production. Where and how will that happen? Unless you can read the future, you are as much in the dark about the details as we are. But happen it will.
When I started to create A New Wrinkle, my vision was to entertain, educate and ignite social change. That’s still my vision. I hope that the revue will be produced widely, along with conversation circles, workshops and other activities designed to shift cultural stereotypes about aging and older adults, while encouraging older adults to live into their full potential.
At our website, http://www.sagesplay.com you can read lyrics for many of the songs and hear mp3s of four of them. Of course, we love fans, supporters and people who just can’t wait to see A New Wrinkle on stage in their area. If you qualify for any of those descriptions, please keep in touch with what we are doing. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter at the website home page. That is the best way to receive updates.
It feels good to be part of a growing social movement to transform noxious, stuck attitudes about aging. Here’s hoping that in the midst of the silver tsunami we can catalyze positive shifts in the way people think about growing old and the way older people are met in society.
Gaea Yudron is director of Sage’s Play, whose programs support creative, conscious aging. Gaea spent 12 years at Medifecta Healthcare Training developing educational materials designed to train caregivers of elders. During that time, Gaea was inspired to create programs that illuminate the growth opportunities possible in the later years. Gaea’s most recent book is Songs of the Inner Life. A memoir that explores the confluence of inner and outer experience, the book is also an example of life review. Gaea lives in Ashland, Oregon and you can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org