Gero-Punk Dispatch: I’m getting better with age

Oh, golly, but I am completely thrashed. I’m so tired! I have a ton to talk with you about, but because I’m so tired – exhausted, actually – and because I still have a bunch of official work to do this evening, I’ll be keeping this dispatch on the short side. I’m just writing to check in, to connect.


As you probably know because I blabbed it all over the place, last Friday was my daughter’s 18th birthday. We started celebrating at the beginning of her birthday week and continued to celebrate throughout the weekend after. When a colleague asked me yesterday how Isobel’s birthday celebration went, I said that it had been truly wonderful but that I was thrashed from partying too much. His response was that he wasn’t surprised I was exhausted because it is, after all, a fact that as we grow older it becomes harder on our bodies to over-indulge.

This pronouncement about the correlation between aging and reduced partying capacity confused me. I’ve never been able to pull all-nighters or party or over-indulge in any way without some sort of consequences. Not in any way. And when I say “never,” I actually mean Never. Ever.  Not even in my teens and early adulthood, a supposedly prime time in our travels through the life course for engaging in such shenanigans.  You don’t believe me? Here’s some evidence:

At high school summer band camp, I yelled out my dorm room window at kids whose fun was disrupting my ability to sleep (You can imagine how popular I was.). You need more evidence? Okay. The first time in college I tried to stay up all night with a boy I was crushing on in order to study for a biology final resulted in these consequences: I was queasy and seeing double by morning and I fell asleep during the exam (an exam which I barely passed.). Okay, one more example. When I was in my early twenties, newly married, and visiting France for the first time, I was afflicted with a crisis of the liver (as well as every other part of my body) because of eating too much cheese, pate, and croissants, as well as attempting to drink even a quarter of the amount of wine the French drink.

I can supply examples from every decade since, if you need them, but my point here is that the deficit in my biophysical reserve capacity when it comes to being resilient in the face of lack sleep and over-indulgence in food, drink and fun is not a function of my growing older. Rather, it seems to be a function of my basic constitution and it hasn’t changed much, if at all, as I’ve grown older.


On this month and day, February 19th, in the year 1966, my parents were married. My parents are no longer married, haven’t been for a long time now (not since I was in my 20s), and I haven’t seen my father in almost twenty years. Today as I was making chili for supper I found myself reflecting on my parents’ wedding day and attending to how I felt as I reflected. My dominant feeling was gratitude. Gratitude because I’m here. Gratitude because my brother Jeremy is here. Gratitude because Isobel is here. Gratitude because my teenage mother and my teenage father found one another all those decades ago despite coming from such different worlds.

Random, improbable, and so consequential.


This month and day, February 19th, is also the day my mother survived a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. Today is the eighth anniversary of that significant and life-changing crisis. Eight years ago was 2006, and in 2006, Isobel had just turned 10, I was in my 40th year of age, and my mom had just celebrated her 60th birthday. Izzy and I had recently adopted Happy-the-dog. I hadn’t written anything much in the previous ten years what with trying to hold things together as a single mother and professionally-insecure professor. I hadn’t been caring well enough for myself. And out of confusion and sadness and overwhelm, I had made a mess of stuff.

Until my mom’s brain exploded, I hadn’t known – or, perhaps, I hadn’t yet accepted into the front of my mind — that I was on the brink of my own monumental life crisis.


A lot has changed as I’ve traveled thus far through my life course, especially in the past eight years. What has changed as I’ve grown older is that I’ve relaxed quite a bit. What has changed as I’ve grown older is that I’m willing to suffer the consequences of over-indulging for a good cause, such as for my daughter’s 18th birthday. Or in order to celebrate completing a big project, as I did this past Monday after having worked for almost 15 hours straight without a break in order to make the finishing touches on a soon-to-be-published book I co-author. (My mid-life adult version of an “all-nighter”: Wake up at 2:30 a.m. from a weird dream and when unable to return to sleep, get up, make coffee, and dive into creative work.)

Now in the second half of my fifth decade, I’m also more than happy to suffer the consequences of over-indulging in honor of a major turning point or anniversary for one of my people – especially for my mommy — even if doing so leaves me feeling slightly queasy, seeing double, and falling asleep in class.

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 Dispatch: I’m getting better with age

  1. Kathie Kelly says:

    I so enjoyed your blog and can relate with it so well. I too, could never over indulge even as a teen. You’re so right, it’s not a question of aging.
    I’m still using my gerontology ed.
    Will soon become new board member for The Council on Aging in Petoskey michigan, my new place of residence .
    Keep up the good work!
    Kathie (Kate)

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