I am a gero-punk (and a practitioner of Gerontological Anarchy).
This is my manifesto.
What is a “gero-punk,” you ask?
Well, far be it from me to claim to have a definitive answer, but I will say this: to be a punk of any sort is to live experimentally, to live in love with emergence, with the unexpected, the chaotic, the improvisatory, to live with your arms wide open to complexity, guided by your own star, fueled by a good measure of playfulness and well-intentioned rebellion.
To be a gero-punk is to bravely and critically reflect upon, interrogate, and create new ways of thinking about and experiencing the aging journey.
A gero-punk sees through and resists normative aging ideology, and challenges others to do so as well, or at least to understand the implications of normative aging ideology before living by its rules.
Gero-punks resist “simple states of consciousness” about aging and later life. We choose, instead, to dwell in the messiness, the undeniable complexity, of deep human development and aging.
To be a gero-punk is to explore the art of time-travel, to learn how to be grounded simultaneously in the present while respecting (and learning from) the past and dreaming the future.
To be a gero-punk is to engage in ongoing embodied praxis – experiential, contemplative, and creative practices. We promise sometimes to stop moving, to stand still and just breathe….and ask: where does age and aging reside? What is it, this thing we call age?
We behold the mystery: we are a particular age, all ages, and no age at the same time.
To be a gero-punk is to possess the audacious belief that we are, each and every one of us, legitimate makers of meaning, and so too are all other creatures. Our own precious lives provide the grounds from which understandings emerge.
What this also means is that we acknowledge what we can’t possibly know prior to lived experience.
I may have been a gerontologist for more than half my life, but I’m yet to be an old gerontologist. I have no expertise on old age, so I best rely on the old experts themselves. But what I can do as a gero-punk is to try on different ways of moving through the world so as to develop empathy and imagination about old age – and other — experiences I’ve yet to (or may never) encounter.
As gero-punks, we place our attention and awareness upon odd, unexpected, flummoxing, and contradictory aging experiences; we accept our own experiences and those of others as sacred and real, if yet (or perhaps always) unexplainable. We celebrate the way life always finds a way to spill over the edges of our attempts to simplify, categorize, and contain its wildness.
As gero-punks, we are willing to let ourselves and others experience and express “outlaw emotions”: disillusionment and despair and resentment and fear – fear of our own and others’ aging, fear of our own and others’ ends.
As gero-punks we are committed to taking Gerontological anarchy to the streets, to pursuing brave and bold conversations, and meaningful, transformative learning with persons experiencing all ages and phases of the life course.
And- as gero-punks- we engage in the seemingly contradictory practice of asking questions about the meanings of all of this, of this wild and fantastic and unfolding aging journey, without immediately engaging in analysis and jumping to solving problems.
Rather, we rejoice in the spilling-forth of yet more questions.
We let the questions carry us away.
Our research is living. Our data is life.