A Gero-Punk Manifesto, reduxed and revised


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.

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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7 Responses to A Gero-Punk Manifesto, reduxed and revised

  1. Erica says:

    Jenny thank you! I needed to read this manifesto again. And may I note: you are the person who taught me the “spilling over” that happens when we attempt to categorize this world and the beings within it is okay, is another thread to follow, another opportunity to ask questions and learn something. This opened up some wonderful new ways of knowing, and still does. xo

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