Gero-Punk Ponderings: What kind of ancestor do you want to become?

What kind of ancestor do you want to become?

To ponder such a question invites us to explore the realm of legacy, Gero-Punk style.




Legacy can transcend the bounds of time-place-space.

Legacy goes in all directions, is deeply, fundamentally relational, and encompasses much more than mere material resources.

By “all directions,” I mean that legacy is trans- and inter-generational and not exclusively about transmission of something important to younger generations from older generations. Legacy can be transmitted in the other direction, as well, and in all directions at once.

By “fundamentally relational,” I mean that the creation of legacy happens in the context of cultivated, on-going relationships (And between both the “living” and the “no-longer-living”; that is, a member of a legacy-creating relationship may no longer be alive but still very present and influential to others, such as the role my Gramma continues to play in my life).

Legacy is an expression of deep, consequential and reverberating connections between humans (and other creatures as well).

A larger-mind view of legacy is that it is about intentionally creating the causes and conditions necessary for a vital present and future life for not only our family members and friends and other closest-in people, but for all living creatures. As such, members of multiple generations traveling through the life course simultaneously join together to pass-around (rather than pass-down) resources. These resources certainly may be material in the traditional sense of legacy – money, property, possessions – but are, importantly and primarily, ethical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional.

Legacy may entail carrying on the traditions and practices of another person who is no longer living (or perhaps whom we never met in person but through the stories told about them), such as by adopting — embodying and enacting – their quintessential characteristics or commitments: a particular habit-of-speech, a jaunty hat they always wore, or their singular role in a larger system. In this way, the special person continues to exist but in a different form, and we are forever changed – and changing — because of our relationship with them.

Lastly, a larger trans-personal view of legacy encompasses non-human creatures, the planet, and our universe, as well as future humans whom we’ll not know because we will no longer be living, but for whom we care nonetheless (and who may someday in the future learn and care about us, their ancestors, as well.).


What kind of ancestor do you want to become?

Why not start practicing now?

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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6 Responses to Gero-Punk Ponderings: What kind of ancestor do you want to become?

  1. youmustbethechange2 says:

    Jenny – Thank you for this. Touched my heart and soul. I want my legacy to be, as you said . . .”an expression of deep, consequential and reverberating connections between humans (and other creatures as well).”

  2. Alexis Hamilton says:

    What an amazing question…ancestor to me always implies such a long reach into the past that it is hard for me to imagine even being an ancestor! Legacy seems a more manageable word for what I would like to leave behind. I also think of how very hard it is to really know all of the people that we touch without knowing it and that those ripples in the pond of our life are parts of our legacy that we will never be able to appreciate. i think of the legacy of Dr. Roger O. Doyle, who gave me my first professional musical gig here in Portland–the number of musicians he trained and shoved out into the world to carry on his legacy of kindness, process, good humor and excellence. I wonder if he knew the kind of love he instilled in his students and the young professionals he nurtured. There’s a legacy!

  3. helenfern says:

    Deep questions to ponder! I never considered that someday I will be someone’s ancestor. I want to be remembered as someone that cared about life. I want to share family traditions that will endure generations. I want to be the ancestor that was the example. And now, that being said,I’ve got a lot of work to do to get there!!

    Thank you for such thought provoking words. I’ve missed your posts.

  4. I’ve missed my posts, too. 😉 Haven’t had very much head-space since before March…but I feel space returning. Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comments! I miss ya, Helen!

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