Regenerate: Never too late

to create!

Re-GENERATE: (verb) – to restore to a better, higher or more worthy state.

       – to revive, to renew, restore.

Regeneration (noun) – about regenerating.

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Let’s design a new roadmap for Aging!

Focus on Legacy – We Can, We Must, We Will!

 

After the complaint that my generation had caused all the problems that this generation now has to cleanup, I own responsibility. We may not have caused all the problems but we have perpetuated them and allowed others to expand the causes.

Once again I asked myself what good is the bequest of goods, talents and all the other things we work to assure the security of our offspring and theirs, if the world has become a desolate, un-liveable  place?

Most of my mail is from environmental organizations, I donate where I can, I pick up plastic in the street, drive as little as possible (in L.A.!) and save my shower and vegetable cleaning water for the drought-ridden garden.  It never seems enough so when I saw that Al Gore was holding a Climate Reality Leadership Training in Los Angeles, I applied….and was accepted along with 2200 others. (climaterealityproject.org)

 

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Every one of the people I spoke to at the training was dedicated, and energetically determined to fight the causes of further climate change.  I was amazed that, even after 40 years of trying to get the point across, Mr. Gore maintains his passion. The speakers were articulate, informative and thought-provoking. Rather than being weighted down by an unending stream of bad news, there was much to give us hope and to fortify our courage. There are many solutions to the complex problems already on hand, what is needed is the will to employ the solutions.

I normally avoid crowd and discovered how powerful an experience it is to be with a crowd of that size who all want to create something good and worthwhile for ourselves and others…. Powerful  and effective!

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An example: We were in break-out groups when it was announced  that SB 100 had failed by 4 votes. A unison of groans filled the room. A following announcement gave the names of the state senators who had voted against it. Someone shouted out the phone numbers and the session halted while everyone whipped out their phones to call the senators to ask them to reconsider their votes and why SB 100 was good and backed by their constituents. An hour or so later e heard that SB 100 was reconsidered in the State Senate and had passed.

We individuals don’t often get an immediate sense of accomplishment in this arena but when we do it is a powerful motivator to persist. I decided that the main  focus for my remaining years would be to add my efforts to changing Climate Change, because it impacts every aspect of our lives and will continue to wreak havoc with our carefully planned individual lives and all our communities. (Since I first wrote this a major typhoon wreaked havoc in the Pacific and Asia, a hurricane and its attendant tornadoes destroyed lands in the US and unusually severe storms hit Scotland and Northern Ireland.)

I decided that my focus for my remaining years would be to add my efforts (widow’s mite though it is) to changing Climate Change, because it impacts every aspect of our lives and will continue  to wreak havoc with our carefully planned individual lives and all our communities. (Since I first wrote this a major typhoon wreaked havoc in the Pacific and Asia, a hurricane and its attendant tornadoes destroyed lands in the US and unusually severe storms hit Scotland and Northern Ireland.)

Unfortunately and maddeningly the Term Climate Change has become politicized, so I prefer to use Extreme Weather, (thanks to Dr William Calvin of the CO2Foundation.org and University of Washington). The training attendees now all have action plans and buddies and coaches to support us.

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Look at all the generations represented!

 

As I write future posts I promise to include good news for us all so that we are not pushed back into denial and/or depression (as I well know).

 

 

Envelope pushed

It’s the morning after BackStory and  my first experience of telling my own story to an audience in the theatre.

Fortunately there were some friends and my daughter in the audience, which was reassuring and the lights were so strong you could only see the first couple of rows. Someone in the left side of the audience had a wonderful chuckle, which fueled me. I soon forgot why I was nervous and, warmed by the connection to the people listening and watching, launched into the tale.

 

A couple of strangers came up to me afterwards and said how much they related to the story. The odds of them having alligators under their house or a head-on contact with a Texas mule, were fairly small, so I guessed it was being bullied by an authority figure. If hearing it helped them in any way I am glad.

Let me say that I realized I was the oldest on the stage by a good 10 or 15 years. And I was reminded about a recent back and forth I had about age with someone on Facebook. A video had been posted of an incumbent governor in the South dismissing a young woman who very respectfully asked if his stand had been influenced by donations from interested corporations. In the comments a young man, annoyed by the reactions of the governors supporters insulting the young woman, posted that old people should “get out of the way” and go and play golf.  I responded by suggesting that he not confuse ignorance with age and to  check out the number of gray heads at activist meetings. His reply was that we old people had created all the problems that his generation had inherited and now had to fix. I remembered hearing that about the Cold War and the Vietnam War from different generations (including my own). We all need to be in the process of making change, young and old.

So back to the stage last night, in the theme of a delicate balance, we heard stories about being a young bi-racial man and being forced to choose the race that the world perceived in you; we heard middle-aged questioning abut the meaning of this modern urban life; a young shy poet wrestled with relationships, trust and being a woman. Two other stories were about marriages ending – both fictional – one presenting the perspective of a young confused child, the other a spouse and what can be learned about self in that partnership. The paradox of growth and endings.

As always, Back Story, and other programs like it, encourage voices of many who might not realize they have stories – or that they are speaking on behalf of others silent and unknown-  all part of the human condition.

My own response to last night? I learned that even the most polished performers feel nervous beforehand and that the state of anxiety is different and separate from the actual performance – if we allow ourselves to trust the creative process. And I am grateful not to have performed in front of a hostile audience.

Pushing the Envelope – again

I”ve spent years encouraging people to write their stories (A current funded residency is called Our Stories are Yours)

Now the tables are being turned on me and I have been challenged to do new things and push out of my comfort zone.

Consequently I will soon be telling a story in front of an audience in a theater along with younger and professional actors and writers. (Not without a great deal of premature angst!)

 

 

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The theme is A Delicate Balance  (and there is a strict word limit). Here is a glimpse of my unusual childhood.

“Life is filled with  PARADOXES and these are some from my childhood:

I grew up on a sugar plantation on the banks of the Demerara River in Guiana. My father’s job was to mechanize sugar-production, from clearing the wilderness for planting to transporting the ripened cane to the factory to be turned into sugar and very potent rum.

Before him, most everything was done with manual labor and a few antiquated machines, so wild and beautiful nature was our very close neighbor. Brightly-colored birds sneaked in the windows to plunder unguarded fruit-bowls; Snakes, alligators lived in the nearby waterways and sometimes under the house and mosquitoes dive-bombed the netting under which we slept. In those early days, Dad’s “company car” was Tulip, a big Texas mule.

I was a curious child, to my parents’ chagrin, and often gave Nanny the slip to go exploring. To treat the inevitable scrapes and stings, I looked for Seamba, our gardener, for his magical potion from made from greens and spit, which worked – even for scorching bites of angy marabuntahs. He taught me about the creatures and the plants we lived with and I moved wide-eyed through this vibrant world, surveying trees before climbing and the inside of flowers to see who lived there. I learned to see the patterns in our natural surroundings and loved how everything was connected. It all made perfect sense.

What was confusing were the different stories that adults told about the forces in the world. Each adult was convinced that their particular explanation was “The Only Way”. Some would warn me to avoid certain places because of the jumbies, or ghosts of the long-dead Dutch settlers. Others invoked many-armed gods and goddesses festooned with human skulls for protection.

However, the nuns at my infant-school in town taught us (reinforced with canings) that there is only one, a stern father-god with 3 different names. Even so, we all prayed to a statue of a woman, a mother, and the nuns were called “mother,” even though none had children.

Puzzled by the contradictions in the many “One Right Ways,” I often turned to my parents – who weren’t much help. My father said that obeah and jumbies don’t work unless you believe them. He would have to call the occasional work meeting, after an epidemic of spells were laid on big tractors and sometimes, on his desk. He explained to his hundred employees that the spells were a waste of their money because they didn’t affect him or the machines.

My mother, mildly interested in the different stories, preferred to read about Sikkhism, Baha’I and Buddhism, unlike the other mothers whose taste ran to romances. My parents told me that one day I’d find the right story for me. They didn’t go to church either, although we technically belonged to the high Church of England. I liked going with Mena, our cook, to her country church because of the enthusiastic singing and sometimes people spoke “in tongues” and fell to the ground.

Meanwhile, as politeness was the closest thing to religion in our house, I must listen to each belief respectfully and never take advantage of my white privilege (which they also explained in detail). Although I was encouraged to ask questions at home, I learned it was a terrible idea to bring these conflicting stories to the nuns at school.  In time I discovered that agreeing with whichever adult was declaiming the “Truth” seemed to settle my confusion and worked well —until I was about 8.

That year, Guiana was chosen for a visit by Our Lady of Fatima, a very important Catholic icon. The whole religious community was aflame with excitement and festivities were planned all over Georgetown, the capital. The nuns were in a dither and couldn’t stop talking about arrangements. Our Lady was being flown into the airport inland from Georgetown and would travel the road alongside our compound.

Her arrival-day dawned, excitement was in the air. I felt both curiosity and anticipation at seeing the procession up close from our compound-gate. Hundreds of cars containing the faithful, horns honking, music blaring, escorted her from the airport along the dusty, potholed road. Crowds of the curious and the reverent lined the road, dressed in their best and sweating in the tropical sun. They cheered when news came that the motorcade had crossed the old draw-bridge by the factory which regularly caused jams because it had to be opened and closed by hand-crank.

In the compound, the mule-boys hurriedly tethered the huge animals by the gate and excitedly ran to see the uproar. I ran behind them, searching for the best viewing place. I heard the hooves, rather than saw the mule, felt its impact and everything went black. Texas mules are built like cart-horses and this spooked animal trampled me face-first in the gravel. My limp, unconscious body was covered with a mixture of red dust and blood. People ran for my parents.

Several hundred yards down the one-laned road, my father was demonstrating to his drivers how to get the new bulldozer and its mighty blade out of a much narrower factory-gate. However, the halted motorcade now blocked the road. Dad, used to the Guyanese laissez-faire, settled in the driver’s seat to watch the noisy spectacle.

Not for long!

People ran to him screaming and wailing that I was dead. “The mule done mash she! She na breathin’!”“No, she gaspin’!”   She bleedin’ bad!  He realized that there’d been an accident and even though he knew the people’s heightened sense of drama, he must hurry to see what had really happened. But he couldn’t leave the huge machine where it was.

He dashed to the cars blocking his exit, urgently explained to the drivers that his daughter had a serious accident and would they please move their cars so he could get through. The drivers, apparently imbued with a great sense of importance from Our Lady, and truthfully, probably tired and impatient at the many hold-ups, refused. Normally easy-going, my father yelled that he would give them 3 seconds and then “shift the bloody lot of you!” Later, he loved to describe how he jumped back on the machine and arms high, bellowed “three -two –one”, dropped the massive blade, revved the engine and roared forward. Screaming drivers and panicked bystanders scrambled to escape his fury!

When I became conscious later, Dad assured me that he would be taking me to hospital soon. He was worried that I would be scarred forever by the infectious dust caking my wounds, so Mum called SeaAmba in to apply his magic herbs.  I faded peacefully away, knowing everything was going to be OK.

Weeks later, with broken ribs mended, and thrilled by my heroic father’s rescue, I returned to school. I felt excited and pleased to be back, but I soon discovered how the nuns felt. I was marched wordlessly to the most feared nun of all, Mother de Sales. She informed me that my father had dared to interrupt the Procession of Our Lady of Fatima. It was doubly insulting because he wasn’t a Catholic nor a churchgoer.  She then pronounced that his soul would burn in everlasting Hell-Fires. Only I, with the nuns’ guidance, could save him. I was terrified!

I knew what Hell-Fires were like because every harvest, the cane-fields were set alight and I couldn’t help watching, mesmerized by a sea of flames from horizon to horizon and horrified by the agonized shrieks of creatures caught in the fire. I couldn’t wait for the fires to end.

Now, I had to prevent that from happening to Dad – but how? I was only eight.

Mother de Sales explained how: I must say special prayers for him, very often. I had to bring money to her for particular miraculous medals. These were to be hidden on and around him, BUT – I could never tell my parents or it wouldn’t work.

I secretively followed her instructions over the weeks with mounting anxiety. Had I prayed enough? Was it the right prayer at the right time? Did I put enough medals in his shoes, his pockets, his wallet? Should I have hidden more medals in his office? I was frantic. I stole money to buy more medals and lied when asked if I had planted them.Then a delicate balance of trying to appear normal while tortured internally by panic and fear, disintegrated.

.I began to faint often- on the way to school,- when the school-bus was late, -if I hadn’t finished my homework. Finally my parents discovered the cause of my distress. They announced that I was going to have an extra-long summer vacation starting immediately. Daddy emphasized that, not only did obeah not work on him, but he wasn’t going to Hell.

The first vacation day, feeling lonely, I watched the school-bus leave without me, but soon learned that the other kids were envious. Reminded that Dad’s power could protect us from Mother de Sales’ curse and create a vacation in the middle of school, helped bring balance to the internal see-sawing that had haunted me night and day.

After that, I contentedly waved the school-bus goodbye and went off for the day’s adventure.”

 

Grief now and then

We are all deeply affected by the inhuman separation of children from parents at the US border.

In solidarity with those parents and to give them voice where they may not have been able to speak, I want to share my own experience. The circumstances were different for me and my two children, but we all have similar feelings of loss regardless of culture, language, or who takes our children. This happened long ago but that separation has marked all our lives.

Namaste!

“The door creaked open onto the darkened bedroom as the two little sisters huddled together in the doorway. One of them toddled towards the sleeping figure “Mama, I had a bad dream!”

I roll over and stretch out my arms to enfold her shivering little body and to draw her and her sister into my warm bed. My arms closed on – nothing – and I awoke with a start.  As I groggily look around the room, at the closed door, my brain desperately sorts out dream from reality. With reality comes despair; despair that colors every day a bad dream. To the lonely sound of the fog horn out in the Bay, I prepare to get up and endure another day without them.

Each day stretches out into a grey landscape that I numbly navigate; I move through my life like a ghost, staring out at a world I no longer recognize – solid cement steps seethe like ants nests, the ground in the park heaves with the sobs passing through that possess more power than my small body can contain. Only the sound of children’s voices piece the blanket that grief has thrown over me as it guides me towards the edge. Each day feeling a little more dissolved, I wish that I could finish it and go completely mad.

Other days I walk and walk, trying to exhaust myself so I can sleep dreamlessly and forget for a short time, but every where I go the city is inscribed with the stories of our lives.  The place where we held a 3rd birthday party just a few weeks before they disappeared,  the merry-go-round that they loved to ride, screaming and laughing with joy, everything has changed.

Now the music that had invited us for rides, curls around me and pulls me to the edge, but I cannot make myself go over, cannot tumble down into oblivion, even though my whole being yearns for it. There is no escape! Instead some hard, unyielding rock at my core forces me to go on, placing one foot in front of the other, feeling the wind blowing through the emptiness that had been my heart, as surely as the breeze moves the hair around my face.

Sometimes I hear a child’s voice calling “Mo-hom” and certain that it is C, I turn in reply– to nothing; I feel S lean against me and begin to slide my arm around – nothing.         A bad, unending dream!

Before, I used to play a little head-game as a sort of insurance against or preparation for the trials that life can bring. I would ask myself, what would be the worst thing that could possibly happen. Always the answer “to lose my children!”

And now the worst has happened.”

 

Thank you for reading

 

I wish I knew who had written the following:

“Do not be Daunted

By the enormity

Of the World’s grief.

Do justly–Now!

Love Mercy –Now!

Walk Humbly–Now!

You are not obligated

To complete the work,

But neither are you

Free to abandon it!”

 

 

 

 

A Proper Mother (Parents – For Better or Worse)

Thanks to Ageless Authors <www.agelessauthors.com> here’s my story in Parents, For Better or For Worse!

 

A Proper Mother

She sits, as erect as a ballerina, in a small boat rocking on a dark brown channel between fields of high growing sugar-cane. Cradling a .22 light rifle, my mother surveys the waters for the alligator who attacked the women working neck-deep clearing the water of fast growing weeds. My father, a retired professional soldier, would chuckle as he told how she cleaned up the ones his bullets missed. It is no mean feat to shoot an alligator in its eye from a rocking boat. Miss and the bullets may ricochet off its hide and enrage the beast.

My mother was an interesting woman, adventurous, fun, gregarious, adaptable, strong willed and English! English in the proper kind of way where loud emotions have no place in your lexicon. I have never heard her admit to being angry – irritated perhaps, disappointed, but never angry, she was too refined for such a gross emotion.

How did this privileged young woman brought up with nannies and servants and birthday cruises in the Mediterranean and training as a ballet dancer come to be in the South American tropics, thousands of miles away from her family?

Love! — and war!

The European war changed everything. The large city where her family lived had thousands of tons of bombs dropped on it and survival became paramount as she watched neighborhoods and workplaces levelled repeatedly and friends and neighbors disappearing without a trace. She was never confident that her home would still be there when she returned from work each day.

On a fateful blacked-out train ride during the war she met a young soldier, looking splendid, she later described, in his red and navy dress uniform. They spoke in person and later by letter, and fell in love.

7 weeks later they met and married, despite the fact she was engaged to someone else. This was not so unusual in wartime, I hear.

In the bleak aftermath of the war, my father took a job in a remote backwater in the West Indies and my mother went to live, for the first time, with her husband and their three year old daughter on a sugar plantation.

The British are famous for being stoic and this trait was steeled by the privations of arial warfare, and scarcity that continued long after peace was declared. My mother’s stoicism was essential when she found herself living in a strange, wild land with enormous insects, snakes, poisonous spitting frogs inhabiting the garden and in nearby rivers, alligators and piranha. The nightly drone of clouds of mosquitoes lulled us to sleep under the mosquito netting. The social mores and customs of traditional plantation life bewildered my mother and marked her as different, as much in her own mind as those of the planters.

Instead of theatre and galleries and grand hotels to which she was used, there was one radio station and, after a 45 minute drive, three cinemas. There was one dentist and an alcoholic doctor who was rarely sober enough to provide the family health care.

All of these she seemed to adapt to without much complaint and came to love the country and the Guyanese people.

She couldn’t bear the inactivity of the expected privileged life of wives living on a whites-only compound on a sugar plantation — nor their gossip — so she busied herself breathing life into the local chapter of the Blind Society. Her mission became locating adults and children who were blind and getting them to medical care.

This took her into little country villages to confront horrible and untreated accidents and impoverished living conditions. She didn’t seem to care that she was not supposed to be there. Like a blood-hound, she just followed up on reports of a child blinded by a pencil stuck in his eye or an old man living in a pit with cardboard for a roof.

Oh, and she couldn’t drive, so my dad assigned her a driver who also acted as a scout. In spite of the tradition that it was dangerous for women and girls to leave the compound unescorted, she and driver, Khan, set off several days a week in search of those who needed help. This prompted regular stream of grateful relatives lining up at our door on Sundays to thank her in person.

She believed very strongly that with privilege comes responsibility and lived her life that way. For all of these wonderful traits, which taught me to work to make life better for others, there were also times when my mother was possessed by the Ice Queen.  I dreaded them!

The Ice Queen frosted all around her and she only communicated in the quietest, tersest, most formal way. When my mother was “upset” with you, you were consigned to what my father humorously referred to as “The Dog House”. This could last for days or longer and was torture for me as, like my father, I tended to blow up when angry and then move on to a better state of mind. I remember as a teenager out of deep frustration after a week or so in the realms of the Ice Queen, holding my mother’s shoulders so she had to face me and imploring “Talk to me! For God’s sake, Talk to me!” -with little effect.

There is a saying in the field of aging that you become more of who you are. This is reinforced by maxims that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks (which has been disproved countless times). However, it is very different to learn a new skill than struggling to unravel and rework a lifetime habit of coping behavior.

Many years later, my mother, now widowed and crippled with arthritis, lived in a small town in England. My inherited sense of adventure had taken me to live in California. I managed thrice-yearly visits to her, each of about a week’s duration. On one of these visits, I knew I had upset her and, with sinking feelings, resigned myself to spending the last precious days of my visit with the Ice Queen.

Mother was in her mid-eighties by then and I had no hope of anything changing. So I prepared myself for a frigid remainder of my visit. As I watched her carefully (as only children are wont to do) I saw her struggling with her habitual response, realizing that we only had a short time left together. I had no bets on who would triumph – I knew of old that the Ice Queen would reign.  To my amazement the frost visibly melted, she put whatever was bothering her on one side and in a couple of hours we were off to having fun together.

I have never forgotten that event and as I move further into my own aging I am convinced that I can continue to grow and change – that I can wrestle with my own ways of coping that don’t work anymore and can learn new ways. What a wonderful lesson.

A Portrait of Mother by Maureen Kellen-Taylor

 

ageless authors

A couple of months ago my daughter sent me information on a writing competition for people over the age of 65. An organization called Ageless Authors (www.agelessauthors.com) who describe themselves as a collaborative “effort to recognize your vitality, your strength and your craft. It is designed to highlight the work of writers and artists 65 years of age and older. Ageless Authors is the brainchild of two highly experienced writer/editors – Ginnie Bivona and Larry Upshaw — who have launched a crusade on behalf of senior creativity”.

Of course I love anything that recognizes the talents and creativity that continue throughout our aging. This organization is staffed by devoted volunteers who love writing and want to encourage as many people to write as they can.

Coincidentally, a past client who is in his nineties and writes daily (and also who wrote the most beautifully passionate poem about love and loss that I have read for many years) recently asked me to read some of his writing and give feedback.

I have also recently been involved in a project called Dor Vador, an intergenerational storytelling project with USCDavis School of Gerontology and Professor George Shannon. The objective was to strengthen cultural identity. In Dor Vador we filmed older adults telling stories about when they felt most connected to their Jewish culture, then showed the stories to k-7 graders in Jewish schools and asked the children to illustrate the stories they watched. Finally storytellers and students met and discussed the stories and drawings and asked each other questions. It was exciting and satisfying each time it happened.

Consequently, when I heard about Ageless Authors and how they hold writing competitions then publish the stories of the winners, I was very enthusiastic. My daughter – being very persuasive – talked me into submitting a story – I chose the category Parents, For Better or Worse, wrote about my mother and for the first time sent in a story to the competition.

Now everyone has stories about their mothers (and there are a few urban legends floating around our family about me!) so I will share mine in a different post.

If you are interested look up the organization and start practicing your writing to submit for the next competition http://www.agelessauthors.com.

By the way I fund out today that I was awarded 3rd place  – amazing for a first-timer.

And I feel like its my birthday (My birthday really is Fireworks night!)

 

 

 

 

 

Birthdays

What do you think about birthdays?

Numbers have such an important influence on our lives. And sometimes have no bearing other than to reinforce expectations – and unfounded ones at that.

We ask little children how old they are – perhaps because we don’t know how else to start a conversation. They soon learn to answer proudly “I am four!” But what does “four” tell us about that child and how he or she is being shaped by their experience? Have they had opportunities to learn to swim or climb or look closely at insects or run very fast over a field or learn alphabet, counting or any of a myriad things?

Every so often, I think about the number of years I have lived, because I am at an age when people say “Are you still working?” Whatever they mean by that! (“Are you too poor to stop?” or ”Aren’t you getting tired of the job?” maybe “Aren’t you too old?” or even “Lucky you! I wish I were”)

This week two women friends quietly confided they were approaching birthdays that end in zeros.

I note that those are the ones that give you pause because the number preceding the zero is about to get bigger than it has been ever before.

Lithe and fresh-faced, with a habitual look of mischief, my  first friend announced that she was going to publicly stay in the 9 year preceding her birthday. Then she strapped on her bike helmet and pedaled off on the several miles’ ride home. She lives fully. Health is important to her, but not only her own. She has made her home as environmentally sustainable as possible; she just finished working on building a Habitat for Humanity home project; and her job involves her in research for sorely needed treatment for a fearful disease. Why should it matter how old she is?

The other woman (with a different birthday) is a mover and shaker who has steadily expanded a well-known non-profit to serve increasing numbers of people in innovative and needed ways. She is also writing a book on her area of expertise. Sweet-faced with kind-eyes, she looks like someone you want to have a good long conversation with. And many people do! She confided with a wry smile that her sister told her that they are old ladies and she should start behaving like one.

I remembered a time when visiting family in England and being told that I scandalized the locals because they learned I was in graduate school and had 2 children. I was in my mid-thirties, but by their standards I was too old to be a student. I remember how grateful I was for living in California where I would not have that prevalent attitude wearing me down.

I am also fortunate to work in the field of aging where I meet people who I know are in their 70, 80 and 90’s who sparkle, who are passionate about something, sing at bus-stops and who don’t buy in to the toxic message that tells us to act our age.

When my daughter was in the 2nd grade, her tap-dancing class was scheduled to perform on the hospital geriatric ward where I worked then. I asked her teacher if I should prepare the kids for the audience with whom they would be mixing after the performance.  I learned that my daughter had already oriented her class and I was curious to know what she told them about the geriatric patients.

“Just look past their wrinkles and you will see nice people with really cool stories!”

Great advice for us all, for meeting someone new, for collaborating in a professional arena – and for looking in the mirror each morning.

A few researchers have interesting things to say about the mindset of “acting your age.” In several studies Ellen Langer, Ph.D. put older assisted-living residents in environments that replicated those of their youth. When they weren’t reminded by their surroundings that they were old, their physical and emotional behaviors changed to more youthful ones (including a formerly wheelchair bound man walking with a cane).

Although the results of her studies were often discounted, one of her colleagues, Jeffrey Rediger, M.D. Medical and Clinical Director at Harvard’s McLean Hospital said of Ellen Langer “She’s one of the people that really gets it”….”That health and illness are much more rooted in our minds and our hearts and how we experience ourselves in the world than our models even begin to understand”. (1)

It is tough to hold onto our strengths and vitality in the face of the prejudices of a society suffering from Decline Fatalism (the assumption that we are doomed to decline when we reach a certain age). The age at which decline is supposed to start differs from culture to culture (note earlier reference to suburban British attitudes).

Dr Gene Cohen demonstrated that participants in their eighties who worked consistently in programs with artists made improvements in various areas and did not decline as their peers in control groups did. (Creativity and Aging)

Experiencing ourselves as being passionately interested individuals involved in a number of interests or exciting work can get us through any number of those birthdays ending in zero in fine style.

Hooray for the French who may have coined the phrase “being of an uncertain age”. If we act and think like 30 or 40 year olds combined with the experience of 60 or 70 year olds, of course other people will be uncertain of our age.

And in the doing of it all, we will be age-uncertain, too.


Just saw a FB post from an artist whose work I hope to show next post – absolutely showing us examples…

  1. Grierson, Bruce “In What if Age is Nothing but a Mindset?” http://nyti.ms/1taWx2s  NY Times 2014
  2. “..those involved in the weekly participatory art programs,at the one and two year follow-up assessments, reported: (A) better health, fewer doctor visits, and less medication usage; (B) more positive responses on the mental health measures; (C) more involvement in overall activities.” Gene Cohen, M.D. The Creativity and Aging Study. <www.creativeaging.org/publications-research/research/creativity…>