Inaugural Conference 2011
Photos by: Nader Shabahangi, Denise Bondy, Marilyn Harryman
AgeSong Institute, in collaboration with leading Bay Area universities and organizations, organized a four-day get-together for people interested in exploring the beauty and depth of life at any stage and age. The conference mission is to counter the mainstream understanding of aging as decline and/or disease with a more expansive, humanistic, and creative vision and approach (see article).
"We talk about the prime of life. What is that? When is that?... We continue to mature and develop, especially emotionally and spiritually, until we die. Imagine if we could not wait to get old, like a child can't wait to be an adult? Imagine if we looked at each day as another opportunity to deepen, mature, grow, develop, become an elder? How stunningly shortsighted, then, to view aging as decline! Aging allows us to keep writing the poem we call our life."
"The decline of the body in aging often brings depression and grief over loss of function, expression, and sense of self. Leading a structured movement group for the elderly that uses rhythm, imagination, simple movements and props can aid dialogue, interaction, support, expression of feelings, and dealing with existential issues of mortality, control, aloneness and meaning."
"How do we learn to listen to our inner elder? By properly learning to cope with stress effectively, then we have access to our inner elder, our inner wisdom, our knowing on how to meet our partner's needs, as well as our own needs."
"Try it, you might like it. Throughout our whole lives we should be experimenting with ways to increase our happiness and satisfaction."
"Life is a story with many chapters, the most exciting segments usually come toward the end of the book. Our challenge is to make every moment count and live life to the full."
"Our society has a set of blinders on that negates our individual and collective ability to see the deeper meaning of what is called dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and the deeper meaning behind the aging process. We urgently need to expand the horizons of what forgetfulness can mean beyond loss, to challenge our normative conceptions of forgetfulness, dementia, memory, personhood, aging, and time."
"The traditiional view of aging thinks of it in terms of work: measured by whether work is present or absent. I prefer instead to think of Aging in terms of music: life has four Ages, Stages, or movements, just as a symphony does. So, of course, Aging as music, Aging as poetics, is long overdue for discussion."
"Poetics of Aging offers the opportunity to look at aging through creative works (in my case, scenes from Shakespeare, Didion, and Beckett) and also on its own terms, as a creative force to be reckoned with."
"Life begins breathing in outside air. As I grow older, the outer world of appearance, prestige and perfection, all influences from outside sources, lessen; the inner world of imagination, gratitude and tolerance strengthen and keep me seeking wisdom and more breath."
Presents SONG OF THE MAGPIE, a deeply moving play about a 69-year-old woman who goes out to experience the world as a homeless person. The play portrays the dangers, hardships and unexpected humanity found in the streets of San Francisco's Tenderloin district.
"Live each day as if it were your last. Do your best by your work, your family, your friends. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?"
...Well, you can sign up for cryogenics
Where they’ll freeze you in neat little queues
Pump you full of biogenics
But who says they’ll never blow a fuse?
[from New Age, Old Age Blues, ©2005 Faith Winthrop/It’s Never To Late To Sing Music (ASCAP)]
"I had a dream where I was asked to do some research about elders among a particular group of people. I agreed, and took a bus to visit with those folks. I was greeted by warm, friendly people. Much food, laughter, and conversation was shared and in this dream I was having a wonderful time. Then, I was reminded that it was time to go. Suddenly, I was flustered. I expressed the concern that I had not actually met any elders and that I had most assuredly not done my job. One of my hosts smiled and replied that I had been sitting among elders the whole time. He then commented, 'I am not surprised you did not notice. Elders are so much a part of us that we see no difference.'
We are at a time when we both need to acknowledge our elders, but also to simply make room for them to live among us."
the young call it old-timers, having had no experience with doctors, neurologists and specialists, and seniors who know that not all old-timers suffer from alzheimer’s.
his wife calls it a living death, and grieves in her loss and his, remembering old times now more precious than the rings on her hands that he can’t always recognize.
his children see a sudden new frailty that lends them strength, awakens love, sometimes anger, pain, regrets, and they wonder about their own future as old-timers.
and the grandfather, father, husband, old-timer cries, and says if it’s alzheimer’s, it’s terminal and I’m sorry even though there is no need to feel responsible and he still wants to share his hospital/hotel/office dinner and pay his bills, and thank the workers, and get to this meetings on time, and laugh at the jokes, and visit with friends and strangers and have a picture of his wife and children and grandchildren to help him hold on to old times.
“The past is not a prologue. We need to be asking new questions for a new age.”
"Old is gold, chants the ancient Crone."
"I think aging is integral to human development and growth, yet much feared and little understood. By nearly every measurement, the second half of life brings more happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction than the "glory days" of youth. Instead of embracing the many virtues of aging, society teaches us to value only the most superficial dimensions -- our ability to look and act youthful. The consequences of this outlook are stupendously wasteful and harmful to both individuals and society at large."
"I'm 75 and I want to be a movie star. How we age is who we are. Age is not about a number. It is about living life to the fullest, asking new questions and always forming new goals."
As a physician, I say, "Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is self preservation. This is true at any age. The sooner the better and it's never too late. Think about it: if you don’t take care of yourself, who will?"
"People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning to life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive." Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
"Aging isn't for sissies, it isn't something I would choose. It is limiting in a way. There are many things you no longer can do that you used to like to do. And yet you can feel very happy and very fulfilled with your life."
Roland Barthes write in his diary written after his mother's death: "The self never grows old."
"For myself, to embrace aging means learning to be open to each moment, to learn how to live without taking time for granted."
"Aging is a process that we all experience over the course of our lives in our own important ways. Because people are living longer and living healthier, the spectrum of aging is expanding. Illuminating the unique and varied experiences of aging which affirms the perspectives of older people, and especially the view points of marginalized older adults, will help us construct richer discourses on aging, improve our knowledges of what it means to grow older, and help us identify people's needs and assets to improve the programs and policies that foster healthful aging."
"Aging is enlightenment at gunpoint."
The benefits of creativity in later life are numerous (Cohen, 2000). First, it improves mental and emotional health — creativity produces a fresh perspective, strengthens our morale, improves our sense of well-being, and makes us more emotionally resilient to life’s adversities and losses. Second, creativity enhances our physical health. Creative expression makes us feel better and improves our outlook, which in turn provides a beneficial effect to our immune systems and general physical health. Third, creativity enriches relationships with family and friends. Finally, creativity provides a legacy. The example you set to stay intellectually active, socially involved and creatively engaged will have a positive affect on the younger people around you.
Creative aging means the freedom to reconnect with oneself and others, to embrace new avenues of fulfillment and to rediscover old ones, all with the benefit of acquired wisdom over the years. I look forward to a new period of renewal, wellness and empowerment when I retire from Congress at the end of next year.
When that love of words
Overtakes the taste for food
A poet is born
Shann, An Itinerant Poet
"The most potent muse of all is our own inner child ; she reemerges at mid-life and embellishes our lives forever more."
A POET’S OPTIMISM
I’m one of those who relishes
joys of being older and still able to create.
My mind produces sparks of innovation,
as I outreach to other empathetic souls.
I’m a ‘goody-goody’ poet people say.
Good activities bring on good feelings.
Good feelings make for good days. Good things also make for good days.
In my head my thoughts envision
I’ll remain awhile to perform and smile,
since good days lead to more good days.
You call me an optimist and that’s okay.
© Norman Molesko, 2011