Poetics of Aging

New Interview Series on Working Quinquagenarians on Up— Sally Gelardin | December 9, 2011

San Anselmo FairfaxPatch December 14, 2011

Benjamin Franklin once said, “All would live long, but none would be old.” 

When I asked career expert Helen Harkness what this quote means, she said, “Focus on functional age for your future direction.  Target chronological calendars and clocks.” More…

To continue the learning experiences at November’s Poetics of Aging Conference in San Francisco (and to share with those who could not attend), I am conducting a series of interviews in December and January on “Working Quinquagenarians, Sexagenarians, Septuagenarians, Octogenarians, and Nonagenarians.”   Representatives of each post-50 generation address such questions as, ” What works and what doesn’t in leading a meaningful and satisfying life at each age and stage?”  “What can we learn from our elders that can enrich our work and home lives?” 

The rationale for conducting this interview series is that in less than a century, life expectancy has increased by an average of 30 years in developed regions of the world.

Stanford University’s 2011 Annual Report stated:

There are now are more people living longer in the world than ever before in human history and they are accounting for an increasingly greater percentage of the world population. Improved longevity is, at once, among the most remarkable achievements in all of human history and one of our greatest challenges.
 Nader Shabahangi

Aging is something to look forward to, rather than dread, according to Nader Shabahangi, licensed psychotherapist, CEO of six AgeSong Elder Communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, President of AgeSong Institute, and originator of the grassroots 2011 Poetics of Aging Conference. His multicultural background has fueled his passion for becoming an advocate for marginalized groups and for creating programs with the purpose of caring more comprehensively for elders. He shared his approach to work and and how he believes this approach will evolve as he ages. Nader isn’t as focused on building an empire as he was when he was in his twenties.  Now in his fifties, he is more reflective and interested in the meaning of life.  He envisions that as he ages his body will let him know when it is time to slow down. More…

Ilene Serlin, PhD, BC-DMT, in her sixties, is a psychologist and registered dance/movement therapist in San Francisco and Marin County. During her interview, she talked about why the Council of Elders (veteran leaders of the freedom and peace movements of the mid-20th century) led an interfaith service at Zuccotti Park in NYC, with hundreds of Occupy Wall Street activists taking part.

Irene shared the concerns of Rabbi Arthur Waskow, “In our lives today, overwork is driven by fear of disemployment, by the need to work two or three jobs to pay for food and rent, and for some by the relentless need to “prove” one’s utter dedication to “getting ahead.” The result: Little time or no time for family and neighbors, for grass-roots political involvement, for the Spirit.

Having served as a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, past President of the Division of Humanistic Psychology,  and on the APA’s Presidential Task Force on Whole Person Psychology, and is Founder of the Arts Medicine Program at the Institute of Health and Healing at California Pacific Medical Center, Ilene is a proponent of political activism. Yet, she admits that political activism requires juggling of personal, work, and civic responsibilities. To counter the intensity of her many roles, Irene creates exercises for aging gracefully, such as “Seeing Beauty in everyday moments.” More…

I asked interviewees to share what they identified with in Marin-based Anna Halprin’s Poetics of Aging performance on “The Courtesan and the Crone,” 

Everyone agreed that it reflected loss of youth and the popular view of aging as decline.

On the other hand, how many of us could perform this dance if and when we become nonagenarians?

December 2011 Interviews

  • 12/22/11 Bill Ryan, A Septuagenarian Who Works from the Heart
  • 12/22/11 Martha Boesing, Working Septuagenrian, An Insight into the Life of an Elderly Homeless Woman
  • 12/29/11 Faith Winthrop, Working Octogenarian, “Havin’ Myself a Time”
  • 12/29/11 Helen Harkness, Working Octogenarian,  Focus on Functional Age for your Future Direction. Target Chronological Calendars and Clocks!

January 2012 Interviews

  • 1/12/12 Richard Knowdell, Septagenarian and Lifelong Worker
  • 1/12/12 Charles Derber, Why Every Generation Needs To Speak Up
  • 1/19/12 Virginia Byrd, Career and Work-Life for the Generations…Then and Now
  • 1/19/12 Barry Barkan, Conscious Aging for the Greater Good
  • 1/26/12 Julien Gardner, Tribute to a Working Centenarian
  • 1/26/12 Don Hanlan Johnson, Cultivating the Elder Body of Wisdom

To listen to generational interviews during December and January, register HERE. On the registration form, click on “Poetics of Aging” as your organizational affiliation.