Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Catching the Wave in the Last Third

This year it was easy, I didn't have to fly across the country but simply got on the Santa Monica Freeway and drove downtown to the convention.  Either way, it was a chance to meet a far flung tribe where I learned:
  • how to document the stories of my life 
  • techniques of repacking my life
  • the value of having an empathetic ear in relationships
  • the importance of following the unknown path before me
  • how many steps & and how many calories it takes to view a convention
 And that was sandwiched in between;
  • the joy of free shopping bags, water bottles, ear plugs
  • the excitement of driving a fast race car
  • the uninhibited and joyful exercise of zumba
  • playing in a drum circle
  • the wisdom and insights of a well-educated all time great NBA star
  • energy and synergy of thousands of Boomers who aren't done yet
Drive a NASCAR race car
And of course, so much more.  Where the hell did I get such a cacophony of experiences?  AARP's 50+ annual convention in Los Angeles.  I am a dreamer AND a realist and the bottom line is that aging is inevitable and often it is challenging.  Change is inexorable and sneaks up on you.  One day you are forty-five and everything works; settled on a career, happy in your relationship, comfortable in finances, and immersed in avocations that you've nurtured for years.  Then turning corner of sixty plus or minus a year or two things start to change.  You may retire from your career voluntarily or not, a newly discovered body part causes aches and pain in the morning or after playing tennis, or an intimate relationship with kids or spouse mutates.  Suddenly you wake up and realize it ain't 1990 anymore.  The thoughts and feelings may be sudden or subtle but it is unmistakeable:  you are older.  

What are the options at that point?  Kinda like the grief process it seems to be in stages; 1)  Denial:  I am not old, I can do everything I used to, I have plenty of time, 2) Anger:  This is not supposed to happen, we were the Now Generation that did not trust anyone over 30, 3) Bargaining/ Compensating:  OK, I'll get cosmetic surgery, buy a Corvette, and take naps, 4) Depression:   I'll just stay home and watch TV and surf the internet and maybe return to the drugs of my  youth, 5) Acceptance:  I am this age with all of its changes/ challenges and hopefully wiser and I'll do the best I can with work arounds (yoga instead of running marathons).  Here I add another stage inspired by Martin Seligman's new book...6) Flourishing:  Living with joy, purpose, vigor, and passion.  That is the crowd I mostly saw at the convention.  Older persons who confidently claim a place at the table of life in a society that marginalizes, insults, and denies aging.  We are in an era of active aging where 60 is not the new 40, it is a totally new stage of life.  Active, purposeful, creative and contributing conventioneers collected info and freebies.  Not stay at home isolators, this crowd came to grow and to connect with each other and life.

When I attend the annual convention, I feel connected to possibilities and inspired to wake up and live.  I embrace elderhood and at the same time feel great humility to be given this chance to reinvent, renew, and revive.  I saw fellow conventioneers who were fresh faced 55 year olds and the octogenarians in motorized carts, some in shorts and velcro shoes and others in long dread locks and ethnic prints.  At a music vendor there was an impromptu dancer who could've been on stage with her looks and shape and fine moves.  Contrary to the media induced popular image of older people, the AARP crowd is engaged, vigorous, passionate, and life affirming.  'The Path' starring Martin Sheen was premiered at the convention and dramatizes the journey of discovery promoted in AARPs new initiative--Reimagining.  The film takes you on his character's pilgrimage to find himself just as the 20,000 did in L.A. this year.  See you next year in New Orleans and move to stage 6 and FLOURISH.


  1. Sounds like you had a great time. For an old guy,lol. ---- Steve - another old timer

  2. "AARPs new initiative--Reimagining." That speaks and offers wisdom for all ages. I also like how you share your experiences of aging and 'youthing'- balance is beautiful. Viva BOOMERANGAS! -- from a generation F'er.