Ashton, Paine & Common Sense

The first thing I did this morning was listen to Ashton Applewhite’s recently posted TED talk.  The message – ageism kills spirit as readily as isolation kills the body – is all-important, yet it is the messenger who leaves my jaw dropped with amazement.

When I started working as a corporate speech writer, the goal was to make every word count, to have every one convey the message I wanted to send.  Ashton uses every word to CONNECT.  Oh, to have such a gift!

It is no mere jest to compare Ashton to Thomas Paine.  Washington’s leadership would not mean zilch, ditto Franklin’s diplomacy & Jefferson’s brilliant words IF the everyday colonists hadn’t been won to the cause, not just in the fresh exuberance of the early days, but in the deep slog of Valley Forge.

Like Paine, Ashton connects with her audience by sharing a common sense message we already know in our hearts.  Paine rallied the troops by touching a deep personal aha that we could not be Americans as long as we were under British rule; Ashton rallies us by laying out the fact that we cannot be full humans, at any age, if we hold that only the slimmest sliver of time represents our best self.

It’s possible that I will go to my grave unable to fully put my finger on what it is in Ashton’s 11.5 minute talk that fires my appreciation of how she articulates her message.  It is true that it should be required viewing for every communications student, every speechwriter.  What fun it would be to sit down with Pete Boericke, my boss at Prudential Healthcare, to dissect what it is in her presentation that bowls me over.  Her simple message – let’s end ageism – is conveyed through simple words, through a pared down delivery.

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP CEO, help open the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics 21st (quadrennial) World Congress, in San Francisco.  Meeting & speaking with her later, I took the opportunity to tell her how, to me, she is the Benjamin Franklin of today’s revolution against ageism to Ashton Applewhite’s Thomas Paine – she has the gifts & savvy to draw major allies into the fight, while Ashton is out rallying the troops to take the fight to victory.  She thanked me – and agreed!

We are the Washington in that picture.  Each of us needs to lead our own revolution against promoting ageism in what we say, in what we accept from others.  We need to accept & take & embody leadership in living as fully & vibrantly as Ashton does.  If we don’t, it won’t matter what she did back in April, back on that fabled TED stage in Vancouver.  We – each & everyone of us, whatever our  age – need to lead the fight to be fully HUMAN at ever moment.

Then, as now, it’s about claiming the freedom to live without shackled to alien ideas & labels.

It’s not cute & coy to equate Applewhite with Paine – they are cut from the same cloth.  She, like he, lays bare what we all already know, acknowledges our plight, steels our spines & lets us know that victory can be ours by taking the fight to the enemy – the many that make a buck off pushing age as something to be battled & conquered.  She deserves the love & thanks of man & woman, as we take up Ashton’s common sense cry – “Let’s do it!” – and fight the good fight until the final battle is won.


Ashton’s TED Talk – Let’s end ageism


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Totally busting my buttons with pride over role model~ consciousness raising ~ revolutionary friend, the great Ashton Applewhite’s , TED Talk –  on the main stage, at the primo venue (Vancouver).

The crowd of movers & shakers capped her 11 1/2 minute talk with a surge, leaping to a standing ovation, roaring with approval after her “barn burner” presentation – not my words, but a description on TED’s own website. Watch for when them rallying around the shout,  “Let’s do it!”

As the always-nails-it  Harvey Austin described,  Ashton’s delivery & message in Let’s end ageism is crisp clean powerful ~ ~ spellbinding.

Ashton’s  talk should be taught in every journalism class, memorized by every speech writer.  It’s OUTSTANDING reach connects everyone to both the speaker & everyone around them.  She casually, impressively draws in each age, every demographic, every interest.
Slashing any expectation of placement on an “age spectrum,” Ashton flips the devaluing labeling of othering, instead celebrating that we are all HUMAN, a message that underpins every word in her talk.
It was just over a year ago – July 2016 – that I first told Ashton she’s the Thomas Paine of today’s revolution against revolting attitudes toward aging, informing & stirring multitudes to rush & overpower the barricades that a mass of commercial & cultural forces have set up against expansive fearless purposeful living.

EVERYTHING about Ashton is beyond epic.  Her book came out just 18 months ago – March 2016 – self-published after the publishing big wigs rejected her manuscript with the slam, “No one buys books on growing older.”  Look at her now, front & center on the most hallowed TED stage/  Then share & discuss & share some more the TED talk link because her Manifesto Against Ageism  message needs to be set ringing across our nation & around the world.

Start spreading the news!


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Goosebumps – NCCA

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NCCA – the National Center for Creative Aging.  I have no memory of how the NCCA first came into my life, how I came up with the cockamamie idea that it made sense for me – at that time virtually penniless – to go to the first NCCA Conference & Leadership Exchange in D.C., but the monies were raised for the conference & transportation costs, lodgings (with friends, outside D.C., in what turned out to be challenging to access Herndon VA) was arranged, and down I went.

Will never forget sitting in the intimate, circle-in-the-round auditorium in  the Arena Stage performance space, of having it hit me for the first time that the NCCA was based 4-square on the work of Gene Cohen, a man whose book, The Creative Age, drop kicked me into seeing the WHY for the vibrant oldsters elders ancients all around me in our little hometown.

Had I researched the conference at all online, it would have been OBVIOUS,  but I apparently went down, flying blind.

So, why did I go, if I didn’t even take a moment to check out the conference schedule? I arrived with a vague idea of where the main event would take place, virtually no understanding of where the pre-conference workshop I’d signed up for was happening, basically no knowledge of what was happening.  Mind you, I got my first smart phone (yes, in 2014) immediately before it so I’d have Internet access;  alas, I hadn’t a clue how to use it, had to keep asking smartly dressed young people bustling along the sidewalks for their aid with Mapquest.

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Long walks – those I remember.  Not having a clue of the shortest route from one spot to the next.  Hadn’t thought to get familiar with the area, to actually map out where event locations, to look over the schedule.

Had never been to a conference before.  The first time I saw the program was looking at the registration materials, the day AFTER the wonderful pre-conference workshop.

My most vivid memory of the entire conference was hearing Wendy Miller introduced, realizing she was Gene’s widow, having it HIT me right between the eyes – – DUH!  ‘Creative Aging: Exploring Potential in the Second Half of Life’ screamed Gene Cohen & yet I’d missed it!!

What made me think about goosebumps I’ll forever remember?  Dipping back into the wondrous book given to all conference attendees – Creativity Matters: The Arts & Aging Toolkit.

Confession time –  Gene’s book, The Creative Age, no longer sits next to The Mature Mind on my bookshelf – lent it to someone who never returned it.  That fate will NEVER happen to Creativity Matters,  because it will NEVER leave my possession!

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Talk about goosebumps – that priceless book continues to astound me.  It is packed with priceless information & inspiration ~  looking at how creativity nurtures an abundant older age, at the value of incorporating the arts into our  life, of the profound advantage of senior centers & residences, adult-day care programs & long-term care facilities, of families & friends in seeking, offering participatory arts programs that go beyond the “arts & crafts” that so often seem the norm.  To REACH &, in reaching, to satisfy.

It was in 2014 – at the pre-conference workshop? – that I first heard “Like” (Elizabeth) Lokon, director & founder of Opening Minds Through Art, explain that with older people, especially ones facing the challenges of cognitive impairment, “simple is complex, complex is simple” – trying to to duplicate an actual image was a struggle, frustrating, but to create a beautiful abstract painting looked difficult but was simple.

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Which brings us to last month’s IAGG World Congress & the wondrous talk by Marilyn Raichle, who spoke about the enjoyment that her mother – who has Alzheimer’s – drew from painting.  Although the subjects were defined, the delightful images her mother created were deliciously abstract, showcasing the processing from the delineated start to what showed up on the page.

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Which takes me to feeling sad.  Sad that I never asked for one of of the beautiful paintings that Anne Davis Hyatt created over her closing eight years.  Like Marilyn’s mother, from one moment to the next Anne could not remember the day or the date, but she did paint evocative hillsides & rivers & skies capturing her wonder & love of the sense of it all.

That’s what I learned from the NCCA, why I continue to get goosebumps remembering that I haven’t the vaguest recollection of how we first connected – – it shouts from the rooftops the importance of helping people of all ages stay anchored in the glorious sense of living, that the arts, from painting to poetry & performance & beyond, open the way & present a path to doing what I aim to provide for all my own clients friends family – living as expansively, as fully themselves, as possible in any given moment, feeling the thrill of goosebumps at the joy of it all.

Mom models my ideal

In  EKA,  a 03/23/00 tribute to her friend, Emilie, Mom modeled the sort of postings I welcome to this site.

Am envisioning a garden of memories & reminiscences about cherished oldsters elders ancients, ones who are gone & (even sweeter) ones like that epic Energizer Bunny, Norm Heldon, who just tipped his hat to 100.

Come on, Heldon grandkids – here’s a great chance to give another shout-out to His Awesomeness & his much missed O Best Beloved!  Let’s get my beau ideal written Garden of Love & Remembrance rolling!


It’s sad when family relationships – even the rockiest – are stunted, cut short.  My own life is much happier for having kept doors open,  even when a better something seemed an impossible hope.

Been thinking about brothers a lot over the past 24 hours, about mine & how different our relationships have turned out than I would have guessed just a shade over ten years ago.

In 2007, I didn’t feel like I had any deep connection to any of my three brothers.

That changed first with the most improbable of the trio – with Ian, who died almost 60 years ago, when he was eleven & I was seven. Ten years ago this past spring.  – when I was 55 – we bonded.  Seriously!  I’d always assumed that Ian was as different from me as the rest of my sibs, but thanks to a combination of discoveries & fresh aha moments I made that spring, for the first time it clicked that “B-Boy” & I had similar natures & mutual  interests.

For years, a family joke has been that I married my brother, because my John seemed so much like Ian, but it took stumbling across those report cards & befriending a litter of feral kittens for the light to dawn that Ian & I were more alike than I’d ever imagined.

Ian was just four years older, while brother Mike (#2 🔆) was a long-stretch ten.  Mike joined the Navy straight out of high school, a couple years after Ian’s death, then bopped off on world travels between stints working for our father at Lockhart Lumber & Millwork.  I never really connected with my brother in his footloose & fancy-free days.

Alas, he married someone who – unbeknownst to me – experienced her younger s-i-l  as beyond irksome.  Took me 27 years to discover (the hard way)  what Mom knew since the early ’70s – that I stirred such deep dislike, as soon as I entered the same room, Kerry wanted to walk out.  OUCH!

When Kerry is not in the picture – when she  returned home to Australia a week before Mike after an early ’90s Christmas visit & when he visited solo several years ago for his 50th high school reunion – we connect.  Who knows where we will be ten years down the road?  Like MOTEL 6 , John & I will leave the light on.

Which leads to Peter.  Fourteen years older, it would be easy to assume we had the least contact over the years.  If only!  Peter has been a more or less constant presence throughout my life, weaving in & out of stays as his life circumstances ebbed & flowed, but always letting it be known  innate superiority put him on a different plain from us lesser lights  Peter talked big, but his life – to his baby sis – seemed… meager.  We had our share of dust ups – he expected to treated like a guest instead of a member of the family & I expected him to pull a fair share – but they’re back in the past.  Too little time left to waste any acting mingy.

While my relationship with Ian has improbably strengthened & deepened, am resigned to the possibility Mike & I might never connect as bro & sis.  As for Peter… It doesn’t matter to me that he still strikes his “kiss the ring” attitudes – if he wants or even just needs my support, it will be my sisterly pleasure to do what I can.

At 65, having lost more immediate family than remain, I’ve come to a place where just being a sisterly presence is enough- in fact, it is way more than I’ve expected over the years.  This mellower me is content with ALL that is, holding a sister’s love for near, far & in lofty realms beloved brothers.

Reaffirmation – PRL

John & I took my oldest brother out to lunch – he wanted to hear all the juiciest bits from the IAGG Conference.  Reaffirmed for both of us the benefit WE get from making regular time for Peter in our lives.

It’s a good thing such contact is important on more than a “pleasant times” basis, because the outing was more strained than expected.

Peter seemed less interested in catching up with us than he did in picking up some typing that had been done for him.  He’d had a large breakfast & still wasn’t hungry at 12:30 for lunch, which he took home with him for supper.  The car seats were too low, the table at the diner too high.  He made nasty cracks about someone who matters a lot to me & seemed stuck in once-but-no-longer characteristically mean spirits.

And I am happy to report that NONE of it fazed me! ☮️

One of the JOYS of creeping up there in years is having the blessed long view.  Instead of  jumping to the defense of the person he thoughtlessly maligned, I just told a story that gave my bro more information, context; no idea if it changed his opinion, but at least it deepened his knowledge.  When he slammed the very candidate HE voted for, I defended POTUS by noting he’s no different now than on 11/08/16 – shared in an unsnarky way.  Not once did I take exception to what he said – just commented, honestly, “Interesting…” ~or~ “I never considered that possibility.”

The fact is, we haven’t a clue what might be eating at my oldest bro.  Age & experience shows that what we know is about .000000000000000001% compared to what we don’t, so any hypothesis I come up with for PRL’s gnarly mood is guaranteed to be off-kilter or flagrantly wrong.

My sister, Mim, had gotten tight with Peter over her last 30 years.  Her 07/03/15 death left him without an irreplaceable phone pal – per PRL, they talked almost daily.  At 65, I find myself ready willing & able to leave ancient perceived slights & unresolved family mish-mashes in the dark dim past.  How ridiculous if, after a lifetime craving stronger family ties, I dissed this opportunity to be a sis!

How wondrous that John & I had the pleasure of listening to LAURA CARSTENSEN  on the drive home, talking on The Ted Radio Hour about how we experience time.  It seems that as grow seriously upward, we SAVOR our time more than when we were youngsters of 40 or 50.

Today, Peter was apparently feeling very mortal – not in a good way.  At 65, I can APPRECIATE & savor that this afternoon presented an opportunity to lend a hand & be present for someone who, inspite of having a bitterly checkered past with his baby sis, needed me.  He challenged my patience, stretched the limits of my good nature, dredged up feelings I’d rather not feel – and reaffirmed that all those things are part of being a sibling, are all part of something wonderful…  if I have the wisdom to let it just be whatever it is.


added the next morning,  5:28 a.m. ~ ~ Woke up pondering how powerful my experience of yesterday’s outing would be if I could know Peter’s experience of the morning, before we arrived, of our time together, about HIS feelings as & after we dropped him off back at his residence.  My guess is it would be more different than similar, yet I feel as if what I sensed was bedrock reality.  Ha!  Not that simple.


Laura ❤️ Blake ❤️ Kaitlyn ❤️ Elise

One of the vey best things about growing significantly older is the unexpected resounding joy of special events like weddings & baptisms, where I can see from deep personal experience, friendship & the seemingly infinite layers of vibrant relationships interwoven into the moment.

My 65-year old self glories in a cascade of people connected to the three past present future weddings ~ teaching Brent, drawing Laura & Blake & Kaitlyn & Elise into my heart, being family friends with Hilary since our earliest days & amigos over the past few decades, teaching Bruce & loving Molly since the moment we met, memories from Erland & June’s move to the USA, the Glenns arriving from Pittsburgh, Norbert & Judy… and more, much more.

The older I get, the more special moments like Laura’s wedding last month, Kaitlyn & Blake’s tonight, Elise’s on the fairly-distant rhorizon feel like an exquisite tapestry of loving connection commitment community, the threads a variety of shades texture intensity.

In my younger years, I’d be psyched to celebrate the young couples, their heartfelt love & promising futures.  As a deepened broadened expanded older, I flat-out wallow in all the levels – seen & unseen, past present future – of delight joy pleasure!

Ain’t life – and ❤️ – grand!!!