Glorious goose bumps, calls to glory

Writing my previous post, CALL & RESPONSE – remembering for others, linked me back to an “ancient” post from 05/28/15 recalling  the 2014 National Center for Creative Aging Leadership Exchange & Conference.

How is it possible the conference was less than four years ago?  So much growth, so many WOW moments over such a relatively short time!

What stands out most to me in reading the older2elder post is how much it mirrored my feelings at this past July’s IAGG 21st quadrennial World Congress – –  ” The people around me shared my passion, even if they were light years past me in experience & expertise. In 2014, my main take-away was how little I knew, compared to the rest.”  There were so many moments at 2017 IAGG’s Age Stage that left me “uplifted & inspired with fresh awe of what can be accomplished with people dealing with the challenges of dementia.

Above all – “Mostly, my memories of NCCA 2014 are impressions.  Chiefly, the impression that this was my most true calling, that I wasn’t loopy thinking there’s hope for uprooting replanting nurturing a different way of experiencing expansive LIVING than what’s too often the norm in our culture.” and–  “Most of what I remember from that first conference are impressions, the greatest being the sense that this was where I’d been drawn all of my life, where everything that happened along every step has been directed.  It was after the conference that I could see that what stretches out before me (reveals) every scrap of every experience in my life as stepping stones to this here & now.  Nothing was wasted, it all had its use.”

Okay – I’ve got goose bumps reading that last.  Recently frustrated when the astonishing Judith Sachs stunned me by remembered we met at the IAGG World Congress  –  I’d completely forgotten.  As I worried to John, “The greatest sense I took away from what should have been a life-altering six days are just impressions.  How did I blow an opportunity for so much more?! (sob)”

Then, just now, a post from eons past whooshed back memories of  my first “aging” conference & brought sweet relief – – “While I might not have written a posting about NCCA 2014 (which still seems impossible), it certainly inscribed itself across my soul.”    

Ditto the IAGG 21st World Congress.  Ditto every conference & workshop I’ve attended & taken from my Spring 2014 Omega weekend onward.  Each inscribed itself upon my soul.

The very last paragraph rings as true for my experiences at the IAGG World Congress as it did for the 2014 NCCA Conference – – “Like this year, friends made it possible for me to attend (the NCCA Conference).  Blessings on them for the opportunity to have my mind heart spirit opened in ways I can’t describe. … Goose bumps!

Yes, I feel foolish, not having remembered meeting Judith Sachs last July.  The only names that really connected are Wendy Lustbader, a woman I revered long before meeting her at the Age Stage, and Emily…  oh rats!  I forget her last name.  Names weren’t important to me at the IAGG World Congress.  I wasn’t there to collect contacts, to forge relationships, to swirl myself into a network of astounding energies.

What I described in frustration to John turns out to be my glorious truth – – I went there as an impressionist, or whatever the term is for a novice (no longer a fledgling!), open to soaking in impressions, to open my mind heart spirit in ways I can’t describe to myself, let alone to others.

Which brings me back to something I wrote in that long-ago posting:  “As for a question posed back in March 2014 – – ‘When I die, will I leave a legacy as an interesting anomaly who had a rare talent for engaging empowering energizing a few older friends?  Or will I be remembered as a catalyst for an overhauled expectation & experience of aging?’   It was after NCCA 2014 that it hit home that one thing & one thing only will determine if I am remembered as the one or the other.  Me.”

That earlier self pulled no punches placing responsibility & accountability for being “remembered as a catalyst for an overhauled expectation & experience of aging” fully on future ME’s shoulders.

Dear Past Self – I have not let you down.  Am continuing the good fight, am making my first dents, will never set down your torch.  And, having read you, am filled with a sense of joy hope exaltation that coming away from the IAGG World Congress with “only” impressions of all I’d seen felt heard was precisely the starting point I needed.

Three cheers for unpredictable online ramblings that drew me to a glorious past self speaking a present truth to light the way for my future success thanks to now actions!  For impressions that shimmer & glow as they illuminate inspire enflame.  And for glorious goose bumps that recognize, without words, greatness yet to come.

 

Anne Bastings – imagination over memory

One of my greatest WOW! moments last year happened at the National Center for Creative Aging Conference & Leadership Exchange, when I was seated next to ANNE BASTING, someone I’ve personally known (thanks to NCCA!) for three years, when Jennie Smith-Peers announced to an ecstatic throng that Anne had just been announced as a MacArthur Fellow, recognizing honoring nurturing her work developing TIMESLIPS.

My gosh – what were the odds that announcement could be MADE at the conference ~or~ that I’d have just been catching up with Anne on what was happening in our lives?!

Anne is amazing.  I originally met her at my 1st (and THE 1st) NCCA Conference in 2014, where she opened my eyes to the wisdom of  connecting with oldsters elders ancients through their unbounded imagination rather than the often dispiriting attempts to dredge up hard-to-recall memories.  I recall, at both the 2015 & 2016 conferences, the rush of joy that swept through me on my first glimpse of Anne.

In this month of gratitude, how wondrous to listen to Anne, to feel blessed to have even a teeny tiny connection to her, to have growing connections with the incredible spirits of NCCA, of Positive Aging, of Leading to Well-Being, of the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics , of the Radical Aging Movement, of Aging 2.0.

Think global, act local!  My personal goal is to share Anne’s TED Talk with the remarkable people in my little hometown who make a huge difference in the lives of the people with whom they care partner, both older friends & youngers who need a little or a lot of support.  Imagining a circle of families friends professionals tapping into limitless imagination rather than time-stamped memories.  It’s been three years already – get going, girl!

Anne Basting – a master of creating moments of joy, of transforming others into masters.  An inspiration & butt kicker.

 

Je ne regrette rien

Je ne regrette rien.

Gosh, for DECADES – since French 101 with Margaret York – I’ve looked for a reason to quote the Little Sparrow.  Finally, I do!

For the second time over the past sixteen years, John & I are running on financial fumes, with any number of interesting possibilities hanging over our head.

Looking at our money in/money out last year compared to this & wonder – should we have done things differently?

Last year, we paid off our 2015’s tax obligations & 2016’s home costs & life expenses & $$ dental work AND underwrote my taking a January memoir writing workshop at Rowe Conference Center, the Leading to Well-Being Conference in the spring, the mid-summer Positive Aging Conference -and- the early fall National Center for Creative Aging Conference.

Do I regret shelling out the serious big bucks for those moments; would it have been wiser to store up our dollars like so many nuts against a potential income freeze?

Non, non et non!

It wasn’t that we believed 2016 marked our return to Summer 2001 prosperity.  Hoped – naturally.  But we know that having an older client base makes long-term projecting impossible.

Would we have set aside the funds for any one of the four “splurges” to boost 2017’s dearth of dollars?  Non!  Our attitude was that the return made from my attending each of those was significant enough to outweigh any other consideration.  That whatever hard financial times might crop up in the future, the forever benefits of what could & did come from each far outweighed any potential dire dilemmas.

AND WE WERE RIGHT!  We could be tossed on the street come Jan 2018, kept warm by a kaboodle of cats, but what was gained by me & indirectly by John was worth even that prospect.  It could turn out that being literally show our own door could be the genesis of a great book, leading to lecture tours & our own joint TED talk.

Because each of those events, from NW Mass to D.C. (2!). to northern VA revealed a new level of me to ME ~and~ I was old enough to hear see appreciate & APPLY what I heard saw appreciated.

That last – applying what I’d learned, experienced – was worth every penny spent & way more.  Applying what’s known & ostensibly understood was/is where my family went/goes horribly awry.

Enter to learn.  Go forth to serve.”    “Courage of the deed.  Grace for the doing.

The motto of  Lower Merion High School came into my life in my late teens.  A friend introduced me to the second, Shipley’s motto, just yesterday at Be Well.

It’s a 6-minute, 2.6 mile drive between the two schools, but they are forever connected in my heart. Neither is what I saw reflected in my surviving family, but their truth is clearly shouted out & LIVED by the dearest family of my heart.

With Mom, Peter & Mim, what mattered most was what you PLANNED to do, not what you completed.  As Mim explained it more than once to me & (sadly) lived, to keep the image of what could be accomplished at its greatest, leave it forever inviolate in your imagination, unsullied with the grunge work that would turn it into reality but forever less than imagining.

It speaks volumes, at least to me, that my keenest memory of the most awesome friends any human could have is of Dave stripping & refinishing a bureau for his unborn 1st child’s bedroom.  Stronger even than “Mom” Z teaching me how to play Yahtzee or Mark trying to say Chubby Bunny through a mouth stuffed with golden-toasted extra large marshmallows.  It gave the young dad-to-be such pleasure to be taking each step toward completion – small wonder it’s seared into my heart, personifying as it does courage for the deed, grace for the doing.

It took one Omega workshop, three Leading to Well-Being Conferences, two NCCA Conferences, one Rowe workshop, one Positive Aging Conference & the 2017 International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics (IAGG) World Congress to get me to the point where it’s possible to realize that my CORE problem, the thing I didn’t see in my life even when Dad was alive was the basic understanding that end of any process is COMPLETING it.  If I was to go back in time & share that interesting factoid with my elementary & high school teachers, they’d look struck with a Eureka! moment, smack their desks & exclaim, ‘THAT explains her!

Regrets for shelling out the event, transportation, lodging meal costs, from $$ for the first two NCCA conferences (stayed with friends outside DC) to the $$$$$$ IAGG in SF?  Encore – non.  We could lose our place, but it pales in comparison to finally finding mine, after a 40+ year search.  We could be car-less by 12/01/17 if Gibbs doesn’t pass 11/17 inspection (don’t count him out – he has 1444,000 miles on his odometer & packing tape sealing cracks on the front passenger window, but he is stout-hearted & true),  but if are, will consider it an exercise in character building.

If we lost everything – which we hope won’t happen, but could – it would be nothing compared to all we’ve gained from investing in my conference/workshop bops.

Omega 2014* ? $$$.

NCCA Conference 2015** & 2016*** ?  $$$$.

2017 IAGG World Congress* ?  $$$$$$$.

The cost of finally feeling grounded in a sense of BEing wholly human, a mega step toward seeing feeling experiencing the divine in all?  PRICELESS.

Is that truly worth financial fumes?  Oui!

 

*Underwritten by friends      **Costs split between friends & myself          ***WE underwrote

 

Bring it on!

Of all the wonderful things that came out of going to the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics 21st (quadrennial) World Congress, #1 is my personal sense of being whole, of all the disparate parts – parts I’ve worked resolutely for 40+ years to identify – coming together into ONE.

It’s 09/08/17 & I am at the place that was a dream hope intention when I was 24.  And that young me is holding the feet of this current self to the fire to be…  What?

The first thing that has to GO is any belief that my best efforts are all fluff, no substance.  What an awful message!  And it was drummed into me.  Why, I will never know.  No sense even trying to fathom, since my best bet is that no one knew the why.  It IS time, however, to get OVER it.  Both the message & feeling unhinged by the perceived messengers.

That second part is really really really hard to get past.  We humans perversely hold ourselves back by clinging to things that continually do us dirt.  We seem to enjoy putting hurt on a ceaseless loop, constantly replaying “unforgiveable” things done to us by others.

What if people are doing the best they can?  Last winter, a dear friend of mine – all of  eight years old – was bad mouthing a teacher she felt treated another student unfairly.  She was well into her story when she stopped, paused, then said, “But I don’t know her back story.”  Way to go, Cecily!  Out of the mouths of babes, a great reminder that we don’t know the REAL back story, even our own.  All we can assume is that we’re all doing our best, given our situation & circumstances.   Even that jerk who was weaving in & out of traffic on I-95, doing 70+ mph.  Or John wearing a casual olive T yesterday instead of his dressier black one.

Holding in our heart as well as our head that people are doing their best – what a liberating belief!

The past seven weeks – the past 24 hours – share a sense of the surreal.  So many description-defying things happening, one after the other.  Things hoped for, dreamed of, worked toward.  HAPPENING.

Have struggled to find the right words to describe.  Life-shifting doesn’t cut it.  Clarifying?  No.  Illuminating?  Way too wimpy.   The best I can come up with is “terrifying homecoming”  because Stephen King can’t begin to come up with something scarier than getting to where I’ve been directing myself since 1976, claiming it as my own, feeling my past present future selves come together – leaving me without any excuse for doing anything less than my best.

For way over fifty years, part of me clung to the crock of nonsense, utter balderdash of being all fluff, no substance.   Am over it.

Thrilling & chilling to realize the Universe has thrown down the guantlet – “Okay, you have your wish.  You are whole, as you’ve always wanted.  NOW, what comes next?  What does your unified integrated homogenized self make happen?  Any excuse for playing small is gone.  Thoughts & words are all well & good;  show us your deeds.”

My here & now reality is that my past present future selves have coalesced.  And it IS Stephen King-scary because there aren’t any outs for my not being a person of substance.  I am about as far from fluff as possible, a 65-year old rooted in an intriguing family, nurtured by an unusual community, nourished by a remarkable faith, married to a wonderful guy.

I have no excuses for not being the best version of myself possible.

Many times last night found me explaining that where part of Aging2.0’s mission is connecting entrepreneurs to capital, part of ours is connecting innovators to their butt kicking self belief.  Today, I keep hearing my past & future selves shouting out, “Start with yourself – Bring it on!

Organized? Me?

In the month since my return home from IAGG, John & I have found our home church, are regular participants in a weekly mutual support group, participated in a full moon drum circle, started a meditation practice, take dinner every other week to a young friend & her two strapping sons & go out on a walk every night before bedtime.

John might very well wonder who absconded with his wife, although he seems happy enough with the changes.  The front room is finally cleared, the front lawn (my responsibility, with the rotary mower) is being shorn, we’ve shifted from nominally to healthy vegetarian meals, am up every day at 5:15 a.m., do my morning rituals then am out the door by 5:40 a.m. to get the heart rate going with a brisk walk around the block before settling in for journaling then at least an hour of writing.

Have even blocked out an editorial calendar for this blog.  GASP!  At the moment, it’s shaping up as follows:    Sunday – Mindwalker1910 guest post  ~    Monday – writing prompt  ~   Tuesday – book discussion   ~   Wednesday – guest post  ~    Thursday –  share a website    ~   Friday  – share a TED talk  ~   Saturday – introduce one of my heart mentors

What I shared with a friend from IAGG as we grabbed one final grab at the very tag end of the IAGG World Congress has turned out to be utterly completely FABULOUSLY spot on  – – unlike every other workshop & conference I’ve attended since 2014, I did not feel changed, transformed at the end of this one.  I felt whole, completed, at one with who I am.

Organized?  Me?  NOT the inspired winger I always saw myself as being?

Not quite.  Organized – yes!  And  still inspired.

Am found of a quote from Harvey, where a character shares with new friends, “‘Elwood,’ my grandmother would say – she always called me Elwood, ‘Elwood,’ she’d say, ‘In this life, you can be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’  For years, I was smart; I recommend pleasant.”

For years, I’ve tweaked that to say it IS possible to be BOTH smart & pleasant.  Likewise, am here to attest, on this day of our Lord August the twenty-ninth, two thousand & seventeen, it IS possible to be BOTH organized & inspired.

Just watch!

 

 

CARE – a fire bell in the night

Wow – – every week since returning from the IAGG WORLD CONGRESS  seems to deliver another rich offering deepening the discussion around the current calamity called aging upward in America.

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer serves up a terrific review of CARE, an eye-opening, downright terrifying film about the nation’s – and especially our region’s -, burdgeoning home-health care worker crisis.

The Philly-produced film should awaken policy makers & fill them with enough terror to get creative & find innovative ways to head off a catastrophe on path to hit every level of our nation’s well-being.

Should, alas, does not necessarily translate to WILL.  Either to see or do.

Need, availability, cost, poverty wages, crippling government bells & whistles – put them together & we can expect our economy, social structure & health to crater over the next ten years.

May this film broaden a discussion happening among too few people & reach upward through all levels of our hide-bound & headed-for-a-cataclysmic reckoning hierarchies (too many types & levels to list).

The fire bells are ringing – 24/7/365.  Am praying  people who can make things right DO, starting with realizing that countless potential solutions are already available but are kept inaccessible because they’re not sufficiently institutionalized, bureaucratized, commoditized.

We’ve got to cut through all the jibber jabber outrageously suppressing  community- & individual-based solutions.  Or else we’re toast.

Becoming REAL (rough draft)

The following is the first draft of our talk next month to the Jenkintown Kiwanis.  It is very much a work in progress!

Becoming REAL

Everything I know about the essential nature of aging upward I learned from Margery Williams’ classic, The Velveteen Rabbit.  And from my mother, Katharine Reynolds Lockhart, aka The Velveteen Grammie, who quoted from the children’s classic to describe her own experience with growing older:

 “Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to those who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 

In 2000, a year before she died, Mom wrote to an online circle of friends,  “I can relate to that passage. I turned 90 in May.  As the years tick by and my fixtures and fittings become unglued and the “fur” is loved off, a stronger sense of being Real has moved forward.”

17 years after Mom shared that, John & I find ourselves in the vanguard of eldercare evolutionaries, dedicated to helping oldsters elders ancients live as expansively as possible.  We think about my mom, about John’s, about his grandparents & the older friends who seemed to surround me as I grew up & the two of us want what they experienced for the many, not the few.

Back when Mom wrote that, we would have roared at the thought we’d be speaking about the promise of becoming REAL.  In those days, John was busy with his railroad art commissions, while I was on a career high having been named in 2000 a major financial services company’s Employee of the Year.

Then, in autumn 2001, without warning, life went off the rails; our plans were tossed as the Universe took control, shaking us but ultimately leading to a wondrous path we’d never imagined.

Turned out the artist & businessperson had been eldercare evolutionaries in training over all the years that came before, preparing us to be right where we are now, as we are right now – awake & aware of the opportunities as well as challenges of aging upward in America.

Mom caught how many youngers feel about getting up there in years:

Just as little children look at their parents as really old, not-so-young people can see their own parents as shutting down as we age, going into some sort of benign hibernation.

It is true that nature brings us, willingly or not, into more meditative states and slower tempos. Am I bored to tears sitting in the big chair in the living room or in my soothing rocker? No, it is surprisingly rewarding.

The problem is that young kids – looking through the eyes of a still preening self — feel sad and think, “How dull her life must be.”  And too many Ancient and near-Ancient Ones fall for that line.

Truth be told, growth keeps right on going, ideally right out of the ceilings of our cramped opinion.

This old biddy believes that the Lord intends us to live fully–whatever our physical or mental condition–right up to the moment we traipse across the threshold of our spiritual home. 

Thanks, Mom, for summing up our mission, right there in your last line –  to do what we can to help every person experience full lives right up to their last breath, to be the broadest deepest widest expression of themselves possible in any given moment.

That sounds wonderful upbeat ideal – yet with too many oldsters elders ancients, getting them there can be an wrenching ordeal.  Chalk it up to physics – a body at rest wants to stay at rest.

In June, an 85-year old fellow in a senior residence – a family friend, not a client – slipped in the shower.  He caught himself before falling, but bruised his back muscles when he slammed against the shower wall.  He didn’t break anything, but the muscles were bruised badly enough to require a week’s bed rest.  Which is all it took for atrophy to affect his legs & fear to enter his heart.  Week after week, he resisted the staff’s offers to help him do his rehab exercises & he balked at us taking him out for our weekly meander.

After two months of admittedly yum take-out lunches (thick seafood sandwiches from Feast & Fancy) teamed with double-feature in-room film fests (heavy on Fred Astaire & Audrey Hepburn), John & I said ENOUGH.  That Wednesday, we put our foot down & hauled his wheel chair out, taking him OUT.

It was a challenge getting him into & out of the car, but we had a delightful ramble through Ambler woodside, saying BAAAAA at the sheep grazing at Fitz Dixon’s Erdenheim, admiring our favorite steamboat gothic house in Wynmoor, topped with lunch at a favorite diner.  The next week, we went through the same drill, having to weedle & plead to get him out.  The third – still had to cajole.  Then came the fourth – as we walked into his room, he sat upright, broke out in a big smile & a cheery HELLO, swung his legs over the bed.  He was ready to roll!

I wish we could say we’ve never run into heartbreaking situations.  One of the worst was the mother who refused to do anything with us because IF she enjoyed herself, it would lighten the burden of guilt she laid on her physician daughter for not spending every spare moment with her widowed parent.  The wonderful gentleman we had to drop because the daughter insisted we do housework & walk the HUGE German Shepherd because “you work for me.”  Or the mother whose children wouldn’t listen to concerns that she seemed a bit more depressed each time we saw her –  they were so full of themselves, they brushed away the books we suggested, refused to talk to their parent’s senior residence’s counselor & boasted to everyone about the book they’d write on how eldercare should be done – you don’t want to know the end of that story.

We’ve known some sad situations, but they’ve been rare.  People bring us on board BECAUSE we’ve been around the eldering block before, want our perspective.  They want us to be open & honest with them about what we see, offer opinions & suggestions if asked, but that the final decision is either theirs or their parent’s.

One older woman particularly stands out.  Her family brought us on because of her growing depression after their father’s stroke, just after they’d sold their house & just before they’d moved into Rydal Park.

Outside of our Moms, Anne Davis Hyatt & her family remain the high water mark of our eldering experience.  Her situation should have been particularly bleak.  She moved into a single-person unit instead of into the spacious apartment they’d picked out TOGETHER

Anne was alone, without her husband, without any friends, with six children who’d never been involved in her care, who loved her but were more like their engineer Dad than their super social Mom – oh, and she’d recently been diagnosed with early stage dementia.

But her six kids swung into action, laser focused on how could they serve as their father’s earthly hands, on what they could do to help their mother feel as fully herself as possible.  They researched care options, ran financial diagnostics & kept in close touch through phone conferences. Their findings suggested that pouring money into enrichment could lengthen her time in Independent Care, be less expensive than Personal Care – –  AND she’d be happy.

John & I were brought on right off the bat, within months of Kent’s passing, one of three different care partners, each with a different approach & particular strength. We got Anne OUT, Tamar accompanied her to art classes & Bible study, played the piano for her & read aloud, got her over to Bryn Athyn on Sundays for church & throughout the week to visit classmates friends family.  The third person, arranged by Rydal Park, escorted her to concerts & movies in the auditorium.  Her daughter, Lisa, visited her every Saturday morning & had her to lunch every week after church;  her sons alternated taking Mom out to Sunday supper.

The Hyatts used Rydal Park as one of several tools in their kit.  By including the personal family community in their mother’s weekly mix, they made the most of each & did their Dad proud – they were, indeed, his hands in this life, making sure his beloved wife was in a setting that allowed her to be her best self.

In her last year, even when Anne could not remember the day or date from moment to moment, she was ALWAYS ready for the next moment of joy.  She didn’t remember our names, but her face always beamed when we came around the corner because she knew she was about to have FUN.

The Hyatt children gambled that if they invested in enrichment activities – services not covered under Medicare or LTC – it would extend her stay in Independent Care, delay the onset of further dementia and reduce the amount of expensive, not necessarily all that personal personalized care.  This past January, John & I had a rollicking Saturday supper with Anne & several of Rydal Park buddies, six of us crowded & crowing around a table for four.  She had Sunday lunch with Lisa, supper with Hugh or Justin.  She chummed around with Tamar on Monday, had her quiet Tuesday (what we dubbed her “sabbath”) & should have had Wednesday dinner with us except she took a fall that morning moving the few feet between her bed & bathroom.  She was admitted to Abington Hospital, was in good spirits but declining on Thursday & on Friday, after the family was gathered, she was gone.  What a way to go!

We’ve been blessed to work with some remarkable families.  Anne’s children, who suddenly found themselves responsible for their mother’s well-being & saw their care as an extension of their Dad.  The niece who made sure her maiden auntie was getting at least somewhat balanced meals (left on her own, she would have stuck to chicken croquettes & mashed potatoes, no veggies, no water).  The clan matriarch who, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, is blissfully ensconced at the family summer home on a New England pond, each week bringing a fresh influx of this child or that, with his or her family in tow, with the last weekend the crowning glory, with as many children as possible descending to pack up the house for the season – Mary would tell & retell those stories straight through the coldest, bleakest winter day & we’d all feel the summer sun on our faces, the lapping of the water on our feet.

There isn’t a category for what the two of us do.  We call ourselves playfulness coaches working with all ages, all stages.  Eldercare evolutionaries working to radically change our nation’s current woeful culture around the elderly.

We reach to a future we can’t put into words.

This past July, I went to the 6-day International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics 21st quadrennial World Congress in San Francisco.  I went not really knowing my why or what I expected to bring away.  It never occurred to me that I might add value to the momentous gathering of 6000+ specialists from around the world.

What I discovered is that what John & I bring, right where we are, who we are, was deeply valued by the men & women I met.  I met authors & thought leaders I’ve admired for years & was blown away when they told me how moved they were by my insights & perceptions.  It seems they’re so caught up in their specialities, they appreciate getting the view from the trenches.

John & I will always make time for a client or two, will always be there for our friends, whether an oldster elder ancient or their family, but we’ve cut back in order to reach forward.  I recently got Cyber Access for the Technically Timid off the ground;  CATT spins socializing into social networking, offering a friendly human interface to provide the tech timid with hands-free Internet access – just as I did for Mom many years ago.  Have laptop, will travel. And we’re working on a book – That Your Days May Be Long, nurturing a 5th Commandment meme & mindset for our modern world.

John & I look forward to developing new tools for families friends care partners to include in their own kits, to helping them become playfulness coaches.  John & I took unexpected paths to this work & we love it.  We get to touch people’s lives, to nurture a new norm where oldsters elders ancients look around as they trip the “old-o-meter” into their 70s 80s 90s beyond, finding their hair has been loved off, their eyes dropping out, loose in the joints & shabbier to look at – and it doesn’t matter because they’re still truly madly deeply themselves within each moment, each situation, on track to becoming REAL.

Doesn’t get any better than that.