Olders & risk – go for it!

What delight to find an article I missed over on NextAvenue.com featured on MarketWatch.com.  Amen & hallelujah!

Over the moon to devour the well-crafted article talking about women putting themselves out there after 50, taking MORE risks as they age upward, rather than drawing back.  Am dancing in the streets that the financial site is introducing more people across the age spectrum to the wonderfulness of both NextAvenue & to Next Tribe.

As the article describes, Jeannine Ralston, who founded Next Tribe with a longtime friend, set out from home with her husband & children to travel the world.  Let’s acknowledge up front that as a previously published author whose written travel pieces for a host of publications including the NY Times & National Geographic, it was a no-brainer that Jeannine had the experience, material & contacts to end up with a slew of related articles & at least one book.

Few of us are so graced with talent & opportunity.  Which is not to discount all that Jeannine has risked & done.  But let me introduce you to a woman who epitomizes a 50+ woman who embraced risk – at every level of experience – without any semblance of a safety net.  My mother, Katharine Reynolds Lockhart.

When Mom was suddenly widowed at 64, she had experience as a dutiful daughter to a demanding mother, a devoted wife & life partner to my adoring Dad, a committed parent.  The farthest she’d been was a trip with Dad to London, a year before his unexpected death.  Up to 1974, her life revolved around home, church, community.

Mom’s unforeseen loss lefter her emotionally crumpled, but circumstances set in that got her OUT of her grief & opened up a previously unimagined life.  At 65, she was off to Australia to help a son & his wife welcome their first child, breaking her trip with a couple days visiting Pasadena, two in Hawaii & one in Tahiti.   At 67, we discovered that the person she’d put in charge of her finances had done her dirt, losing every penny of the money Dad had left.

Suddenly, in an age when anything in the 60s was considered O-L-D, Mom had to create money streams tailored to her non-driving reality.  She hit that out of the park AND had a powerful influence on the families & individuals she touched through family care, meal making, laundry folding & travel companionship.  At 85, Mom had clocked in numerous trips to Florida, several to Bermuda, a couple to Texas & seven (7) multi-month stays with Mike & Kerry in Australia.

I imagine Mom reading the article & whooping with agreement that in her mid-60s, she was just hitting stride.

Not that she knew that, sitting almost catatonic in Dad’s big chair in our living room.  In July 1974, she felt life, as she knew it, was over.   She was spot on – life as she knew it was over.

A life that she had never envisioned, rooted in all that came before but now sprouting exotic blossoms, was about to begin.

Right up to her last breath, Mom never held back.  While she didn’t write articles for Time or Smithsonian, she never held back. Not when it came to flying to the other side of the world.  Not when it came, in her 70s, to walking six nights a week the half mile from our Woodland Road house up & over to Alwick to make “Aunt” Benita’s dinner – come rain sleet or ice.  Not when it came to tackling, in her late 80s, the most daunting challenge of her life – being upfront & honest with her adult children about who she was & what SHE needed.

Near the end, the article notes, “It’s OK to take a few risks.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting out of your comfort zone.”  Readers at NextAvenue or MarketWatch might look at Jeannine Ralston’s honor roll of accomplishments, her deep well of recognized talent & the bedrock of opportunities that she’ll use as a freelancer to the end of her days & brush off her message, thinking, “Easy for her to write – my talents are less defined, let alone developed, & my opportunities feel like their zilch.

To them, I give my mother, with no money, limited resources, great loss & more family who needed her than ones able to offer financial or even emotional support.  My mother, who never saw risk as risky – it’s just what comes with full caps LIVING.

I can imagine Mom reinforcing Jeannine’s message about squeezing every moment, holding onto every day, not dwelling on separation from loved ones, just accepting when it finally arrives.  Jeannine wrote that about appreciating time with her growing sons.  Mom lived that every day of her life, right up to the last, particularly with what always mattered most to her – home, church, community.

Mom took to heart, especially over the last few years of her life, the crucial importance of taking risks, of venturing into scary dark corners that called to be left alone, of traveling to new places & chalking up new experiences.  Of striving every day to be awake & aware of all that was around & within her.

One thing I am sure of – Mom & Jeannine would have recognized in each other a kindred spirit, would have banded together to get out the message clearly at the core of their being:  Life is meant to be embraced, engaged in, experienced.  That whatever our age – especially as we age ever upward – we need to keep grooving, traveling, developing & deepening interests, always looking for ways to celebrate our knowledge, insights & full-throttle LIVING.


Much as I appreciated the insights gained by reading Karen’s Visionaries Have Wrinkles , her book, THE AGELESS WAY, left me floored.

Opening up the large book, was impressed right off the bat with how it leaves plenty of space in the margins for jotting notes – priceless! Because of the generous margins it offers for jotting notes in the margins, it’s almost over-sized.  Praise be!

I am only up to page 121, but had to make The Ageless Way my first official book bravo. Oh, to have the financial wherewithal to put a copy in the hands of every 25-year old!

Karen describes herself as a “visionary trailblazer and game-changer” ~ my description is force of nature.   She is larger than life, ebullient yet grounded, a major force in rocking staid stodgy stultifying ideas of “aging” to their out-dated roots, ripping them out, replanting bold & bodacious ways of moving along the age spectrum.  What joy for me that we met & talked at last year’s Positive Aging conference, that we’ve stayed in touch (however lightly) since.

It’s no joke to say that Karen has A LOT of Forrest Gump in her.  She has a knack for being present at mega paradigm-shifting moments.  It is a thrill to see how all she is, all she has developed & nurtured throughout her life, is making such a magnificent difference in the lives of all of us because we’re ALL aging upward!

Confession:  I set this book aside on first reading, weirded out that she put 40+ younguns in the same category of Boomers.  Now,  a third of the way in, I deeply appreciate that she includes midlife.  I’d start even earlier!

How to describe The Ageless Way?  At times it feels like Karen is sitting with me, sharing a cuppa, telling me tales from her decades of work as a world shaker, trailblazing firecracker!  At others, it feels like I’m in the best sort of seminar.  Or having a literary version of a Vulcan mind meld.  And then there’s the task master, setting out at each chapter’s close “The Ageless Way Reflections” – – questions & exercises designed to help us along our own Ageless Way.

Throughout what I’ve read have been echoes of women & men who’ve graced my life from early childhood, who helped protect me from those staid stodgy stultifying concepts of aging upward that held so many others down.  I grew up with the image of women as amazing agents of change.  First & foremost – my mother.

While most other girls my age had mothers who silently telegraphed the message that getting their MRS was the most important thing they could do, mine was telling about her dream of being a steward on a great ship, a dream she pursued in her early twenties, learning that to get the position, you had to have experience & the only way to get experience was to have the position. She loved her job in the Book Section at Strawbridge & Clothier, delighted in sharing stories about the different famous authors she met, one of whom – Marguerite de Angeli – would become a dear friend of the family in later years.

As she grew upward, Mom modeled the best of best practices, sharing with youngers of all ages that as we grow older, the concepts we held of being, time & relationships ar liberated.  “My feet drag somewhat and I move a lot more slowly than I did, but most days my spirit soars, making itself felt more and more.”

How Mom would have smiled, reading, “This new sense of freedom to stand in her own shoes, to raise her voice” and agreed 100% that  “it brings with it a childlike energy – one of spontaneity, play, laughter & creativity.”

It was from Mom & her circle of friends that I first learned that younger folk might like to think they know it all, but it takes scores of years – not mere decades – to understand, that there is a vast chasm between intelligence & wisdom.

The Ageless Way is  a book that could only have been written by someone who remembers life in the dark past – 40+ years ago – when tick tocking past 65 seemed to many a fate possibly worst than death.  I marvel at all she has seen, at the changes SHE has helped bring about that brought us to this place, this moment where astonishing wonders reach out & touch everyone on every spot along the age spectrum.

Young people need this book because they long to hear voices like Oliver Sacks, quoted by Karen, talking about the 80s being one of the most enjoyable decades of his father’s life, how the older man felt “not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life & perspective.”  Younger people NEED  to hear that, whether they are in their late teens, thirty-something, or making their way through the midlife maze.

Being Ageless means, in part, developing this ability to step outside our lives, to step outside time, and see the world & life as it really is.  To go beyond simple knowledge & take that step into knowing.  To feel in our bones what time really is & to appreciate both the transcience & the beauty that is Ageless.”  – –  Thanks, Karen ~ I needed that.

So do we all.  Oh, to be able to give A) this wondrous book to everyone post-high school member of my circle of loved ones, along with B) the time to read it, then share their own impressions.  Maybe take a month or more to discuss it.  To talk about older role models it brings to mind, the qualities we most appreciate in them, how what they lived connect to what Karen writes.

The Ageless Way & Karen are to be savored like a fine aged scotch or fine vintage port – slowly, with attention to the layered flavors, with awareness & awe.