Would you invite your future self out for lunch?

I must be around two years old. My maternal grand parents visited on Christmas. My grandfather lived to be 103.

I must be around two years old. My maternal grand parents visited on Christmas. My grandfather lived to be 103.

I subscribe to a blog called the Gero-Punk Project and the query in a recent post was about futurism and asking readers, such as myself, to look forward.

“Would I go out to lunch with my future older self?” There were a bunch of questions, but I narrowed and modified them down to these:

How much older are you than you are now and how far into deep old age are you able to travel in your imagination? When I was laid up in 2013 and couldn’t walk, feed myself or wipe my butt, I thought this is what I would be like when I was ready for hospice care, hoping that would be in my late 80s or 90s. I have a family history of longevity and I don’t envision myself in that bad of shape. If I were to ask my future self out to lunch, I’d likely be in my 7os or 80s. A friend of mine who lives in Tucson in his 80s is quite active, works and contributes to the community. I see myself like him – he’s very computer and tech savvy, is still able to drive and get himself around. I can see myself in that way 20 years from now. Ten years from now is easier to envision. I see people around my neighborhood in their 70s and they are quite vibrant and keeping up with current trends. My mom died at 77 and I can see myself being like her and living actively up until my last breath. She lived long but died short of a massive heart attack in her sleep.

When you try to imagine your future older self, how do you feel? What sensations do experience in your body? Since resurrecting myself back to relative good health, I’ve become much more aware of my entire body, more so than when I was younger. I notice little things – aches and pains, itches and scratches more so than in the past. I lost quite a bit of weight – 37 pounds – that I want to keep much of it off (I’ve gained back 20) and still getting stronger from when I was bed ridden. The acid test was the Bolder Boulder 10K road race three months after being released from the hospital, which was a success. I had to take a swig of oxygen going up the last Folsom Hill into the Stadium. One of my neighbors in her 90s managed to finish the Bolder Boulder up until the year she died.

When you imagine your future older self, what are your surroundings? I’m thinking I won’t be needing any assisted living 10 years from now and probably still living where I am at Silver Sage. Twenty years from now, I hope to still be living independently. Even though living in “community” can be a big pain in the butt, it is nice to have neighbors around. I suspect the surroundings are going to change since I’m one of the youngest people here and in 10 years and for sure in 20 years, there will likely be some deaths and people moving out to assisted living, nursing homes or in with relatives and new, younger people moving into the ‘hood.

What are some ways in which you can experience enjoyment, freedom, and passion … in your aging body? I don’t want to out-live my peers, which is starting to happen. I’m making an effort to befriend men and women who are now in their 30s and 40s. I’ll live as full as I can. I tried shooting some baskets a couple summers ago with a kid, which was a cue for me to get stronger and get more flexible, which is why I started yoga class at The Little Yoga Studio. There aren’t a lot of men who attend, I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest person. I made a vow to myself not to end up being the old guy in the club. I could use some passion in my life as I get older. Time is getting away!

Who are your co-creatures in later life? With whom do you spend time and enjoy life? Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of acquaintances and able to stay in touch with many of them through social media. I’ve made a point of not befriending many of my cohousing neighbors. In cohousing, other than basic neighborliness,  my main interaction among everyone is conducting business. That will change as households age and there’s more reliance on a property manager, which is a transition that’s happening now. I don’t have any family of my own. I have a domestic partner, but she’s several years older than me and has her own family. It’s hard to say if I’ll still be in that fold if something happens to her. My cousins are scattered all around the place. They all have their own lives elsewhere and I’m not counting on them to pay attention to my well being later in life. I come in and out of a couple friends’ lives who would be a good companions — but life is about timing.

What is the quality of mind — the form of consciousness — that you bring to your aging experience? Cable TV must be the domain of old people. All the ads are for arthritis, diabetes, and Alzheimers. I’m finding that I don’t remember proper names like I did. I still remember faces and details about people but remember a name on the spot? Forget about it, the name will eventually come to me though. I hear that if you play word games that helps keep the mind sharp, but I don’t think that slows down the aging process. Most places I go, I find that I’m the oldest person. I don’t know if others view me like that though, but I notice. I visit a friends and neighbors at the rehab center over in the nearby rehab center. It was one of those “one size fits all” places with basic physical rehab to long term nursing care in the same building. It was eye opening to see how people end up – unaware, wheel chair bound and just waiting it out. I hope I don’t make it that long.

What do you see as your purpose in your later years? When my dad retired many years ago and I was still living in Lander, Wyoming and “commuting” back and forth to Boulder working on a project for the Northern Arapaho Tribe, I learned about a guy named Rabbi Zalman Schachter who wrote a book called “From Aging to Saging.” I gave a copy to my dad when he retired. He was a bit freaked out about what he was going to do with his time. He wasn’t a golfer or recreater. He was thinking about getting into multi-level marketing, traveling. He ended up doing quite a bit with the Presbyterian Church – mostly because my mom was pretty involved. She was a watercolor painter and they were a team. She painted pictures, he matted, framed, hung and took down the shows. He didn’t really do much social change type work, but it was better than sitting around and watching sports on TV. I see myself still working. I’ve slowed down a bit, but I hope to be producing meaningful content for digital media, maybe helping organizations with fund raising.

What new things are your future older self learning and experiencing? I’m trying to keep up with the basic innovations and have always been on the leading edge of things. I used to be an early adopter of technology, but with things changing as rapidly as they are, I’ve been slowing down my consumerism. My dad never learned how to use a computer, although my mom did and was quite proficient at email. She didn’t make it through to social media, but I’m pretty sure she would be facebooking along with the best of us. Within the next 20 years, I’ll still be going strong keeping in touch with people the best I can.

What changes in your thinking and acting do you need to make in your current life in order to have the embodied old age you envisage?  I have to downsize. Get rid of stuff. I have started this and it’s a very tedious task. My sister has squatted on the family property that’s full of three households of junk. There’s no telling when that’s going to be purged. I don’t want to be stuck with the detritus of life. She still is clinging onto our parent’s past lives. It would be nice to get rid of all that property and my sister can get a life of her own.

If you invited your future older self over for lunch, what would you ask him? “Why the hell did you allow yourself to get so old?”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that

elway xxxiii

Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway in Super Bowl XXXIII

The Broncos fresh off a win in Super Bowl 50 are looking for a quarterback now that Peyton Manning is hanging up his spurs. His back-up, Brock Osweiler is on to greener prairies in Texas leaving the team’s General Manager, John Elway, in a lurch.

I’m sure Elway can relate to the quarterback replacement dilemma after his retirement following the Super Bowl XXXIII win which brings me to my story.

In 1999, I was doing some consulting work for a non-profit in Boulder called Rock the Planet that used mountain climbing as a metaphor for positive youth development.

The group sent me on a field trip to attend a climbing wall convention in New York City.

It was the dead of winter. I made arrangements to stay with one of my college classmates who still lives on the upper westside between Broadway and Central Park on 72nd.

A couple days before my visit, he called and said he was deathly ill with a cold and made arrangements for me to stay at one of his friend’s short term rentals in Greenwich Village.

I arrived and was greeted by Jon who escorted me to the little studio, that he rented to me for a couple hundred bucks for the weekend. It was cozy but cold. By the time the steam heated up the small place, it was time for me to leave.

I don’t recall anything about the meeting I attended, but it was Super Bowl Sunday and the Broncos were playing. I didn’t know the neighborhood that well, since I normally stay a little further uptown at the Hotel Pennsylvania.

Near my room was a bar – or what looked like a bar. There wasn’t a prominent sign. Since neither of the New York teams were playing, I suspected the crowd would be light.

When I walked through the door, the place was rocking – loud music, people dancing. There was a TV behind the bar. I elbowed my way through the crowd, and sat down on an empty stool and ordered a beer. I asked the bartender to put on the game.

Meanwhile a couple guys walked over and sat down and struck up a conversation wondering what I was doing there. We had a couple laughs before they disappeared into the crowd.

Eventually, I noticed that the bar was not only full of mostly men, which wasn’t unusual, but there were men dancing with men and guys making out with guys in the booths.

Stonewall1

The Stonewall Inn was ground zero for the modern day gay rights movement.

Turned out, I had stumbled upon the infamous and now famous Stonewall Inn.

Back in the summer of 1969, it became the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. In those days, police routinely raided gay bars, but on June 28th of that year, nobody cooperated and a riot broke out. The following morning thousands joined a protest on Christopher Street.

My college friend is gay and while frat brothers at a small Presbyterian college in the middle of Nebraska, sexual orientation wasn’t of much concern since it was an assumed heterosexual world there. I didn’t learn that my ‘mate was gay until we were well out of school.

Back in the late 1980s when I was living in Lander, Wyoming, I was out drinking with a buddy. After the bars closed we went over to his place. That was the first and only time I had been propositioned by a man. I told him I prefer women. He made it sound like being gay was a choice and tried to talk me into it,  “You might like it,” he said.

I told him I prefer women.

That was that.

I imagined he felt the same as when I was when a woman turned down my proposition. My sexual exploits aren’t anything to write home about. I don’t imagine they are much different that the rest of the people I’ve hung around with over the years.

What may be different, I do have a documentary movie in mind about personal classified ads and online dating. I’m of the age where I’ve had success and failures with both. I’m now getting up the nerve to ask some of the women I’ve met through those means whether they’d be willing to share their experiences  – not necessarily experiences with me, though.

I watched a documentary on HBO about gay online dating which included some bizarre stories.

The Stonewall Inn will probably be a part of this project in someway, but i probably won’t get around to it until the next Super Bowl because I’ll have to make a pilgrimage there.

By the way, the Stonewall was hoppin’ by the time the confetti was flying at the end of Super Bowl XXXIII. I was the only one who cared that the Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons 34 – 19. I got on the train and went uptown to Sardi’s to celebrate.

Book a screening – ‘Aging Gratefully: The Power of Community’

Boulder Senior Cohousing Communities

BOULDER, CO – SEPTEMBER 2: Lindy Cook and Alan O’Hashi pull weeds from the garden of the community with other residents. The active adult cohousing community for those 55 or older is setup like a usual condo community with every person having their own place, but the sense of community is what is unique. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

I recently completed a new documentary about aging together. What happens when 25 senior citizens – the subjects of “Aging Gratefully: The Power of Community” (TRT 51min) – decide to form a cohousing community?

You can keep up with the latest on the facebook page. The 16min preview version is available to give an idea as to the content.

I live in a cohousing community called Silver Sage Village in North Boulder, Colorado. The film provides insights from six of my neighbors about their experiences and perspectives about growing old together. Everyone here is over 50 years of age.

How did the movie come into being?

Cohousing is a collaborative living arrangement. Residents own their own homes, live private lives but share in the ownership and upkeep of common spaces such the garden and common house.

It’s a challenging way to live, but living together more intentionally is a hedge against being alone and isolated through the twilight years of life.

In May, my next door neighbor’s Henry and Jean Kroll were facing the prospects of dementia which was later confirmed as Alzheimer’s Disease. After seven years, Jean had to move into a long term nursing care institution. Soon thereafter, my up stairs neighbor Gere Young was moved by her family into an assisted living facility.

Meanwhile, another resident moved and sold her place to a women with a debilitating health issue.

Times are changing at Silver Sage Village.

There there’s my story, which I’ve written extensively about in these pages.  I faced a huge lifestyle change when I landed in the hospital two years ago on December 16h. I had a rare lung disease, couldn’t walk, was on a respirator. On top of that I developed a septic ulcer that was repaired. I made it home six weeks later.

Having to regain my strength and flexibility, I joined a yoga studio. I didn’t know much about yoga but one of my teachers gave a darma talk about the importance of community and how we are members of many communities that help us navigate through life.

That was the nexus of the movie – where community meets individual choice and the balance that must be struck between the two.

I put out a casting call and was surprised that I heard from so many men, but I wanted to focus on my neighbors who have or have had life changes while at Silver Sage Village. Dan Knifong has Parkinson’s, Jean has Alzheiemers, Jim’s wife Brownie is currently in rehab with an unknown nervous condition, any myself. Two others have mostly been in support roles.

The National Cohousing Conference happened in Durham, NC and I decided to attend at the last minute. I am new to the CoHo USA board and wanted to meet my colleagues, and see if there would be any interesting people there to interview.

I ended up talking with a gerontologist named Anne Glass from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and architect Chuck Durrett who is credited with bringing cohousing to the United States.

I wanted to find out about their theoretical ideas and see how they match up with real world experiences and perceptions of current senior cohousers.

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The interviews were conducted by a colleague of mine Mary Ann Williamson. I wanted to keep arms-length from my neighbors hoping to get more frank information from them.

Through my reflections, I recount my continuing recovery and weave those experiences with the perspectives of neighbors with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and those who find themselves in supportive neighborly care giving roles.

henry jean bday

Henry and Jean Kroll celebrate Henry’s birthday at a recent Silver Sage Village community event.

 Many thanks to my friends and colleagues Michael Conti and Chris Barrera who filmed the opening scene at the Little Yoga Studio.

Silver Sage Village residents:
– Lindy Cook (nurse)
– John Huyler (facilitator)

– Henry and Jean Kroll (retired PBS staff)
– Dan Knifong (retired professor)
– Jim Leach (Silver Sage Village developer)
– Alan O’Hashi (filmmaker)
Margaret Porter (retired federal government)

Also Appearing:
– Anne Glass phD (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
– Chuck Durrett AIA (The Cohousing Company)
– Larissa Ortiz (teacher The Little Yoga Studio)

Since showing the first cut to my neighbors on December 16th – the second anniversary of being hauled by ambulance to the hospital – “Aging Gratefully” has received a bit of buzz. I have a May 2016 screening in Salt Lake City; a screening in the San Francisco bay area in the spring and invited to show it in Glasgow, Scotland.

Now I have to finish the thing!

 

 

 

Be nice to your mail carrier this holiday season

christmas seals

Christmas seals appeared on all my parent’s cards they sent out during the holiday season.

I stopped to chat with the postman as he was locking up the Silver Sage Village mail boxes. I get a few things by 1st class mail, but it’s mostly bills and junk.

Today was no different as the mail ended up in the circular file headed to the recycling bin. The other day I got a letter from the IRS saying I owe a few bucks. Maybe government agencies are obliged to use hard copy and resort to first class mail.

“Things have been really crazy. We made a deal with Amazon and now have 40 percent of their business,” he lamented. “That, plus everyone has started mailing a lot earlier this year.”

Like November 1.

The post office, unlike FedEx and UPS delivers on Christmas and Sundays. He said some days he starts at 7am and doesn’t get finished until 10pm and mail is getting delivered at odd times.

What about “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

“Oh, that’s still true, but this month the mail just gets delivered later! We’ll get it figured out eventually.”

I’ve been selling a bunch of stuff on eBay which also must have a deal with the postal service. On all packages, I get a postage discount, plus I don’t have to go to stand in line at the post office and can have the occasional chat with the postman.

Every year, I plan to send out hard copy Christmas cards, and every year I don’t get around to it. Fifty cents for a stamp and fifty cents for the card – a buck to send a greeting and well wishes is a pretty good deal.

I remember when I was young, my parents sent out Christmas cards every year. That tradition included going to the post office and picking out just the perfect stamps for that year’s mailing.

It was also a time to make donations to fight tuberculosis and putting those on the envelope was also signs of the season.

I don’t even remember mailing packages. Once in a while something would be sent to my aunt in Washington DC, but she generally came back to Cheyenne for Christmas. She always brought with her “big city” gifts like Godiva ch0colate, sweaters from Lord and Taylor.

These days, all that fancy stuff is now very common and available in malls.

We’ve become mass society.

The Baby Boomer diaspora also contributes to the package shipping explosion. When my grandparents died, my uncles and aunts didn’t come around as much any more. That meant my cousins didn’t come to town much either.

Any presents had to be mailed. That was all before FedEx and UPS. When all the cousins were in high school, the unwritten rule was, no more gifts.

I really don’t send stuff out, but now that I’m getting to the point in life that I’m downsizing, I’m selling stuff on eBay. Why on earth I held on to that Charlies Angels lunch box, I’ll never know (although I still have a crush on Kate Jackson) but someone will enjoy having it gathering dust on their shelves.

The few holiday greetings I’ve sent out are gift cards to amazon.com or event tickets. As long as there are kids, there will be a demand for unnecessary stuff. The cycle seems to keep going and going.

Even if I don’t get around to sending out cards this year, I’ll at least be nice to my mail carrier this holiday season.

By the way, I learned that this quote which has become the US Postal Service motto was written by Greek historian Herodotus, 503 B.C. The words are inscribed on the General Post Office facility on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue in New York City.

I forget … and I blame it on ‘Future Shock’

I still know the difference between coming and going but have to work harder on names.

I still know the difference between coming and going but have to work harder on names.

I’ve been noticing that I have to think harder.

Not because I can’t solve problems, but because I remember the wrong stuff.

I’ve always been a trivia buff and sometimes wish I could dump some of that gunk out of my head.

I can remember that card #1 of the 1952 Topps baseball card set is Andy Pafko, but I have to keep repeating to myself that I need to buy a new flapper for the toilet tank.

My long term memory is still sharp, but I wish I could purge my brain of some of it.

My long term memory is still sharp, but I wish I could purge my brain of some of it.

Add to that, no less than 20 flapper choices ranging in price from $6 to $20! I spent way too much time at the hardware store today.

I settled on the TOTO for $15 – made in the USA, USA, USA.

Alvin Toffler wrote “Future Shock” in 1970. The book is about personal perceptions of “too much change in too short a period of time”.

Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” came out when I was in high school. It was quite prophetic.

Ain’t that the truth.

My too-many-flappers conundrum is future shock come to pass and I notice I spend too much brain power on cluttered decisions like this.

“There have been a lot of advancements over the years,” the green – vested McGuckin plumbing department guy said of his collection of rubber plugs to keep toilet tanks full of water until the next flush.

toto flapper

I had too many flapper choices, but the one I bought, did the trick.

Add unexpected flapperology lessons to my lack of motivation and general lethargy arising from my illness recovery over the past few months and it’s a double whammy.

As a hedge against my future shock, folks encouraged me to arrange the clutter by writing lists for this and that.

I began to jot things down in a calendar book like meetings and dentist appointments appointments, but write a list?

Fuhgettaboutit!

Will someone find me a pen?

My first batch of green chili turned out, thanks to the readily available fresh veggies.

My first batch of green chili turned out, thanks to the readily available fresh veggies.

I started cooking more food from scratch and use recipes from allrecipes.com mostly because the mobile phone app works pretty well in the food store, with or without WiFi.

The parts list is at my fingertips.

Tonight, I tried my hand at a pot of green chili. In the olden days – 10 years ago, even – it was not possible to cook dishes like this because of the limited number of oddball ingredients that were available in the average grocery store. For instance, I needed:
– jalapeño peppers
– anaheim peppers
– tomatillos

While reading recipes, I could tell the older ones because they called for x-number of cans – Ortega green chiles.

The food stores stock lots of product that didn't used to be offered.

The food stores stock lots of product that didn’t used to be offered.

Safeway now offers peppers galore – pablano, habanero, banana, orange ones, yellow ones, red ones, those long slender ones you get on Chicago dogs.

The chili was good, but turned out a little spicier than I thought and I’ll tweak the recipe for the faint of heart. I used to improvise a lot, but have since learned that there’s a lot of chemistry involved in cooking, and not everything has to have tomato sauce in it.

I’ve not only started keeping a virtual recipe box, I keep my contact list up to date to help me remember people. I’m still pretty good with names, but I have to repeat them to myself more than in the past.

When I see people after a year, I can remember when we met, where we met, what they do for work. Sometimes, sometimes not, the name will come to me.

It’s very frustrating.

I learned from my nonprofit development director days that there are very expensive computer programs written to keep track of donors and prospects. I use my phone contact list to remind me about people.

I started keeping a hard copy record after I heard a couple nightmares about losing contact info in the “cloud.”

When I go places now, I have to study who may be there. I could just ask people their name, but that’s no fun.

My neighbor, Henry, says that proper name memory is the first to go – something to do with the hippocampus. That’s a bit reassuring.

Jerry Seinfeld had trouble remembering his girl friend's name that rhymes with a female body part.

Jerry Seinfeld had trouble remembering his girl friend’s name that rhymes with a female body part.

This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry can’t remember his girlfriend’s name that rhymes with a part of the female anatomy.

There’s an Alzheimer’s disease ad playing on TV about a husband that finds his wife’s car keys in the fridge.

So far, I haven’t done anything like that, but then again, I’ve been misplacing things for years like my wallet, phone, coats. I always have gotten everything back, though.

When that luck runs out, I should start worrying.

In the meantime, I’ll just go with my future shock flow and keep absorbing baseball trivia, keep my choices simple and remember names by way of mnemonic devices.

“Oh … DELORES!”

Quality time?

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“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson

A friend of mine, well into her 80s, went into the hospital the other day with some blood clots. She decided against further treatment and meeting the local hospice at her home.

She had a good run.

All of a sudden, folks are wanting to share “quality time” with her and her husband.

Another guy I know is soon to be sending his wife in her 70s with advanced dementia into a memory care facility and wants to spend “quality time” with her.

What is “quality time”, anyway?

I was surprised to see that there are definitions for “quality time” mostly having to do with giving undivided and interactive attention to a loved one or kids.

There’s another definition for people at the ends of their lives. The hospice or memory care staff are very intentional about planning “quality time” for the patient such as pain management provided by medical staff and lifestyle stability by hospice staff for family and friends.

I think these two types of quality time get interchanged when it comes to visiting terminally ill people. The doctor who gave pain killers to Michael Jackson was he facilitating quality time?

I think, yes.

Not that it matters, but I don’t prefer the term.

I stopped by and visited. My friend was sedated, but awake and recognized me. Her husband, also rehabbing from a fall was his usual self, but stuck in his chair. He’s the guy I visited at the rehab center and was able to get himself sprung from there.

It was also a time to connect with others I haven’t seen in awhile. A couple of our mutual friends were there, too.

Quality time is all relative. It’s too bad a person has to be on their death bed to get visitors.

I wonder if they thought “Where were you when we were in better shape?”

For starters, I’ll be in touch with friends and family more regularly and I hope others will return the hospitality. I was in Cheyenne the other day and stopped over to see my aunt and 89 year old uncle who just got out of the hospital. He’s not in great physical shape but in good spirits.

He was a World War II vet and a member if the 442nd Regimental Combat Battalion.

wrote the other day about envisioning my future self making it to be 70 or 80. I think I’m more in tune with Hunter Thompson’s approach of skidding through life until all my tires are bald.

I’ll have to be pretty damn chipper if I want to see quality time in 2035!

Meanwhile, I found out today my 90-something year old aunt died in her sleep.

Getting old isn’t for wimps … I’ll have some of my ashes shot out of a cannon, like Hunter Thompson.