There is a lot of activity, thought and emotion percolating in our Oak Park neighborhood regarding aging consciously, and this mirrors a vigorous and growing trend all across the country. In sorely divided times, the fact that we all go through the process of aging and dying could become one of the thin unifying threads that develops into a cord and then possibly a strong rope as we all get through the rough times ahead. I am honored to be meeting and working with more and more wonderful and committed people.
A few weeks ago I sat down with Sandra Sokol, Brooke McMillin and Lydia Manning. Two of the items I wanted to discuss were 1) bringing author Ashton Applewhite to speak in Oak Park and 2) continuing work toward a vigorous local "agework network."
Sandra, the former Oak Park village clerk, is active in STAR (Suburban Thursday Afternoon Retirees), a longstanding weekly gathering of older members of both Oak Park Temple and West Suburban Temple. Brooke is on the board of Arbor West Neighbors, an emerging network of local multigenerational support to assist older adults in our communities to "age in place." Lydia, associate professor of gerontology at Concordia University Chicago, is a driving force at the Center for Gerontology.
Ashton Applewhite wrote This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. Last month she was selected to present a national TED Talk, which should be available online by early May. She will be speaking in Oak Park on Thursday, June 15. Details to follow in a future column, but do save the date. She is an informed, invigorating and passionate "agework" activist.
It turns out that my second discussion point has already started being addressed between Arbor West Neighbors and the Center for Gerontology. The gist of that discussion is the planning of a one-day conference at Concordia on April 18 titled, Resilient Aging – Resilient Living: Cultivating a Community that is Good for All Ages. Dr. Roger Landry will present the keynote address. This is a very exciting development for our communities and it bodes well for our developing conscious aging efforts. More details about this in my next column.
Celebrating Seniors Week is May 18-25, a community-wide series of events throughout Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park that celebrates and raises awareness of aging adults. The theme for 2017 is Aging Out Loud.
June 4-7, Concordia will be hosting the 7th Annual International Conference on Aging and Spirituality, "bringing together international researchers and scholars with expertise in aging, religion and spirituality, as well as practitioners, policy-makers, clergy, laypeople and care partners to explore how aging presents us with opportunities to navigate transitions over the life course."
Lastly, some very exciting news. Next week, from March 7-9, the Shift Network will present online the Transforming Aging Summit: Fulfillment, Creativity & Higher Purpose in Your Later Years. I highly recommend this three-day virtual summit featuring some of our country's thought leaders on aging. Hosted by Ron Pevny, founder and director of the Center for Conscious Eldering, "it's a groundbreaking virtual gathering to inspire and equip you as you identify the path of aging that is your own — liberated from stereotypes and limiting beliefs about what's possible." This is practical and inspiring stuff.
The line-up includes Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatric physician who, among other things, runs the ChangingAging Tour on a barnstorming bus that goes from city to city. It is a spectacularly creative venture, and one of my goals is to bring the ChangingAging Tour to Oak Park sometime soon. Also presenting at the Transforming Aging Summit is my friend Katia Petersen, IONS executive director of education, as well as Ashton Applewhite, Joan Borysenko, Tom Pinkson and several others.
Go to www.transformingagingsummit.com to see the complete all-star lineup and to register. It's free!
Marc Blesoff is a former Oak Park village trustee, co-founder of the Windmills softball organization, co-creator of Sunday Night Dinner, a retired criminal defense attorney, and a novice beekeeper. He currently facilitates Conscious Aging Workshops and Wise Aging Workshops in the Chicago area.