Chapel Hill workshop seeks to reinvent aging

mschultz@newsobserver.comApril 2, 2013 

Bolton Anthony

CONTRIBUTED

  • If You Go

    The April 11-14 Second Journey gathering at The Friday Center in Chapel Hill will be facilitated by Lynne Iser and John Cronin. Go to www.secondjourney.org/VC.htm for more information and to register. Space is limited.

“Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, angel”

If you’re looking at your golden years and feeling a little like Bowie in 1975 – heck, if you can ever remember 1975 – Bolton Anthony is ready to serve up some dessert.

The Chapel Hill resident and activist is organizing a workshop this month at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill that will ask older people to create a new vision for the next stage of their lives.

At a time when many begin thinking about slowing down, Anthony wants to put 60 Baby Boomers in a room for three days to reinvent how society looks at “the second half of life.”

Anthony is the founder of Second Journey, which has put out “Aging the Community.” The book talks with people who are creating a new paradigm, or way of thinking, that keeps older people a vital part of communities, rather than farming them out to golf courses and nursing homes.

Part of the book looks at new models like cohousing in which people live in cooperative communities with shared activities and facilities. A local group that recently broke ground on one such a project, the 24-unit Durham Central Park Cohousing Community, advertises “aging in place” and already has a waiting list.

But Anthony says the April 11-14 gathering will be about more than that.

“What the Boomers are doing to housing is what they did to ice cream: The three flavors are now 1,000,” he said.

“I’m as equally interested in a different vision of aging,” he said. “It can be a transformative experience for individuals.”

As older people transform themselves, they can transform those around them, says speaker John Cronin, who will travel from his home in Mexico to help lead the workshop discussion.

People in their 60s and 70s and up are “the best-educated generation in the history of North Carolina,” he said. Those who fought for civil rights, women’s liberation and against the Vietnam War have a track record of social change, he said

At the same time, many have faced personal crises, lost jobs or battled illness, or watched their parents struggle to stay independent. Many may wonder what awaits them as they grow older, often without family or friends.

The conference, Cronin says, will offer a chance to really think about what comes next, especially for those leaving the traditional workforce.

“I think the idea that life as we know it is really coming to an end is something that needs to be examined more closely,” he said.

But American culture can make that examination more difficult.

“There is an aspect in our culture of always making us busy, (of thinking) what we do is what we are,” Cronin explained.

Retirement, he said, has been seen as a time to relax “and really, of no longer being of use.”

“There is an alternative view.”

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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