I recently attended a small dinner with a group of people I greatly respect. As we enjoyed dinner a table mate introduced me to a new way of thinking about leadership. She likened her life’s work to a long and beautiful relay race. Decades ago, when she was young, people around her recognized her as a future leader and, when the time was right, the baton of leadership was passed to her. She has carried this baton long and well and her work has, indeed, made the world a better place. Like her, many of us have received the gift of this baton. Our predecessors carried it as far, as fast, and as well as they could. Then, they placed it in our hands. Naturally, the day will come when we will pass the baton of change to a rising generation and the race will proceed without us.
Our lives are short and the time we are able to carry the baton of change is even shorter. This observation should not be taken as a complaint. It is the truth of our existence on this green earth, nothing more– and nothing less. Embracing the brevity of our time as changemakers is a powerful reminder that we must do all that we can, while we can.
For my part, I am in the midst of running the greatest relay in my life’s work, barnstorming the country in a rock-and-roll tour bus, rallying people to champion a new vision for aging. Nothing pleases me more than running this race, baton in hand, celebrating life through music and theater in the company of both the elders who paved the way and the next generation I hope to one day pass the baton to.
In preparing to hit the road this April in what is now rightfully dubbed the ChangingAging Tour, my eye increasingly falls on that next generation. I would like to speak directly to you about the purpose of the Tour. Everyone else, do not feel left out! Each and every one of us has a role to play in exploring our shared purpose to change aging for the better. Our purpose:
The ChangingAging Tour explores hidden dimensions of our humanity and, in doing so, inspires personal growth and social change.
We see the Tour as a powerful way to carry the baton of change forward. As regular readers of this blog well know, we are critical of the narrative (and mythology) that currently surrounds aging. We believe that equating aging with decline amplifies decline and obscures the virtues hidden within the experience of aging. The Tour helps us take people, and the communities in which they live, on a new journey. We help them see aging in a new way. “Aging” is simply the name we give to growth when we find that we are no longer young.
Those who have already experienced the Tour know that we have little to say about specific technical or political debates. We are much more interested in what lies beneath the surface. We want to disrupt conventional thinking about aging and, in doing so, bring new possibilities into being. The ChangingAging Tour exists because it helps us bring people of all ages together to explore, and celebrate, lifelong growth.
I have one more thought I’d like to share before I finish. Increasingly, I find that the Tour is fueling my own development as an elder in the making. This work is leading me to think much more carefully about the moment when I will hand off my baton. The Tour helps me prepare for that moment by putting me into direct contact with a rising generation of aging advocates who are already making a difference all across the nation. The ChangingAging Tour is, and will remain, a multi-generational project. How will we change aging? We will do it– together.
We’ll see you down the road.