Bill: Welcome back everybody, I’m Bill.
Nate: And I’m Nate.
Bill: And this is the, “Ask Dr. Bill Podcast”. So if you haven’t checked out any of our previous episodes, you should. We just did a two-part on a trip Nate and Samite took to Uganda, and now we’re prepping for our next swing across to America with the, “Age of Disruption” tour. It’s gonna be taking us through the Midwest, Nate.
Nate: Yes, we’re gonna be in what we like to refer to as P-I-T-S burgh, through Madison. I’m not even sure what’s in the middle, are we going to be…?
Bill: Indianapolis, South Bend.
Nate: Indie, yes.
Nate: Some really great places.
Bill: Oh, yeah, we’re excited, and if you hear this podcast and you’re anywhere around there, check out drbillthomas.org, drbillthomas.org and you can find out about how to come see us live.
Nate: Yes, especially if you’re in Indianapolis, apparently they’re almost sold out, so get your tickets now.
Bill: Beware. All right, so let’s talk to little bit about Namarah joining the team.
Nate: Ah, yes.
Bill: Yeah, so part of what’s fun for me Nate, about the podcast is that we get to talk about stuff behind the scenes you know, that other people don’t see. And one of the new things for us this fall season is Namarah McCall joining the tour. Can you give us a little background on Namarah?
Nate: Well, sure. I’m not sure what her major was, but she finished Ithaca College just this past May, she had an internship during her senior year here at Rep Studio. So I trained her in audio basics and editing and such. In fact, I also had her help helping me do research on venues. So one of my jobs at the time to…
Bill: Even when she was in college she was working with the tour.
Nate: She was working with the tour, right off the bat. So yes, when she finished her internship up, I said, “We’re looking for someone to join our team. Might you be interested?” She said, “Absolutely, but I got to finish school first.” So we said, “No worries, that’s a very good idea, you got your head screwed on straight.” So we ended up finding Kyrié at that point, right?
Bill: Kyrié Carpenter, who you see onstage if you come to see us as one the performers in “Disrupt Dementia”.
Nate: Exactly, and so one of the things about Kyrié which I think is amazing is that you know, she was hired on to help with the lobby, essentially. Correct me if I’m wrong, but she was a little overqualified for that job I would say, but it became quickly evident that she would be more fully utilized.
Bill: You know, Kyrié has got great background as a psychotherapist and so we had, this is the coolest thing, we have a psychotherapist designing the lobby experience. So a lot of creative thought, lots of ideas, lots of play elements in the lobby. Then we discover, “Oh, by the way, she’s awesome onstage.”
Nate: Onstage, so yeah, she would be more fully utilized in that capacity. So it was one week, I think, before she ended up on stage…
Bill: So I wanted to say to everybody, if you come and join the tour the odds at this point are, you’re probably going to wind up on stage.
Nate: It’s likely at this point, yeah. So where this is obviously going is Namarah is incredibly talented as a singer and as a performer, so it’s looking like possibly in the future she’ll be coming up on stage with us as part of the 2017 edition…
Bill: Of the tour.
Nate: Of course, anything can happen. We’re exploring that option currently, but short of that, we have actually thrown her into the role of lighting…
Bill: Lighting director.
Nate: …director really. So one of the best things about being friends with Dr. Bill Thomas is that he sees potential in people, and he throws them into experiences. I am a perfect example of this. I never thought I would be telling my life story on stage every day, and don’t worry I’m not telling my whole life story. It’s abbreviated.
Bill: But musicalized and abbreviated.
Nate: Yes, you’ve often seen much more potential for me then I’ve even seen, and that’s something that’s true I think for everyone on the tour, I would say. I could even say just about all of us have been boosted by your vision for us.
Bill: Well, you know, I think the thing is the tour and all of us, we’re all into this idea that we can change American culture. And the ideas that we’re challenging are very deep-seated notions about aging that really limit people and declare in essence that older people have less to offer. So one of the things about our whole team I think is everybody… Since we’re out there crisscrossing America, challenging this idea of limitation, I think we all sort of cultivate this idea, “Hey! Possibilities man, there’s real possibilities here. This life is meant to be lived with gusto.” And I think the team we have really does that.
Nate: Yeah. Well, not to toot your horn too much, but it all stems from your intention, and your lifestyle, and your choices and the people you surround yourself with. We have, I think, benefited greatly from your vision. I’ll say it again.
Bill: That’s nice, that’s nice to see. So we decided this podcast that we were gonna do some questions, and so we’re gonna do some questions, and for everybody listening, I want to you to know if you go to changingaging.org or drbillthomas.org, either one, and you send us a note, you can get your question on the podcast, and we’ll answer it, and you don’t even have to give your real name if you don’t want to, so it’s all good.
Nate: We won’t read it.
Bill: We’re not gonna read any names this week.
Nate: So I do have three questions in front of me, so I’m gonna do them one at a time. This first one, when does old age start? That’s a good question.
Bill: That is a good question and just like aging itself which has so many different possibilities and interpretations, there is no answer. There is no, “Oh, old age starts at 73 or 94.”
Nate: This reminds me of my favorite question is when did you start playing music? And I just love to say, “The minute I was born, I came out and I started screaming.”
Bill: Nice! That could be on your next album. So you’re right, you know, we’re all in this thing, we all live in this life and aging is one part of it. Now, I’ll give you a couple of ways of answering the question. One is, if you survey people of all ages they pretty much will tell you that old age starts 15 years older than they are right now. So it’s amazing. Go survey the 15-year-olds, we have a school down the street from us, go survey the 15-year-olds. They’ll be like, “Thirty man, that is old!” But if you talk to 50-year-olds, they figure 65. I mean, that’s out there. On the other hand, you talk to 65-year-olds, and they’re like, “Uh-uh, eighty.” So people in our culture tend to map out this thing called old. It’s 15 years ahead of you as you move through the lifespan.
Nate: Naturally, who can blame them?
Bill: Right. Yeah, it’s an interesting phenomenon, and actually you find it again and again. It’s fun to do with friends, if you ask them, after dinner or something, “When do you think old age starts?”
Nate: Yeah, just to see what they say. It speaks to, I think, it indicates that we think of the word old as a…
Bill: In a pejorative way.
Nate: …good thing, exactly. So that would explain that.
Bill: It would. So that’s one way of looking at it. So scientists offer us another possibility and another way and they say you know, if you look at the complement of things to kind of understand this aging, you can look at young, old people, ages 60 to 80 and old, old people 80 to 100 and you know, it’s not bad. People 60 to 80 are sort of beyond middle age, and they’re living a life that in a lot of ways ageing has done a lot to define their life. And it seems to be that 60 to 80 life seems to be a little different than the 80 to 100 life. Did you notice I didn’t say better, worse, I said…
Bill: …different and I guess the last thing I’d say about, “When does old age begin?”, there is a piece of advice that I think really holds, that when people stop dreaming it’s a worrisome sign, no matter what their age.
Nate: If we accept that old would be used in a pejorative way, then so it would follow that when you stop dreaming then you’re…
Bill: So our disruptive message is, “We’re meant to dream our whole life. There is no place where dreaming is not appropriate to us. So our destiny is to dream great dreams our whole life.” And I think what happens, and one reason why we’re out on the road doing the tour is we want to remind people to keep dreaming and don’t let the culture… Merrily, merrily, merrily…
Nate: Life is but a dream.
Bill: That’s right. So all right, we got another question?
Nate: Sure. I think I threw you off, you were going somewhere with that, it started with…
Bill: No, no, I was like, “Okay, now do I start singing?” And then I said, “No, I’ll do the baseline.”
Nate: Next question, I’m afraid of dying, what can I do about this?
Bill: Well, actually as geriatrician, I’ve had lots of conversations with people about that this you know, I mean, it’s a big topic and at one level, I just want to say to the person asking the question, “That’s normal.” You know, one of the best ways to stay alive is to be afraid of dying. It’s very helpful you know, unless you’re going to go out and jump motorcycles you know, across the Snake River Canyon or something. That’s okay.
Nate: It’s healthy.
Bill: It’s healthy. Now, there is something that I think is sort of implicit in the question which is, you can be afraid of dying but at some point in our life journey it dawns on us that we are not immortal and that our life will have an end. And what happens when we cross that boundary line from sort of believing in our own fragile immortality, and on the other side of the boundary knowing without question that we are mortal beings. The great irony is people get happier after they cross that boundary. It’s actually an awareness of mortality that brings a certain kind of happiness into life.
Nate: I need to tell a story. Mid ’90s, cross-country trip, car, me, my girlfriend at the time, national parks pass, visiting all the national parks, it took I think a month to get across the country. Amazing trip. Mesa Verde in the Four Corners region of Colorado, there was this amazing evening where the sun was setting and the rangers were sweeping everyone out of the park and we were amongst the last people. They kept telling us, “Oh, now you’ve got to go to the next one.” And we kept getting out again and there’s one little spot where we pulled over, it wasn’t like a standard pull off spot, we just kind of like saw an overlook that we wanted to look at.
Pulled over the car, walked out, and I saw this ledge, this rock jutting out kind of like the coyote in “The Roadrunner”, and there was this distinct crack in the rock and I felt called out there. I can’t say what it was, but I was called to the edge of that rock and as I started to approach the rock she said something. I don’t even know what she said but I said… It was a Luke Skywalker moment where I needed to go into the cave alone without my weapons you know, and I said, “I’m going out here, don’t say anything or just go over there don’t worry.” It was windy, there was clearly a crack in the rock.
Bill: The coyote was watching.
Nate: Yeah, I had to go out there, and I went out, and I sat, and I dangled my legs over this huge precipice, and I just said, “I’m ready, if you want me, take me now.” And I confronted death in my own way, and it was the most liberating moment, and the most transformative moment of my life. Almost to date, I feel like it was a huge transformation. That’s my story.
Bill: Wow. Well, that is… So…
Nate: As you were saying, when you reach that point and you finally accept that death is coming one way or the other, and I also love that phrase, “We’re all gonna die.” Because it’s the thing where, oh, yeah, the paranoid schizophrenic says, “We’re all going to die, we’re all going to die. we’re all going to…” But actually it’s true. It’s true. It’s undeniably true. Yes, yes. I mean, [inaudible 00:13:15] aside.
Bill: Yeah, exactly. So thanks for sharing Nate, because that is a really powerful story about crossing that boundary. So if I was with the person asking the question, what I would do if I were in a partnership with that person, and I was helping lead them through this process, I would try to help that person approach that boundary and cross over. And my experience with older people and people who have crossed the boundary, they have much less fear of death, because the illusion is gone, and now happiness requires the truth.
Nate: Oh, man, and what a change it was for me! I definitely felt free.
Bill: Puts a lot into perspective.
Nate: Yeah, much more freedom in my life after that.
Bill: Cool, man.
Nate: Yeah. We got another question. How old are you?
Bill: I am a 57-year-old man and that actually makes me old. I am an old man and in contemporary American society that’s kind of weird. He’s 57, he says he’s old. Well, first off, old age for me is not 15 years ahead, it’s right now, I’m living it. And how can I say that when I’m “Only 57”.
Nate: Is it a humble brag?
Bill: No statistically speaking, among all the humans who ever lived, if you put them all in order, I would be really, really old. Not a lot of humans have ever lived to be 57. We lose track of that because we’re living in a time when ageing is like, “So successful. It’s amazing.” But, I mean, think about it. Pick me up, drop me off in a Plains Indian tribe in the 1400s, pre-contact you know, and I’m walking around as a 57-year-old man. They would be like, “Wow. That guy is old.” And in those cultures, I would actually have picked up some credibility and some standing. So here’s the thing we can wrap up the podcast with this, but here’s the thing, we live in a time when aging is succeeding like never before, statistically speaking.
Nate: We’ve been through this once before on the podcast, where we are not living longer it’s just more of us are reaching…
Bill: Yeah, but there’s another twist.
Bill: The twist is, more people are living longer and the esteem in which older people is dropping. So aging is succeeding, yay. You get to live longer. Oh, oh, you lose esteem because our society is so youth focused. So it’s really the opposite. In the Plains Indian tribe in the 1400s not a lot of people got to be 57 but the ones that did were pretty amazing.
Nate: Yeah, they must be amazing.
Bill: Yeah. Now, a lot of people get to be 57, but we try to create illusions and we try to shove it off and say, “I’m young.” I’m not young.
Nate: You’ve got to be 102 to get that esteem back, right?
Bill: Yes, yes. Or 114. I’m halfway you know, that would be the … “I’m halfway to being 114.” No, I’ll be gone a long time before 114.
Nate: Very interesting.
Bill: And that’s it. So on that note, we want you to know that we’re packing up, and heading out. And the next time you hear from us will be after the Midwest swing, we’ll give you a full report, and we guess we’ll see you down the road.
Nate: It seems that we will see you down the road.
Wake up and live your life.
Future’s getting closer,
Future’s getting closer.
Wake up and take this good advice,
As you’re getting older.