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Your Health

Stuart Light: Rocking Into Old Age

Antioch University's Symposium on Healthy Aging supports vibrancy and creativity for elders

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” — The Beatles

Stuart Light
Stuart Light

I always wanted to believe the old lyric, “rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay,” although I never really did until now. But here it is. Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Dave Mason, Loggins & Messina, Pink Floyd, Carol King, Donovan, Robert Plant, Tom Petty, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Allman Brothers, Al Stewart, Steely Dan, the Eagles, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Winwood, Huey Lewis, and others too numerous to mention, or remember. Not all of these “old” acts are playing stadiums and large arenas, but many do. And the rest? Check out a casino near you.

If this doesn’t prove there’s life after 60, then nothing will. If you had always associated rocking with old age, you were definitely on something. Or rather, on to something.

“Mama said there’d be days like this,” and mama was right. After all, she was listening to old Frank Sinatra records well into her dotage, so why would I doubt I’d be listening to Dylan? Sinatra crooned well into old age, and now it’s apparent that the musical masters of the boomer generation are doing the same. There are 76 million boomers by the way, and approximately 35 million of these new old folks will be over 60 by the end of 2015. Power to patchouli oil!

Old rockers don’t need “a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” but they aren’t only doing it for the money. There’s a lesson in the music that speaks of passion and purpose. They’re called to do what they love and be who they are. We should all be so blessed.

Mick Jagger is the purest expression of himself when he’s on stage performing. This was true when he was 20, it’s true now, and it will still be true when (with continued health and luck) he’s 80.

Many of us have seen the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, James Taylor, John Fogerty, Robert Plant, Carole King, Loggins & Messina, Jackson Browne, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt and many other oldsters from the ‘60s and ‘70s at a variety of venues over the past several years. Their inspired performances add credence (Clearwater) to the theory that doing what one loves is foundational to aging well.

Though the outer markers of age are visible on all of them, they very often sound as good, if not better than they did when we first discovered them way back when. Musical skills and energy like muscle are conserved and strengthened with use. Awhile back I saw Carole King get up from behind her piano and shake her post-60 posterior like her spine was made of rubber. That woman rocked! In the words of the late, great folk-rocker Dan Fogelberg, “Do what you must, it’s a part of the plan.”

There’s a retirement lesson in all of this. Some of these rockers hadn’t performed live in years, resting on their laurels, or perhaps assuming the passage of their youth had rendered them irrelevant. Some of them might have even become cynical whenever they saw Mick and Keith drag their bony butts out on stage again and again. There they were, pushing 70 and still doing “Satisfaction.”

And what about those on the sideline? Many were likely bored, tired, unable to find a new path, and maybe dispirited being on the outside looking in. Not a good place to be at any stage of life. They must have started to realize that the ones that were still in the game weren’t pathetically clinging to the vestiges of their long-departed youth, but doing the thing they loved, intentionally and wholeheartedly, despite advancing age.

In their old hit, “Do You Believe In Magic,” the Lovin’ Spoonful sang: “The magic’s in the music and the music’s in me.” If we want keep the magic alive as we age, looks like we’d do well to keep on rocking.

Fans will let Mick, Keith and all the rest know when it’s time to put their teeth in a glass, not some arbitrary number that says, “You’re too old.” And the rest of us who are a bit longer in the tooth than we used to be would do well to find examples of vibrant, creative, and passionate people wherever they may be, and emulate them.

Antioch University Santa Barbara has taken the lead in supporting vibrancy and creativity for elders through the Concentration in Healthy Aging, which trains psychology students in working with older adults and their families from a wellness perspective. An upcoming Symposium on Healthy Aging on April 19-20 is being sponsored by Antioch so that professionals and community members can hear from faculty guests speakers about what “healthy aging” means to all of us.

Click here for information about the Symposium on Healthy Aging.

Click here for more information about the Master’s in Clinical Psychology Program at Antioch University.

— Stuart Light, M.A., ME.d. serves as affiliate faculty in the Master’s in Clinical Psychology Program and also in the BA program at Antioch University Santa Barbara, as well as a member of the adjunct faculty Santa Barbara City College in the Alcohol and Drug Certification Program. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in life transitions. He has taught numerous classes and published many articles and essays on the issues of aging in American society. He will be sharing his thoughts on “The Coming of Age of the Baby Boomers” at the Symposium on Healthy Aging, presented by the Masters in Clinical Psychology Program at Antioch University, April 19-20.

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