Conscious Aging in the Age of Pandemic

July 7, 2020
A Tribe Called Aging

Guest Bloggers Evalina Everidge and Marc Blesoff are part of A Tribe Called Aging, heartfelt activists and thinkers who are trying to understand and change our culture’s outlook, policies and fears about aging and dying.

Over the past three years they have worked with IONS to develop and implement the online version of IONS Conscious Aging Workshop. They share this blog in anticipation the upcoming free webinar Noetic Approaches to Aging on July 16 and the IONS Conscious Aging Online Workshop, beginning July 23.

If you are invested in security and certainty you are on the wrong planet.Pema Chödrön

There is no denying we are living in unprecedented times. Our expectations of normalcy and how our lives are supposed to be have been upended. In this time of extended crisis, some things have not changed, rather they are blatantly amplified. Profound inequities based on age, race, economic status, social devaluation and “othering” have contributed to the devastating impact of Covid 19. Ageism has long led to the marginalization of older people with negative impacts on health and well being. In the face of a deadly virus, we have been told we are less deserving of life saving health care, that our lives have less value and that we are expendable. Like many of us, I feel angry and sometimes anxious and powerless. I’m grateful for what I have learned about conscious aging. It has reminded me to practice awareness, compassion, and self care to draw on my strength and resilience.

In pandemic, we find ourselves propelled into a situation we’ve never been in before. We can’t rely on what we’ve taken for granted, or the routines that were markers of time. There is no foreseeable end date, when our perception of “normal” returns. We may feel isolated and struggle to find meaning and purpose in this new normal. Isn’t this in many ways parallel to the experience of aging? Late life is a stage of post adulthood, in which we enter uncharted territory. We may attempt to hold on to what was familiar, to our youth, to our sense of productivity. We are challenged to redefine our sense of self and purpose when the old roles and routines no longer apply. Our relationship to time changes. Covid 19 has made the prospect of death more immediate. Making peace with mortality can replace fear and give a deeper appreciation of each moment. In this more fluid time of aging, as in pandemic, we have an opportunity to explore what really matters.

This is a fertile time for life review. As I go through photos, letters and journals, I remember what has shaped me, what supported me in times of change. And, to my surprise, I feel an urge to declutter and discard many of these things from the past. I am also discovering outdated thoughts and attitudes to be released. These changing times call for an honest self-inventory, not only in regards to the ageism we’ve internalized, but also to racism and other forms of discrimination. As older people, we have an important contribution to make in shaping a new future, in partnership with younger generations.

Dr. Aisha Ahmad has written about coronavirus-inspired productivity pressure: “Now more than ever we must abandon the performative and embrace the authentic. Our essential mental shifts require humility and patience. Focus on real internal change. These human transformations will be honest, raw, ugly, hopeful, frustrated, beautiful and divine.”

Her words speak to the age of pandemic, as well as to the potential in aging. Change is inevitable. Life contains impermanence and uncertainty. Aging consciously, we can choose our response.

Evalina Everidge, IONS Conscious Aging Facilitator

There is a touch that takes a lifetime to achieve. Locking this touch away is like stripping from ourselves part of being human.Michael Rossato-Bennett

Most of us fear and deny our inevitable aging and dying. About six years ago I realized this disconnect. The IONS Conscious Aging Workshop program has helped me come to appreciate and to embrace the beauty of my own impermanence.

Over the past four months, I’ve been scared. Not only has the Covid-19 pandemic scared me, living in such uncertainty has highlighted my own fear and denial of aging. This, in turn, has pissed me off. Not a great way to be – scared and pissed off.

I cannot know what is going to happen in my own aging and dying, but I do know it is going to happen. Fearful speculation can be downright unhealthy. My being scared and pissed off will not delay or deter any of what will happen. It will, however, inhibit my own conscious aging and be a breeding ground of internalized ageism. Internalized ageism causes us to lock ourselves away just as our society locks away our older people in “nursing homes.”

The ‘touch’ that Michael Rossato-Bennett refers to in the above quote is more than just a momentary physical act. It is also a way of being that takes a lifetime to achieve. And it is a way of knowing. It is a quality of mind that, as Frank Ostaseski has said, “senses what is needed without relying solely on rational processes”. In this sense aging is noetic.

As I wrote here last year, as we age, our rhythms change and, not only do we have the opportunity to get closer to being the person we’d like to be, we have the opportunity to become better acquainted with our intuition. We can start to “know” what is really important.

A natural part of aging is being scared and pissed off. Aging consciously, we can choose life more wonderful, not just less horrible. The six-week IONS Conscious Aging Workshop, starting July 23, can help us do that.

Marc Blesoff, Certified IONS Conscious Aging Facilitator

About the Authors

Marc Blesoff

Marc Blesoff used to know everything and trust nothing. Now, Marc knows nothing and he has glimpsed trust. Marc used to believe in coincidence, but he doesn’t anymore. For over 30 years, Marc was a criminal defense attorney, then a mediator. Six years ago, he began facilitating the IONS Conscious Aging Workshops and he hasn’t stopped. It has helped him melt the armor that he’d built up. It has helped him get a clue about who he would like to be. Marc is an IONS Conscious Aging Facilitator and a member of A Tribe Called Aging.


Evalina Everidge

Evalina Everidge has assisted others in navigating life transitions for over 40 years — through community and social justice programs, as a Registered Nurse, as a Board Certified Psychiatric and Mental Health professional for over 15 years, and through a holistic consulting practice. Evalina’s path led her to years in hospice work. Sharing the end of life journey with individuals, their families, and friends was a profound and humbling experience that provided valuable lessons in what really matters. Now retired, Evalina has discovered her passion as a jazz vocalist and as an Age Appreciation Advocate. As an IONS Conscious Aging Facilitator and member of A Tribe Called Aging, Evalina has co-facilitated global webinars, online workshops, and presented at conferences.

Learn More

Learn more about the upcoming free webinar Noetic Approaches to Aging on July 16 and the IONS Conscious Aging Online Workshop, beginning July 23.

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