Leave it to Dr. Bill Thomas to write a new book, in this case Second Wind, and then use the book tour, not just to publicize its release by joining radio personalities and attending book signings, but instead to educate in a big way. Dr. Bill, some of his Eden Alternative and Green House Project colleagues, and other friends have undertaken a nationwide educational SecondWind Tour — with stops in 25 cities between the beginning of March and the end of May 2014. He’s using the book and the tour to promote his philosophy — and his beliefs — about aging.
Dr. Thomas’s philosophy is powerful, which is good because he is proclaiming and evangelizing to a large and very powerful demographic — the boomers — a generation that is beginning to age in earnest. A goodly number of us don’t quite know what to think about aging or how to get on with it. Of course we know we are going to age but are definitely uncertain about next steps. Participants at one of Dr. Thomas’s SecondWind Tour events — my husband and I attended the Washington, DC festivities — see and hear quite a bit about aging, gaining some insight, ideas, and tools that stimulate even more thinking. Did I mention that Dr. Bill is a great storyteller?
The goal — of the SecondWind Tour and Dr. Thomas — is nothing less than getting the entire boomer generation to understand the inevitable, that getting older is an inescapable part of each of our life plans. Aging, along with the incumbent physical changes, will gradually slow us down, and we can’t change a thing. Well, actually, we can change some things about aging by accepting what’s coming in our lives and by learning how to deeply appreciate the way our aging years can offer us a second wind — a time for growth, perspective and wisdom — after we finish with the years of traditional adulthood.
How to change?
We can stop stressing about getting old. We can use the second wind period of life to rebalance things and get on with living our lives as older persons, doing good, and helping others while we can, and to accept that near the end, we will probably become frail and need support.
Acceptance of aging doesn’t mean we can’t keep on exercising or running, eating vegetables, or doing Yoga and the like, but we will have to understand that at some point as we age, we may not continue to do all of them to the same extent. More importantly, we do not have to do them if we don’t want to. How we navigate ourselves on aging journey — the second wind part — will have an enormous effect on the quality of each of our lives.
In Second Wind (the book) Dr. Bill divides the boomers into three groups — those who deny that aging is upon them, those who realize it is coming but think they can defer or deter the aging process, and those people who accept that adulthood is morphing into older personhood. This last group includes the folks with the wisdom to enthusiastically accept what’s happening to them and get on with living well. Chapter by chapter, Dr. Thomas also tells the stories of three aging boomers — a denialist, a realist, and an enthusiast — and what’s happening in their lives from the 1960’s and onward.
The activities at SecondWind Tour also remind participants to honor people who are already frail and in need our support and care, though much more of this of this information is covered in Dr. Thomas’s previous books such as What Are Old People For? What’s critical about Second Wind (the book), however, is to understand that as we become more comfortable with the aging process — and get our second wind — we are also better equipping ourselves to think differently and seek out more respectful ways to connect to our frailest elders.
Which brings me to the music.
In addition to promoting the book and educating about aging, the SecondWind Tour includes a range of performers, some joining the tour when it arrives in one region or another. Some, like Samite Mulondo are on board for the whole tour. Mulondo performed at our event in Washington, DC, leading the crowd in song, talking about wisdom, honor and respect, and even paying tribute to Pete Seeger, a man who demonstrated his love of those three values throughout his life and especially during his second wind years.
Participants also got a glimpse into the power of music and how it offers an opportunity to help frail elders stay engaged, through the SecondWind Tour’s introduction to Music and Memory and to Michael Rossato-Bennett’s soon to premier Alive Inside documentary. I’ll write much more about this documentary and Music and Memory on another post. (Note to self: how can I get 2 tickets this summer when the movie screens in Washington, DC?)
Learning about Music and Memory and watching part of the film awakened a deep yearning of my own. Many years ago, as a young musician, I considered becoming a music therapist. It was not to be, but perhaps by featuring the documentary, the event gave me a peek into my future — something that might happen during my second wind years.
So thank you, Dr. Bill and friends, for that musical gift to me, for the book, and for so much more. Thank you for nudging us along — no, evangelizing us along — in our understanding of aging. Thank you for encouraging us — no, compelling us — to search for the deeper joys of life, and thank you for keeping us focused on the second wind part of our lives — a time that’s coming right along.
Oh, and there’s still time to attend one of the SecondWind Tour events in the Midwest, South, and Northeast.
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