The Alchemy of Aging Project is a school, an environment meant to cultivate the natural gift we have for continual transformation. In the second half of life we have an opportunity to make use of all that we have gathered. As yet, it is in pieces, a jumble of memories, experiences and feelings. We start where we are and become our own libraries. We have all that we need to find wholeness, vitality and a fresh way of being. How well we meet this challenge will shape our later years.
Aging begins at conception. At that extraordinary moment of coming into being, the seed of who we are begins to unfold.
This transformation occurs on all levels – physical, psychological and spiritual – until the moment of death. Driven by instinctive forces and inherited patterns, we never cease to evolve. This inborn capacity is alchemical. It changes us, refines our understanding and gives meaning to our lives. For better or for worse, it becomes our fate.
This training is designed both for older people and for the professionals who serve them. Supporting older people as they do the work of aging is a two way street. We must ourselves do our own work examining our own vision of aging and the unconscious biases and stereotypes that we have absorbed living in an ageist culture. We reflect on our feelings about our own aging process. We look at the ways we distance ourselves from old people, regard them as “other”, even though we have the best of intentions and care deeply for the people we serve.
We learn to join the old people that we work with, synchronize with their rhythms, attune to their quality of presence. Instead of professional distance, we learn professional intimacy. Healing is always a mutual process. We give and receive at the same time. By opening ourselves to old people in this way, we invite their transmission. They are able to pass on the sum of a lifetime. This exchange may happen in small ways, often without words. In this way, old people become our ancestors and bless us with the gift of their distilled experience.
The faculty of The Old School – Megan Carnarius, Victoria Howard and Kim Mooney – are nationally recognized professionals in the field of aging. We have created model programs, taught in university settings, done research, developed theories, published articles and books. Now we are older ourselves – in our 50’s 60’s and 70’s. We have had the time to hone the necessary tools – curiosity, honesty, reflection, passion, creativity and awareness – qualities available to all human beings.
There is no hierarchy in our classroom. We and our students learn from each other. This intimate work cannot be done alone.
Together we find the inspiration and the courage to face its challenge. Not everyone is driven by this necessity. Many are content with things as they are. But for those of us compelled to go further, we have a chance to find in community what we have always wanted – our own true selves.