NCCA 2014 was my first-ever conference. During my years at Prudential HealthCare, had helped put some on, but this was the first I attended. It was just a few months since I'd started writing a blog. My first posting pondered if my destiny was to be an anomaly or a catalyst. The call to be an elder care anarchist was still fairly recent. Would I be someone who energized few older friends, or someone who helped trigger an overhaul of our nation's dismal culture around aging?
While I basically held back at that first conference - first for me & the inaugural conference/leadership exchange - it changed my life. The people around me shared my passion, even if they were light years past me in experience & expertise. In 2014, my main take-away was how little I knew, compared to the rest.
There aren't a lot of memories of that first experience, other than being bewitched by Anthony Hyatt & his remarkable music making, by the pre- & post-conference workshops at the Philips Collection & the Corcoran, where the abstracts heard at the conference became hands-on play.
The artwork with Like Lokon & Elizabeth Rohrbaugh opened my eyes, while playing with music & theater arts - especially Anthony's call & response - uplifted & inspired me with fresh awe of what can be accomplished with people dealing with the challenges of dementia.
Mostly, my memories of NCCA 2014 are impressions. Chiefly, the impression that this was my most true calling, that I wasn't loopy thinking there's hope for uprooting replanting nurturing a different way of experiencing expansive LIVING than what's too often the norm in our culture.
I take it back - the greatest moment at NCCA 2014 was the blinding moment when it hit me that the National Center for Creative Aging was the brain child of Gene Cohen.
Did my jaw really drop as I realize that NCCA is rooted in the work of the man who wrote The Creative Age, THE book that reaffirmed my funky approach to supporting Mom in her older age, that trumpeted the best way to help people as they get up there in years is to keep them engaged with life & creativity.
It was a shock to hear Gene had died five years earlier (prostate cancer). He was only 65. Not possible! While his book is now only available from 3rd party sellers, you can get it for a song.
Gene sparked the current growing realization of the impact of the arts - particularly dance, music, painting - on people grappling with some of the greatest challenges of old age. He left us longing for his impish inspiration, but praise be he'd passed the torch!
Could it be possible that I never wrote about his wife's opening comments, about how the imagery of Georgia O'Keefe's Sky Above Clouds captures the challenges faced by so many of my older friends. It's incomprehensible!
Was it Gene's wife, Wendy Miller, or Susan Perlstein who showed us the umbrella that captured Gene's message? Can't remember - but will never forget wanting one, big time!
Most of what I remember from that first conference are impressions, the greatest being the sense that this was where I'd been drawn all of my life, where everything that happened along every step has been directed. It was after the conference that I could see that what stretches out before me takes every scrap of every experience in my life as stepping stones to this here & now. Nothing was wasted, it all had its use.
As for the question posed back in March 2014 - "When I die, will I leave a legacy as an interesting anomaly who had a rare talent for engaging empowering energizing a few older friends? Or will I be remembered as a catalyst for an overhauled expectation & experience of aging?" - it was after NCCA 2014 that it hit home that one thing & one thing only will determine if I am remembered as the one or the other. Me.
While I might not have written a posting about NCCA 2014 (which still seems impossible), it certainly inscribed itself across my soul.
One last interesting tid bit in closing - to this day, I have no memory of how I even came to hear about that inaugural conference/leadership exchange. I remember that, like this year, friends made it possible for me to attend. Blessings on them for the opportunity to have my mind heart spirit opened in ways I can't describe. But how I learned about NCCA 2014? Haven't a clue. Goose bumps!