The Age of Disruption

Dr. Bill Thomas, one of the most innovative and creative thinkers working in medicine today, brings a radical new approach to growth and aging through his "non-fiction" theatrical events. Inspired by AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins' recent call-to-arms for a sustained effort to "disrupt" aging, Dr. Bill Thomas is heading out on the road to engage with communities and build new and vastly more rewarding visions of aging.

Each tour stop will feature a live performance by Dr. Thomas called Aging: Life's Most Dangerous Game. The mixed-media performance begins with a light-hearted look at just how "crazy" our culture's perspective on normal human aging can be and then asks: "What if? What if we all lived in a world that saw aging not as a process of decline but rather as the entree to life's most dangerous game?"

"Everything we think we know about getting older is wrong," says Dr. Thomas. "We are being manipulated and misled by a cult-like devotion to youth and speed. It's time we shake ourselves out of the misery of aging and repurpose and restore the wonders and integrity of the second half of our lives."

A Harvard educated physician, Dr. Thomas is author of the book Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life, available through both Seattle Public Library and King County Library System. He believes that society has twisted things around and created a diminished and demeaning picture of age and aging.

"Aging can be reimagined as a vivid and enlivening process that presents us with extraordinary risks, and rewards," Thomas says.

Dr. Thomas offers a sample of ways in which we can disrupt our understanding of age and aging:

  1. Protect your kids and elders from the cult-like addiction and devotion to youth. Push back against the encroachment of inverted values on kids' and elders' turf.  Let the kids be kids and let the elders grow old gracefully. Say no to standardized tests in kindergarten. Don't worship youth as perfection.
  2. Ignore the anti-aging gurus and quackery. Toss the creams, supplements, and elixirs. Say no to botox, human growth hormones and other expensive and even dangerous snake oils that give you nothing but false hope. Resist the pressure and don't succumb to the idea that the only good older person is one who looks and acts like a younger person.
  3. Look in the mirror and embrace yourself. Love yourself the way you are. Don't accept the idea that aging is defined solely as a matter of decline. Rejoice in the fact that lots of things get better and improve with age. Enjoy the fact that there is more happiness and less stress,  anger, and strife.
  4. Slow down and focus on quality time. Stop letting your time-saving gadgets, apps, and technology take over the natural rhythms in your life. Turn them off. Turn the volume down. Get away from them. Go outside. Take a walk every day. Meditate. Have a conversation with a loved one. Break the pandemic hurry sickness.
  5. Choose how you spend your time. Think about how you spend each day. Choose to do less things you don't like or enjoy. Choose to do more things that you like to do. Don't say yes, when you want to say no. Say no and do what you want to do instead. Spend more time with the people you enjoy and less time with the people you don't.
  6. Volunteer your time to help others. Get involved somewhere—anywhere you can spend time helping others. Enjoy the fact you have abundant time to devote to others. Give yourself to help others and you will strengthen the bonds between you and other people in your community.    
  7. Take up a new hobby or an old one you abandoned. Spend more time doing something you really love and are fascinated with. Experience the wonder and joy of trying new things and developing skill and even expertise you never imagined was possible. Don't be afraid to be a beginner. Share your creations with others frequently so that you look forward to more unique and special opportunity to connect and engage.
  8. Call your elders more frequently. If you don't have one, get a surrogate, no matter your age. Reach out, communicate and engage with more elders more frequently. Realize that the time you spend with them is a gift beyond measure. Seek out and learn more ways to make their time interesting and enjoyable. Learn to appreciate and benefit from the time you have to talk to them, guide them and exchange much needed wisdom.
  9. Protect your play time. Don't let the cult of adulthood wreak havoc on your play time. Liberate yourself and experience the joy and energy that results from spontaneous, unstructured play. If you need help figuring this one out, find a child to guide you. If you are with your elders, break out a game of cards, checkers, or Monopoly. Everyone lives better when they have enough unstructured playtime.
  10. Organize and attend a croning or saging party! Get together with other men and women and spend time showcasing the things you appreciate, sharing your knowledge, crafts, creations and stories, bestowing respect, honor and dignity on each other. Instead of allowing society to marginalize you and others because of your age, come together and celebrate your coming of age. Champion one and all to become a "crone" or "sage" as an act of empowerment.

Hear more at Life's Most Dangerous Game, Dr. Thomas' presentation on Friday, May 22, 2015 (doors open at 6:30 p.m. | program 7:00–8:30 p.m.) at Seattle Public Library, Microsoft Auditorium (1000 4th Ave, Seattle). Tickets ($25 per person) can be purchased online.

Dr. Bill Thomas is an internationally recognized expert on aging. He is an Ashoka Fellow and winner of the Heinz Award for the Human Condition. He co-created The Eden Alternative, an international nonprofit, and The Green House Project, both models to revolutionize nursing home care. In addition to teaching, speaking, and consulting internationally, he is currently a Senior Fellow of AARP's Life Reimagined Institute. A graduate of the State University of New York and Harvard Medical School, he lives in Ithaca, New York with his family. For more information, visit www.drbillthomas.com.