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Conscious Aging

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Presentations and workshops for aging with intention and grace

Planning for Retirement:
the journey ahead

  • what retirees need to know on the ups and downs of this new phase
  • building strategies for both the short and the long term

Conscious Aging:
staying vital, living larger, loving fuller

  • hold on/let go/take on: your utterly unique path of meaningful aging
  • getting older: poignant beauty and the positive piercing of the heart


Short Session on a Big Idea: Aging

“We have a reflexive dread in this society about aging,” said author Ashton Applewhite.  Here, John Schuster shows us how we can reframe our ideas about aging.

Aging Well

We are driven by fitness goals in some good ways but in other ways we are obsessed with staying and looking young. As Ashton Applewhite says, there is a collective reflexive dread at the thought of, heaven forbid, aging. What could be more of a sign of the dreaded anxiety than the huge complement for most of us if we pass for being younger than our real age.  Can we say denial everyone, as more wrinkle-reduction products saturate our markets.

So here are some questions I think about.

  • What is better when we get older, not worse?

  • Is being ageful better than being ageless?

  • What might be the opportunities for the species in global wrinkling?

Bill Thomas, the activist MD who has put his life’s work into re-defining aging, says it well:

There is great power hidden within old age, but we will remain ignorant of the depth and breadth of that power as long as we insist on… comparing youth to age. …The doctrine of youth’s perfection …ignores the possibility that there is something vital and true to be grasped and then savored within the distinctively human experience of growing old.

My journey into the world of aging.

Starting with planning for retirement seminars some years back and moving into workshops and presentations on a series of topics for elders and seniors, I have been mightily pulled into the topic of aging from many possible angles From the sociology of ageism, to the psychology and spiritual potentials, to the physical, the intellectual and neuro-science, aging has fascinated me now for a number of years.

It is no coincidence that at age 39 I started working with second half of life consciousness and concerns. I was influenced by my gifted mentor Frederic Hudson of The Adult Years fame. And the many books I read in my forties and fifties laid a foundation for now, in my later 60’s, being pulled into the eldersphere ecosystem.

My podcast, being built in collaboration with NPR public radio affiliateEWOSU in Columbus Ohio, will be coming out this year it appears. More notice on that later.

For now, let me list a series of workshops and presentations, an annotated booklist and the links to my own writings on the aging process in the two blogs I write—The Power of Your Past for Psychology Today and my personal space,

Reading List

A very informally annotated, un-alphabetized, reading list of what I have read over time, particularly in the last few years especially ~John, March, 2017

Cohen, Gene, MD, The Mature Mind  (2005)
Good news on the neuroplasticity of the aging mind and emotional maturity

Cohen, Gene, MD, The Creative Age Human Potential in the 2nd Half of Life (2000)
Good news on the aging and creativity

Chittister, Joan, The Gift of Years (2008)
Delightful and wise, the activist nun

Thomas, William, MD, What are Old People For (2004)
Takes his shot at mid-life tyranny and has many good things to see and say about the older old and aging in general

Cole,Thomas, The Oxford Book of Aging (1994)
A masterful, quite literary compendium of millennia of reflections on aging across civilizations

Baker, Beth, With a Little Help from My Friends (2014)
A fine survey of the exciting alternatives for living arrangements that are being tried and are spreading: co-housing, home adjustments, inter-generational arrangements and lots more going on

Greenleaf, Robert, Old Age: the Ultimate Test of Spirit  (2003)
The father of servant leadership presents a meaningful, down-to-earth pamphlet on aging.

Thillman, James, The Force of Character and the Lasting Life (2000)
Brilliant in places, uneven, metaphoric view toward symptoms of aging, interestingly unique

Moody, Harry, Aging: Concepts and Contraversies  (9th Edition 2017)
Edited by an AARP expert. Sociology and fact based, but quite human and fun in some places – a text book

Bianchi, Eugene, Aging as a Spiritual Journey (1984)
From the earlier ’80s, a bit ponderous but okay for calling out the shadow that we carry forward from earlier life

Rabbi Schachter Zalman, From Aging to Saging, (many editions)
Written in the ’80s, his followers offer a certification in his work: good stuff, lots of very good exercises

Sawain, Leslie, editor, Jung on Aging
Book of essays presented at the Library of Congress in 2011. Uneven but five or so really rich essays

Friedan, Betty, The Fountain of Age, (1991)
A wandering and rich report on aging from the feminist who saw that age trapped people as much as sexual identity

Klein,Daniel, Travels with Epicurus, (2014)
Fun, light in places, deep in others, great passages on forever youngsters missing out on the deep virtues of aging naturally, slowing down. Brutal and spiritually-biased toward seeing no value in the suffering of old old age.

Murphy, Jack and Hudson, Frederic, The Joy of Old (1994)
Accessible and deep and very positive with simple models but a profound point of view. Out of print

Dowling Singh, Kathleen, The Grace in Aging, (2014)
Perhaps the single most powerful for me, very spiritual and Eastern, profound meditation on spirituality and letting go

Arrien, Angeles, The Second Half of Life, (2007)
This wise teacher, cultural anthropologist and indigenous expert, writes about the gates or passages of the path of return to our wholeness.

Carter, Jimmy, The Virtues of Aging
His wise voice, as a 70 something, comes through on how he and Rosalind navigated the challenges that lead to their famously fruitful old age

Luke, Helen, Old Age, (2010)
Jungian, poetic, a series of essays on the spiritual impact of letting go as we age. Filled with myth and not straight forward but rich

Applewhite, Ashton, This Chair Rocks: a Manifesto Against Ageism (2016)
Insightful sometimes powerful writing on age prejudice.

On Dying

Nowen, Henri, Our Greatest Gift, (1994)
Spiritual, Christian and service emphasis, getting old and caring for the old as privilege.

Dowling Singh, Kathleen, The Grace in Dying, (1998)
(Her earlier book by 20 years, see The Grace in Aging above) A former hospice worker sees and describes the transformation that entering the death experience facilitates. Many inspiring beautiful passages. A fan of Ken Wilbur. Quite eastern and meditative again

Gawande, Atul, Being Mortal, (2014)
Recent best seller on medicalizing old age as a big mistake and how to start humanizing. Great for families with aging parents

Hundreds of pop titles on retirement and aging are coming out, as the Boomers want to write and give each other advice about how this stage of life goes.