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Reflections May 2013

Unleash Your Hippie Power for Today’s Good

By Janice Doyle

On this 50th anniversary of that designator, the theme of Older Americans Month challenges you to regain the passion and power of the hippie days as you “Unleash the Power of Age!”

Flower Power. Far out. Peace. Love the one you’re with. Groovy.

Yes, they’re sayings from the days of real, live hippies, those free-spirited children of the ‘60s. Hippies drove VW vans painted in psychedelic colors, wore tie-dyed clothes and smoked pot for fun. They said they would never trust anyone over 30, and they set about to go against society by rejecting it.

It was a decade of pursuit. Young people stood up to gain equality for races and women. There were the anti-war protests, an environmental awareness movement, and a longing for a simpler, earth-friendly way of life.

And there was the music. From Joan Baez to Jimi Hendrix, the music of the ‘60s lives on. In the book Hippies A to Z, writer Skip Stone says of that music: “The songs had an impact on the consciousness of not just hippies but all society . . . they hit us deeply, made us think, made us dream, made us feel as one people.”

Not every young person was a stoned and commune-living hippie, of course. The American dream was alive and well. It was a great time to get a low-cost education, small business loans were out there for everyone, and an individual could make a choice to become anybody he or she chose.

We experienced the power of songs and speeches and marches, of protests and plays and events like Woodstock. Whether we participated in major movements or watched from the sidelines, we watched our world change as a result of the youth of our country.

Fifty years have passed. Both hippies and non-hippies became mothers and fathers, teachers and scientists, soldiers and airmen, policemen and bankers.

Now the society hippies said they didn’t trust supports them in their retirement.


A 1963 Declaration

Something else happened in 1963 which we were too young and cool to notice – May was declared Older Americans Month (originally Senior Citizens Month). Every year since then has seen a formal declaration for the month by the president and a challenge for everyone to recognize older Americans as a part of the community.

So here’s the thing. On this 50th anniversary of that designator, the theme of Older Americans Month challenges you to regain the passion and power of the hippie days as you “Unleash the Power of Age!”

We the older generation include some of our country’s best resources. When the kids grow up and leave us with an empty nest or when we retire and leave the workforce, we have the opportunity to unleash our intellectual property, experience and know-how to better our communities.

No protest is needed. You can march or run or use a walker.

You can teach, create, grow, develop or use your skills in any one of a hundred different ways. From basic telephone skills to helping construct new paths on the Appalachian Trail, you can unleash your power. If you’re still singing, find a way to help others enjoy singing. If you are an environmentalist tree hugger at heart, engage in some “flower power” by planting trees. Join the Passport In Time program in national forests. Do psychedelic colors still intrigue you? Consider painting houses with Habitat for Humanity or the elderly in your neighborhood. (Well, maybe not in psychedelic colors.)

The best part is that every time you volunteer, you yourself continue learning, growing and broadening your own horizons.

Go for it! The hippies wanted change to happen just because they said it should happen. Fifty years later we’re wiser and we know that some changes can only occur if one individual person makes a difference one day at a time.

Groovy, man! Unleash your power!


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