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Young at Any Age - Joanne Mead

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Here is a simple fact. When you board horses, dogs and other animals, you never get bored! At 77, Joanne Mead is the picture of good health and vitality. She owns a 7 acre horse boarding ranch and dog kennel for the last 45 years and takes care of other animals too.  And that, she acknowledges, helps keep her going physically with a little help from friends, family and volunteers. And in her spare time? (Yes she does have some.) She plays music from heavy metal to country.

Although her father was not a trained musician, he could pick out chords on the organ, and he had an operatic voice.  He sang all the time.  Another inspiration for her was her brother, an accomplished pianist.  Despite this early introduction to music, the painfully shy young Joanne ended up teaching at married and teaching at Franklin High School—not music, but health and physical education.

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After the loss of two children, Joanne found that music is healing and often volunteers her time and musical talents by playing at local nursing/retirement homes close to her ranch.  Recently, she was playing and singing for a group of residents in a nursing home, where she met a  105 year-old-woman.  The woman could not speak and sat mutely listening with a smile on her face.  Joanne pantomimed playing various instruments to the woman seeking to know if the woman played.  Not drums, not piano, not saxophone.  The woman’s smile grew even larger as she raised her arms and “played” the violin.

It wasn’t until 11 years ago that Joanne set out to fulfill a dream she had:  to play in a band.  Having lived a very sheltered life, she was nervous about heading out to local area bars to watch musicians and find someone to help her learn the electric bass.  But, find she did.  And learn she did taking lessons for three years.  She also found a heavy metal band to practice with playing songs she had never heard before.  She now plays in two bands—Drop Dead Red Band and Martin Henry and Freedom Street Band.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to play the bass,” she stated.  But she knows that music can “pick you up” and that it enhances everything you are doing.  If she were to retire from her business (which she has no plans to do), she says she would play music all the time.  Even now, when she vacations in Florida, she takes her bass with her and finds opportunities to play.  She would love to travel to Europe—with her bass, of course—and inspire people in other countries with her music.

Young at Any Age is a collaborative project with the AARP Oregon Volunteer team of Carlos Romo, Steve Carter, Joyce DeMonnin, Sam Jones and Debbie Cahill. Send in suggestions to oraarp@aarp.org for outstanding Oregonians 50+ who prove that age is just a number. #DisruptAging #RealPossibilities

[Photo: Sam Jones]

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