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Saturday, September 24, 2011

What is an Elder - Part II

I found this quote in a recent article by Michael Meade.  I offer it here as a piece to contemplate and maybe as inspiration. Thanks to Ken Pyburn for sending the article.

"An old idea suggests that the only ones more idealistic than young people are the elders. It’s not that the elders naively believe that the great ideals of humanity, peace and justice, healing and compassion, are simply attainable. Rather, the idea is that without a commitment to such ideals a culture simply collapses into political infighting and economic warfare. The gridlock in the nation’s capitol may be an increasing national shame, but the grid lock on American imagination may be a greater tragedy in the making.

While the political parties fight over who might be the “adult in the room,” there is a desperate need for elders in communities throughout the country. Whereas the ’60s were characterized by change brought on by a youth revolution, the current morass may only be changed by an elder awakening. The revolution waiting to happen in this country may involve an awakening to the necessity of the role that elders can play in the great crises facing both culture and nature."

Sound familiar?

Here is the entire article.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mature Conversation About Aging

I continue to be amazed by the level of excitement and interest generated by a good question. In my coaching practice and in the classroom I use questions to provoke discussion or thinking outside the box.  But not until recently have I become aware that I too have a need for discuaaion and conversation and sharing of wisdom around topics related to my own aging process.

Depending on the situation people come up to me and ask," Where can I go to have a mature conversation about growing older?" or "Where can I find people that share my desire to age differently?" or "How can I pass on my accumulated wisdom?" I usually don't have a very helpful response as there is no right answer, however, it has made me think which has led a few of us to start a peer group to have these kind of conversations we can't have with family or other friends.

Our group is using the guidelines laid out in Cynthia Trenshaw's little pamphlet "A Harvest of Years: A PeerSpirit Guide for Proactive Aging Circles" available from PeerSpirit.  What is unique about Cynthia's process is that there is not one leader but we are all responsible for the success of the group. I love that idea and I will let you know how we progress.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Can We Broaden the Discussion, Please?

The Elder Corps


Psychologists believe that the aging process naturally brings out a strong desire for higher-order altruistic community service and care for the natural world which can actually supercede the lower-order needs for food, shelter and comfort. Yet society and late-life adults themselves remain fixated on their basic needs because we have such low expectations and no real role for people who are not actively engaged in earning a living in order to consume.

Without an acknowledged role to play these late life adults are often robbed of their dignity and self-worth and suffer from feeling socially useless. Perhaps as a culture when we recognize the intrinsic value of functioning elders our limited expectations and discussions will broaden from just the financial cost and care of our aging population to the cultural, moral, character and spiritual benefits we receive from engaging our aging population in building social equity.

An Elder Corps might be an answer.

How They Might Serve?

The Elder Corps idea would provide opportunities for members to serve as volunteers in schools, hospitals, universities, hospices, day-care centers, and nursing homes.  They might take part in helping to repair our communities, and work with youngsters to heal their lives. Maybe they become mediators in the court system and neighborhood senior centers providing peaceful wisdom, selflessness and moral character to challenging and difficult problems. 

Elder Corps members would not seek political office or power nor would they typically take sides in debate as their main roles would be to stimulate dialogue and discussion, to listen to the views of all and offer sage advice when invited. However sometimes they may be called upon to be a force of moral and spiritual persuasion. By being in selfless service in this fashion they could earn the respect which they need and younger people might revere them not out of obligation of simply lived long but for their willingness to show true character and ongoing commitment to the greater community and the following generations.

Who Are These Elders?

The modern Elder is a person who is still growing still a learner, still with potential and whose life continues to have within it promise for, and connection to the future. An Elder is still in pursuit of happiness, joy and pleasure, and her or his birthright to these remains intact however this is directed by spiritually enlightened service. Moreover, an Elder is a person who deserves respect and honor and whose work it is to synthesize wisdom from long life experience and to formulate this into a legacy for future generations.

In addition, these older women and men ages fifty-five and beyond feel an ongoing responsibility for maintaining the well-being of our communities and society and safeguarding the health of our ailing planet. These individuals are today’s social pioneers committed to exploring the depths of this time of life through continued mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical development in their own lives.

The Elder Corps will attract men and women who have a passion for service and community and who see the aging process more as an art form than a predetermined outcome. These people want to make a difference and leave a legacy that enriches the lives of others and inspires us to live our lives by the highest possible values and are inspired to.

Can you please just imagine what it would be like when we as a society begin to have a dialogue about how to engage everyone in meaningful service. Not just for the sake of keeping busy in old age but to gain a renewed sense of contribution, purpose and self-worth. What would that be like for us all?

A different outcome is available for this time of life if we collectively choose to apply our minds an creative juices to a new vision of the aging process while also not accepting the traditional limited and diminished expectations for people our elders.