The World Needs More Elders
By Donald Clerc
What’s the difference between being an Elder and being elderly? I never really thought about that question until joining the ManKind Project two years ago.
I’m 57, have three grown children, one young grandchild, and own my own business. So I’ve “been around the block” a few times and have learned a thing or two along the way. But no one had challenged me on what I can do with that experience and wisdom in this second half of my life.
What are the characteristics of an Elder? We all know of older people who do not behave in an Elder way. And we also know of younger people who already exhibit Elder-like qualities. Here’s what I see are some of the qualities and behaviors of an Elder:
• Speaking the truth with authority and wisdom.
• Speaking with kindness and a fierce authenticity at the same time.
• Having a gracious and open heart.
• Standing for higher values and strong standards of behavior.
• Drawing the line against counterproductive behavior.
• Giving, serving, honoring and blessing others.
• Standing in responsible support of leaders.
• Knowing when all you need to do is be present and listen.
Being an Elder is not the same as being elderly. Just because you are older doesn’t make you wise. And if you don’t share that hard-won wisdom with others, then you are not benefiting society as an Elder.
Being an Elder is not the same as being a leader. The Elder looks out for the leaders and the lead alike. The Elder uses his wisdom and experience for the good of everyone. His honesty and values help the young to mature and help the already mature to stay in touch with their core values.
Many other societies honor their Elders. It seems like our materialistic society only honors those people (young or old) who buy things, make things, or do things. How does one get honored for being and sharing wisdom? Elders can help the younger generations focus on developing their core values and stop being overly focused on material things.
Where can today’s Elders practice their craft? I grew up in a Presbyterian church, which is run by Elders by design. But outside of organized religion, schools and businesses, where else can Elders give of their gifts? If our communities can learn to utilize all of this elder wisdom in an organized way, everyone benefits.
What stops older people from stepping into the role of the Elder? The first obstacle to overcome is the assumption or lack of awareness that one is already an Elder simply because one has already experienced a half-century or more of life. The second obstacle is a lack of training on Elder-like behaviors. These behaviors are not difficult to learn – what most people need to learn are how to undo the negative habits that inhibit or cover their natural Elder qualities from coming out.
In conclusion, young people need more Elders in their lives. They grow up easier and with more maturity. I think it’s time for older people need to step into their roles as Elders. This gives them a greater sense of fulfillment and contribution to society than continuing the consumerist behaviors of when they were younger.
What we still need are a way to train more people in the second half of their life to embrace their inner Elder. And we need to develop more avenues in society where Elders can give of their gifts to others.
– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.