What is an elder?

Who or what is an Elder?  Ask a kid and she’ll say it’s someone older than she is. Ask a botanist and he’ll talk about northern hemisphere shrubs and trees with white flowers and berries. Ask people from an aboriginal culture and they’ll tell of  old people in the community who are the keepers of wisdom and are sought after for their counsel, encouragement and blessing. Ask anyone else and the best you’ll get is a shrug.

Elders are, for the most part, all in the last one-third of their lives. And they don’t look much different from others of their age group. But they’re not just seniors with a fancier title.  Elders and eldering have much less to do with appearance than with attitude. They have realized that how they choose to view the world and what’s happening around them significantly affects their choices, their  actions and their resulting experience of life.

The Eldering Institute ® defines elders as those who have realized that the later years are a prime opportunity for a rich and rewarding life. Rather than waiting for the inevitable loss, decline, lack of purpose and resignation, They describe elders as those who have learned how to change their perspective by focussing on compassion, health, happiness, creative self-expression and service. In place of contributing new knowledge and information, Elders instead choose to share their wisdom. Their insights and perspectives are readily available to help others live life more successfully on their own terms. They connect ideas and solutions. They collaborate with others who are passionate about their common interests, thereby creating possible futures that all would choose to live into. Rather than controlling, manipulating or resisting, Elders can accept the situation and then share the possibilities they see.

The Institute describes Eldering today as requiring the transcending of age in relationships with others and the willingness to listen to what others have to offer. Eldering is about living life as a contribution.   Eldering means living life as a contribution to life. Elders have the time and the opportunity to share the best of themselves, and to have purposeful conversations on issues that really matter. Elders have learned how to listen attentively and non-judgmentally. Elders make the effort to look and listen and to see what is wanted and needed in the world.

Elders realize the importance of learning and personal growth throughout their lives. They are eager to discover what’s going on in the world. They open themselves to new inputs and are inspired by what others see and do. They view each day as an opportunity to expand their life experience.

[First posted by Stan Hirst on May 6,  2010].

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