Eldership Education for the Second Half of Life
by Nader Shabahangi, AgeSong Founder and CEO
Nader Shabahangi, AgeSong’s CEO, invites guests to munch on Tapas, while he introduces a new educational idea: teaching eldership to those who desire to grow into the role of the elder.
Elders Academy prepares us through education for the second half of life. Whereas societies have found ways to initiate us for the demands of our first half of life through educating us for adulthood and middle adulthood, we are often less prepared to face the second half of life. Here concepts such as retirement and golden years present a limited idea of the potential contained in our second half. Elders Academy re-establishes a truly important role which has been lost in the last few centuries of our industrialization: the role of the elder.
The role of the elder was once the most revered role in our human communities. Eldership as a role and position within a human community started within the tribal traditions. There we find an emphasis on elders as guides and leaders. This indicates that they are experienced and wise and are fit to lead the tribe and teach the young. Elders also resolve social concerns and are expected to make final decisions about the direction communities will take on the many social and individual issues we humans must face.
Today, however, elders are scarcely available to guide and initiate the young and lead our communities to make wise decisions. There is an absence of elders also because the old have not been given the skills and ability to be elders. Moreover, in the last few centuries, the status of the elderly as respected members of their societies has declined. Paralleling this decline has been a diminution of the elders’ role in their respective communities.
We need to train elders if we want to help individuals living in our communities and societies with the important tasks of supporting and guiding the younger in age and experience. For being older does not make an elder. As the history of eldership shows clearly, the qualities attributed to being an elder are quite universal. These traits must be acquired through much training, learning and practice. If we recall, for example, how monks in the various spiritual traditions are initiated over many years into becoming a respected member of their communities, then we have a glimpse of what it will take for an older person to grow into becoming an elder.
Michael Meade emphasizes this point as follows:
“Elders, by tribal imagination, and by more recent definition, are those who have learned from their own lives, those who have extracted a knowledge of themselves and the world from their own lives. We know that a person can age and still be very infantile. This happens if a person doesn’t open and understand the nature of his or her own life and the kind of surprising spirit that inhabits him or her.”
However, where do we learn anymore how to ‘extract knowledge’ from ourselves and the world? What places are left where those of us interested in eldership can learn? Where do we turn to allow our elder within to grow out of us?
Elders Academy is this place within which we can learn to become elders at any age. It is a place where the values that often arrive with age are also seen as an alternative to living a life of meaning and depth. As such, eldership provides a different approach to the way our young and middle adults understand their lives, what they deem to be their values. Our second half of life, rather than being a burden or a period of decline, is understood as the most important part of our life for which the first half was but preparation.
It is our elders, their life experience, skill, knowledge and wisdom that will help usher in a new era of understanding how we can live in harmony with planet and people. And it is our elders that will lead the way to teach us younger in age how we can reach a sustainable way of life, both in terms of matter and spirit.
Friday, February 22, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
602 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
RSVP: Marlena del Hierro, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415.318.8672
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