Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Elders in denial, passing for young...and meanwhile spring has come!

I've been enjoying my recent talks with chiropractor John Kalb who is about to publish a new book titled "Winning at Aging" next month. I will review the book when it is published. John is a wonderful man who has been part of the New Warrior community for years. It makes me very glad to know that men have the opportunity to participate in this kind of training, which is described as a process of modern male initiation and self examination. You can find out more at the ManKind Project.

In our last conversation, John told me that the New Warrior community uses the acronym EID (elder in denial) for men who have not accepted the truth that they have entered the elder phase of life.

Elder in denial. What an apt description. So many older adults continue to try to pass for young. I like to imagine what it would/will be like when most older people in our culture relax into the gathering of years, rather than battling the onset of age as many now do.

What does it mean to be an elder? The word has far more potency than the word senior, which has been tainted with a variety of disempowering connotations. Nice old people. Senior discounts. Senior programs. Senior housing. Keep the seniors in the box.

But elders are out of that box. To become a real elder is to assume a role of natural authority in one's community, a role that includes mentoring, teaching, visioning and leaving a meaningful legacy. An elder not only accepts his or her gathering of years, but embraces aging as a powerful part of life's journey.

Where are you placing yourself in that continuum? How are you sharing and visioning and mentoring these days? What kind of legacy are you creating? These are questions I ask myself often.

I'm still learning more lessons from my recent standing room only Sage's Play event, "A Celebration of Aging." There are usually lessons to learn and this was no exception. It was raggedy in ways. Things didn't always hang together. But in spite of that, overall it was uplifting and there were some truly shining moments. I am very happy that so many older people gathered to hear the pro-aging messages that we presented there with previews of some of the songs from A New Wrinkle and in the presentations others shared. The celebration inspired many audience members to look at themselves and the opportunities of aging. Check out the marvelous speech that Dr. Rick Kirschner gave that night at his Art of Change blog.

And as far as I'm concerned, it was a great way to celebrate becoming 70. A real love-in of many dear old friends and some brand new ones, too.

Hey, what about comedienne Betty White? The New York Times just ran a wonderful article on her life and career as an actress. Now in her 80s, she is a wonderful example of why passion, purpose, motivation and mission continues to be important as we age.

Of course, there are as many ways to express purpose, passion, vision, lovingkindness, creativity and motivation as there are humans to embody them. It doesn't always take the form of outer work or display. Some people's elderhood unfolds through quietude, solitary contemplation and stillness. I often feature older adults whose lives and work involves expressive, active engagement and creativity, and I believe it's important to acknowledge the more inward aspects of aging, and the value of stillness, life review and immersion in the inner life.

Meanwhile, spring is springing forth. At last. Ahhh....

P.S.--if you would like to connect with ongoing Sage's Play news and events, please visit our Sage's Play website and sign up for our monthly newsletter. For those of you in the southern Oregon region, I am giving a free talk at the Ashland Library on Sunday May 15th at 2PM. It is titled "Let's Re-Imagine Aging" and it will include a discussion after the talk.


  1. You rock my dear. Great post, optimism in our aging. It's just how I feel and see but I couldn't put it so well.

  2. I don't know how people pass for being young. Maybe face lifts? Otherwise it's just denial. I think we miss a lot when we try to hold onto what we cannot anyway.