Elder Wisdom for today
We’re living in highly disruptive times. That’s a given. That our elders are key to elevating how we live in these disruptive times may be less obvious. But behind the scenes — and often front and center — the senior population is demonstrating our path forward. Asking your reverse mortgage clients and prospects about their interests and background could lead to some very interesting conversations. Here are a few role models who might serve as talking points:
Deep ecologist Joanna Macy, 87, brings a lifetime of commitment to her world-changing work. The Buddhist scholar, teacher, and author of Coming Back to Life, Active Hope, and World As Lover, World As Self (among many other books) helps people transform denial, despair and grief in the face of the social and ecological challenges of our time. She has been a respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology for more than five decades, and in 2015 created Work That Reconnects, a groundbreaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, and a workshop methodology for its application.
Macy refers to this time on Earth as The Great Turning, and has had a tremendous impact in educating and empowering people globally to awaken and step up for positive change. Now an elder in the fullest sense, Macy shows no signs of slowing down.
On a smaller but no less significant scale, 94-year-old Jean Bishop, known as the Bee Lady, is the queen bee of fundraising. Bishop has been raising money for charity for 25 years, dressed as, yes, a giant bumblebee (although a comparatively small one, as humans go). Over the years she has raised 112,000 pounds ($139,000).
Evincing the same joie de vivre that characterizes 98-year-old yoga teacher and ballroom dancer Täo Porchon-Lynch, Bishop says, “I didn’t want to put the costume on at first, but when I did it went down like a bomb. Of course, being 94, it does take it out of me a bit, but I won’t let it stop me.”
No failures, experiments
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This is the wisdom a trio of British centenarians embraces that, along with an ability to look ahead — and a sense of humor — keeps them mentally limber.
Two of my favorite pieces of advice come from 101-year-old Cliff Crozier: “Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted. Be as independent as you can, but don’t be reluctant to ask for help when you think you need it.”
Crozier bakes his own bread and cakes from scratch. He says, “I don’t have many failures. If I’m making a cake and it fails, it becomes a pudding.”
These elders, and many more like them, demonstrate some of the keys to healthy aging:
- Live in the present.
- View setbacks as experiments in life’s laboratory.
- (En)lighten up!
- See how you can serve others.
- Honor the aging process by being willing to ask for assistance.