Traditional cultures valued elders for their wisdom, sometimes attributed to them because of their age, and sometimes because they really were wise.
Modernity, roughly beginning about 500 years ago, challenged this valuing of older people for many reasons. Elders were seen as holding things back and resisting the advances of science as new information and knowledge about the world and its inhabitants replaced the earlier mythical understandings of reality. Modernity had no patience for traditional world views and more often than not, subjected these views to ridicule and dismissal as well as the individuals who held them. Post modernity, beginning to take hold as a recognizable wave of development about 60 years ago, embraced more diversity, but because of its inherent allergy to any kind of hierarchy, including natural hierarchies, could not see the emergence of integral Elderhood, a developmental stage of growth transcending and including adulthood. Elderhood does not become apparent and is not easily recognizable until integral consciousness evolves out of post modernity for more and more individuals in the world. Gratefully, the contours of Elderhood as well as its significance are gradually becoming clearer.
One of the hallmarks of elders (and Elderhood) is their caring for and commitment to the youngers of this world. The World Elders, called together by Nelson Mandela, are exemplary in this regard. Because of their stature, as former leaders in their respective countries, they command respect for their positions and campaigns for the young people of this world. Senator Bernie Sanders is still attracting young people by the droves. He is an elder who the younger people in this country know in their hearts that he cares about them and they are deeply and widely responding to him. As more and more people like myself are “aging with care,” so to speak, Elderhood becomes more apparent as an evolutionary stage of development that is characterized by caring for others as deeply or even deeper than one cares for oneself. There is a zest for and a new meaning to life as one enters this stage. Unfortunately, it is not accessed by someone merely getting older. Doing your work of waking up, growing up and showing up is both necessary and extremely rewarding as this conscious stage of post-adult development, characterized by wisdom and compassion, becomes more and more visible and attainable!