In the longevity revolution, people are living 20 to 30 years beyond the age of retirement. Pre-boomers, born in the 1930s to 1944, and baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1964, are becoming a demographic force as a majority of an aging population. From these individuals is arising a growing movement of conscious elders that will change the stereotypes of older people.
More and more, aging people want their retirement years to be a time of growth—intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. “Elders” ripen into wisdom, and mellow into caring and compassion. In contrast, “oldsters” see their lives as behind them, reveling only in what they have already done and accomplished. Elders see their lives as enriched and enriching, right to the end.
Elders are coming together to nurture each other, raise consciousness and create community. By sharing and comparing their aging experiences, they enrich each other. They are sharing perspectives and discovering their gifts. They discuss what they want and need in their future, and explore their courses of action and attitudes as they progress into and through their older years. What will be their role in society and community on a threatened planet that faces the urgency of ecological crises? What have their generational contributions been and what is left undone? What are their mistakes and triumphs, and what can they learn and offer to others? If elders don’t want others to determine what becomes of them in very old age, they must be proactive, making conscious, thoughtful choices about their futures.
The Conscious Elders Network was launched in the spring of 2014 by a group of 48 impassioned people who acknowledged a growing concern over the serious social justice and environmental issues we face as a nation. With 80 million elders in our country, they saw that, collectively, there is the experience, knowledge, wisdom, resources and time to create the needed changes in our society. The network is motivated by a deep desire to leave a livable world and future for our grandchildren and all of life.
Having initiated significant strategies and actions during their first two years, they are now planning to gather again this fall. The goal is to assemble 100 dynamic elders to envision and chart their future course. The goals for the gathering include developing elements that expand and strengthen the scope of their activism in the areas of environmental and climate action, social and economic justice and regenerative living. They will also be defining a comprehensive education program and curriculum for shifting consciousness as individuals and as a collective. In addition, the Conscious Elders Network fall conference will be setting the stage for establishing a network of “Elder Circles” and climate and social justice action chapters throughout North America. And, of course, this gathering of elders will be both inspiring and fun!
For more information about the program, please go to consciouselders.org and visit the events and registration page.
Locally, on Monday, Aug. 8 KWMR’s Post Carbon Radio program will feature a two-hour special on Aging and Conscious Elderhood from noon to 2 p.m. This will be a roundtable discussion with Kurt Kuhwald, a Unitarian Universalist Community Minister; John Sorenson, co-founder of the Conscious Elders Network; Constance Washburn, a facilitator of Johanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects; and David “Lucky” Goff and Alexandra Hart, authors of “The Age of Actualization: A Handbook for Growing An Elder Culture.” Listen to the two-hour special at 90.5 FM in Point Reyes Station, 89.3 FM in Bolinas and 92.3 FM in the Valley. You can stream it online at kwmr.org and find the archive at wmpostcarbon.com.
There are some elder events planned in West Marin. Elizabeth River will facilitate a book study group on “The Activist’s Tao Te Ching” by William Martin in September and other elder events at the Point Reyes Community Presbyterian Church. Ms. River and Devi Weisenberg co-facilitate Making Friends With Death classes. In Bolinas, there is an elder and inter-generational group that gathers around a fire at Commonweal Garden on each full moon.
For information on the Conscious Elders Network 2016 National Gathering in September in Burlingame, and on West Marin elder events, contact Bing at (415) 766.1439 or email@example.com.
Bing Gong, a Point Reyes Station resident, co-hosts KWMR Post Carbon Radio. Susan Prince, a former resident of West Marin, is an organizer for the Conscious Elders Network. Eleanore Despina, of Point Reyes Station, is an elder who is active with several community organizations.