So much talent, so much expertise, so much wisdom – and much of it locked into the rapidly fading grey cells of old Rock n Rollers. In our youth obsessed society, the value of the elder has been cast aside – put into old age homes and retirement villages where they have no influence on the changes happening around them. How did we allow this to happen?
We are the generation of the 60s and 70s – our music was The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix; our movies were The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Easy Rider and 2001 a Space Odyssey. The books we read were Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest, Catch 22, The Godfather and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Our influences were many and varied and our thinking was challenged everywhere. To our credit, and to our disgrace, we created the world as it now exists. So we now have a massive role in helping build on our successes and in rectifying our failures. How we do that is up to each one of us.
At any shopping centre we see so many people sitting in the coffee shops watching the day pass by – we see business men and women, we see singers and dancers, we see adventurers and sports stars who, in retirement, have become trolley pushers as they do the weekly shopping. Each one of them has the ability to make a difference in the world – be it big or small. And imagine the possibilities if they combined their talents and their wisdom.
Imagine the opportunity that that would present for the next generations of business leaders, of mothers, fathers, entrepreneurs, even politiians? Imagine if there were a place where young people could meet those elders in an atmosphere of “positive regard”?
Imagine the energising effect of being challenged by young people looking to change the world. Imagine the opportunity to engage with the issues of the day, to be present to the concerns and dreams of this next generation of movers and shakers.
Imagine the banter and humour amongst a gathering of old geezers and geezeresses who no longer have anything to prove. And imagine the possibilities for people from all levels in society (and in our struggling South Africa – people, black and white) getting to know each other in an atmosphere of equality.
There is a real need for the wisdom of elders, but there is another reason for creating a place where elders can meet. There is an epidemic of loneliness amongst the elderly. For men, most of their friendships are built around their careers and when that career ends, often those friendships end. For women, their friendships are built around a wider range of interests and activities and are likely to survive the change that retirement brings. However, statistically, they are going to outlive their husbands and with that will come the deep loneliness of the death of a partner (or maybe relief that the old bugger has gone).
Imagine the friendships that could be forged through working toward the common purpose of making a difference in the world, and through supporting the growth and development of younger generations.
So let’s give it a try! Let’s create a place where we can meet each other and where tomorrow’s leaders can meet with us as they wrestle with the challenges of a world in transition. Join the Society of Elders Facebook page, leave a comment, make some suggestions, keep the Rockers alive!