"We have been aging since birth, and it is not a new concept, just further changes that we see. Yes, we see changes in the mirror, the reflections of faces that interact with us, the responses, sometimes derogatory, and the aches and pains we feel. We also see the family around us nearing death and facing challenges with health, mind, and body. We mourn with anticipatory grief, which is pervasive in our own lives. Being older is just that, being older.Being an Elder
Indigenous tribes define Elders as wise, leaders, and storytellers, bringing clarity through their experience and expertise. Hafiz (circa the 1300s) describes the spirituality of being older and perhaps a closeness with God, the Universe, something bigger than us. I reflect on Elders in history such as Mandela, who, after serving three decades in prison, became president, or Jane Fonda, who continues to advocate for human rights. I think of this textile designer Iris Apfel who creates empires at 100. Teiichi Igarashi climbed Mt. Fuji into his 90's. Gandhi, Col. Sanders, John Glenn, or, I read, Theodor Mommsen won the Nobel Peace Prize in his 80's, Betty White, Toni Morrison. . I truly believe one of the joys of being older and achieving is that you are beyond the care of what others think and say "I don't give a shit" and just do it! My grandmother was in her mid 80's when her husband of 60 years passed away. For the first six months, we all thought she would soon join him. When I spoke with her, I mentioned just attempting one change, one small change, even if it cranked her. She went to a class reunion in her village and met Ernest, a man in his late 80s, and they began seeing each other and fell in love. Now, I am not talking about this gentle, companion, no-sex, just stroll down the street kind of love. No. I am talking about passionate, spent the day in bed, physically sexual and affectionate, acting like high schoolers, kind of love. They were together for seven years until his passing. Hafiz wrote, "this sky is no place to lose your wings, so love love love" I am reminded of Neil Diamonds' song "...nd each one there had one thing shared. They have sweated beneath the same sun. Looked up in wonder at the same moon. And wept when it was all done For bein' done too soon"Being an Elder is reminding ourselves and each other that we must rise up and be a community. Isolation is true cancer that leads to our illness, disease, and mental unwellness. It is in finding our tribe, our community, that reminds us that we are stronger together. For example, if a person had a dream to build an eco-village in the country, that person's dreams may also be surrounded by their mind's challenges like a moat around their castle. Isolated, that person may dwell, wallow, and roll around in the mud of their challenges; however, in a tribe, another person may rise up stating, "I have 50 acres and would be happy to share 10 acres with you. Another tribe member states that they were a former builder and would help, and so on. Elders have the ability to bring their experience to creation."
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