The Hopi Chief, Dan Evehema, said it for all of us prospective elders before he passed on in 1999 at age 108:
There is a river flowing now, very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore—
push off into the middle of the river,
keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
See who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take
nothing personally, least of all, ourselves.
For when we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over.
Banish the word “struggle” from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done
in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting for!
Flood of Aging
Longevity is an unprecedented worldwide phenomenon. During the last century, we’ve gained three extra decades of relatively healthy, active life. In parallel, there has been a decline in fertility rates. Soon, one-third of the global population will be in the category traditionally considered “elderly. ”
Most of us elderly people around the world are hanging on to the branches on the shore as the flood of aging comes along. We are counting on:
- Government or employer pension funds for future economic support
- Young workers to pay taxes and contribute what’s needed to maintain our pension funds
- Public services or family members to care for us when we acquire disabilities
Meanwhile, we are filled with anxiety as we see the crest of the flood coming and headlines talk about pension fund shortages, the disappearance of jobs for young people, a dwindling rate of savings, and the erosion of public services. Who will support and care for us? What if we outlast our savings? What’s next?
Pushing Off from the Shore
It’s time to dive in—to focus on abundance rather than scarcity—and act like wise elders rather than frail elderly. If we have more healthy, active years ahead, let’s make the most of them! Who else is out there? What is working? What can we share together and with people of all ages?
In this time of economic turmoil when so many feel insecure and public services are being cut, it’s time for all of us elders to self-organize and share our strengths to help ourselves, each other, and our communities. Fortunately, some innovative programs to guide our efforts have been developed by older adult leaders from around the world. They have created supportive community networks, developed pathways to meaningful work, and expanded learning opportunities.
The Pass It On Network, for example, is a new global exchange where free program guides are available online in multiple languages for people to adapt and use. People are invited to submit descriptions of their own programs and innovations that stimulate and support vital aging. Moira Allan, the Paris-based international coordinator, posts them within three program categories: 1) mutual support networks, 2) pathways to meaningful work, paid or unpaid, and 3) learning opportunities. Moira also sends people additional information about programs that interest them, and puts them in touch with the appropriate innovators, who are willing to act as coaches.
We invite you to collaborate with us to spread the word about the website and its programs; post program descriptions; forward program info to prospective users; and help us find funding for website improvements and coordination.
Pass It On is all about the magic of connectivity and moving from “me” to “we. ” Every current Pass It On program starts with some kind of get-together process for bringing people to the table to talk about what they are looking for and how they can contribute. Our programs use varying tools for sharing, from free conference call services and online training to coffeehouse meetings.
Reading Jessica Conrad’s primer about the “Shareable Economy” opened my eyes to the huge range of exciting opportunities for expanding sharing through the Pass It On Network. Program Innovators have already suggested ways to meet each other across national boundaries, travel together, try homestays, mentor language learning, and more. There are many opportunities to brainstorm ways to share resources so that all of the older adults in any community can participate more fully in the sharing economy.
Now is the time for all of the regenerative generations to “Pass it on...” and share the wealth of older adult energy. We are the ones!