Thinking more about the idea of creating an Eldership Studies program in these last days. In some way its mission is to prepare students for the richest years of their lives where knowledge, skill and life experiences combine to shape a powerful human force. This force will be shaped and polished with the help of the Eldership Studies program that can provide students with much insight and choice into how to live and apply themselves in their last decades. As such this program is not only a way to help students find deeper meanings in the way they live their own lives now, but constitutes also an active agent of social and cultural change for the future.
Imagine 15 to 100 year old students connecting in the classroom discussing the deep issues we are facing as humans and planet; imagine these students together exploring ways to live meaningful and challenging lives as they grapple with topics of family, education, politics, culture, psychology and spirituality; imagine a classroom filled with students whose range in age might cover fifty and more years, where the 50 year old listens to the 80 year old, where the 70 year old listens to the opinions of a 35 year old.
Imagine those students doing a class-project together, a project that takes into account the feelings, experience and knowledge of different generations and age groups.
We are talking about creating a true space for opening up our minds where we learn to appreciate the gifts of the young and older, begin to understand how each offers important wisdom for how to move ourselves and the planet forward in kinder, gentler and more aware ways.
Much of what learning institutions across the US offer in terms of Aging Studies is a bit stuck in standard educational forms of academia where information is delivered, notes are taken, exams are passed. The Eldership Studies program is based in transformative learning, in a process-oriented, participatory approach to teaching and growing where students and teachers walk the talk together, where experience precedes concepts.
For example, I imagine a group of students led by an elder to far-away countries where they learn about perception, identity, cultural biases and values, social mores, different spiritual and psychological approaches to life – all from different age-perspectives. I imagine an elder discussing his or her life experiences in front of a group of students of all ages, a youngster expressing her views of the current state of the world.
These are some of the ideas that come to mind in thinking about this truly inter-generational, integrative approach to deepening our awareness about what it means to be human, means to be alive.