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Tasks of Elderhood

In cultures throughout time and around the world elders have had vital tasks to perform for their communities.  The following tasks of elders were collected and compiled by Allan Chinen in The Ever After: Fairy Tales and the Second Half of Life, adapted by Charles Nicholas.

  1. Dealing with the specter of decline and reality of multiples losses in later life. (An elder can do this for a declining culture/society as well)
  2. Self-confrontation (understanding one’s dark side) and self-reformation (moving toward worldly wisdom). (An elder also looks at the shadow of the society; racism, sexism, inequity… and moves the society toward wise action)
  3. Turning away from the youthful preoccupation with things; manipulating objects and accumulating possessions – to an empathic understanding of human nature. (An elder helps the culture move from preoccupation with youth and materialist/consumer culture.)
  4. Breaking free of the personal ambitions and dreams which dominate youth.  The Higher Self, society, or God replaces the ego as the driving force in life. (Elders help the culture evolve from egocentric to ecocentric for the health of the whole.)
  5. Breaking from the pragmatic rationality that dominates the middle years and liberating oneself from social customs. (Elders liberate our culture from social norms that no longer serve humanity or the planet.)
  6. The reclamation of wonder and delight. (Elders reclaim wonder and vision in our culture to move towards the more beautiful world we know is possible.)
  7. Using the transcendent inspirations of later life to help the next generation, balancing numinous revelations with the pragmatic needs of human society. (Feeding wisdom from elderhood back into society.)