Why We Have No Elders

The Balance Between New and Old

Actually, I wanted to call this article “Conservative or Liberal, throwing the baby out with the bathwater”! But that sounds political, and this is not about politics, although it might be. To me, the term “conservative” means “conserving the wisdom of our past”, and liberal means “liberating ourselves from the old ways of our past”. This sounds very political, but I assure you, if you truly think about it, these are both very important ideas and both are needed, but in a balance. Again, I think of life as a balance, but sometimes it has to be.

Whether you like one idea better than the other, conserving wisdom or exploring new, if you have one without the other, you have a lot of problems. You either get stuck in the past, or you get stuck finding out the same things over and over that have been found out in the past. You have heard the quote “If you don’t know your history, you are bound to repeat it.”


It’s fairly obvious to me that the idea of learning from our past, while exploring new ideas, is an important balance to be maintained. However, what happens when we don’t care about the past? What if we just want to move forward and take the past for granted? Does that sound a bit like youth? How about “this is the way we have always done it, so that’s how we should do it.” Does that sound a bit like “old people”? Who wants to hear that?

To me, the balance would be “Yes, explore your ideas, but take into consideration the lessons of the past.” That sounds like an “elder”. That sounds like someone who has already explored life, learned the lessons that most people have learned through the ages, but know that there are new experiences that will make the lessons a bit different. These are the people that can share the wisdom learned in life, can explain where the pitfalls may be, but yet encourage exploration in a safer manner.

Will They Listen?

I know youth tends not to listen to advice, especially in our rapidly changing world. Youth feels the world is different, so all the wisdom learned in a different life isn’t very valid in this world. But isn’t maturity the time of realizing we need to listen? The joke for mothers is usually as their kids get older, all of a sudden mom isn’t so stupid after all. They still usually won’t listen, but they start the realization that maybe mom has some experience with life after all.

Where Did The Elders Go?

I believe there is more to blame for the lack of wisdom of the elders in our lives than just youth. What has happened to those older folks with the wisdom of having experienced life? Many of them are trying to not be “old”, they are doing everything in their power to look and be young. Between surgeries, creams and endless activities, they are trying not to be “elders”. But I believe it’s a season of life that is very important, maybe even filled with responsibility. I honestly believe the world would be a better place if our culture valued the “elders”, and if the elders stepped up to share the wisdom they have.

Life is a difficult place to navigate. Food, shelter, clothing, family, self esteem, health, love…all these things have important lessons in life. How we get them, what we do with them, how we share them. Elders need to share their mistakes, as well as their successes. Elders need to be located in a place where they can be available. Instead, either they’re off being “youthful”, or they are isolated, lonely, or they are being child care while the daughter is trying to meet the needs of her family. Grandkids are great, but they are not the ones who need to know what decisions could be disastrous and why. How money doesn’t make up for the lack of family interaction, in the long run. Even if their own kids won’t listen, perhaps someone else’s kids will.

I would like to add that we do listen, even when we don’t want to. My dad used to give me lectures. I absolutely hated them. I know I had “that face” and I know my arms were crossed, as if to protect myself. My dad had the best of intentions, and I knew it, but I didn’t want to listen. Oddly enough, those lectures stayed with me my entire life. To this day I can tell you about the expenses of running a car; that it isn’t just the gas or the payments, there is all the maintenance, the depreciation of its value….. Things I know my kids need to hear, but I also know how hard it is for them to listen. So I wait until I think they will listen openly, but will that time be soon enough? My generation tends to wait until it’s too late, we tend to expect someone else to teach them, like the schools. We hope they teach them what we want them to know. How crazy is that?

Is It Our Mission?

What do I wish for? I wish for the elders to be elders, even if they don’t do a great job. Wait! I am an elder! The second half of life may actually have a purpose! Perhaps I’m not here to just try to get through the day the best I can, perhaps there is actually an important mission for me, even if it is a tough one, and I don’t feel adequate to handle the task! Perhaps I need to step up to the task of assisting those in the first half of life make wiser decisions. Maybe I can tell them all the things I wish I had known when I was going through that time. I guess that takes evaluating my life and where I could have improved. That’s a difficult task, too! It does, however, give me an opportunity to look at the great decisions I made and see how they really benefited me. Just a no brainer like not smoking; I have seen what lack of lung capacity does to people, and I don’t have to worry about that because I chose not to smoke. I have a different outcome from those who chose to smoke, and I can take credit for that decision. Better yet, I can try to explain that to the youth who can’t see that decisions made now have a huge impact on their future.

So many decisions that I had to make, and so many had huge impacts on my life. Some decisions were easy to make, others I wish I had people around me to consult. I did take advantage of bosses and friends, but did they have the hindsight to see what long term affects can come from those decisions? My life is what it is, both good and bad. But could I offer my lessons both good and bad to those who may not even know they need advice?


What Will You Do?

If you are an elder, in the second half of life, are you evaluating your life? Are you sharing your lessons in a manner that is loving and helpful to those in their youth? I believe there are so many opportunities that we could take advantage of. Even if it’s teaching a class at a library on how to form a small business, if that is what you did. Or how to navigate when a family member dies, or how to buy your first house and pay it off in half the time. Perhaps you could share stories at dinner events with your family, both the good and the bad. Perhaps tell about the worst decision you ever made in your life, and the best decision.

There are probably so many life events you had in your life that others could gleam wisdom from. You could talk about the mistakes you made when you were raising your kids, and how you felt when your parents raised you. Perhaps there is a link, and the third generation can learn from two generations of mistakes? Who were your worst bosses and why? This can be helpful to the employer as well as the employee.

So what is your mission for your second half of life? Are you just looking forward to a time of “retirement”? Or do you have a mission? Would you consider yourself up to the challenge of being an “elder”? Can you get over the idea that you are no longer “youth”, with all it’s good and bad? Do you feel like we should conserve the past, liberate ourselves from it, or strike a balance?

Feel free to leave a comment below or go to my Facebook page and start a discussion there.

If you have any friends that you believe would enjoy reading this, feel free to sent this to them.

As always, to your health!

Patti Bealer

2 thoughts on “Why We Have No Elders”

  1. Thanks Patti … I just loved you article … what a true reflection … a friend and I were just discussing our 2nd part of our lives with our kids out of college, working and married … I am sharing your article with a couple friends … thanks again for sharing your wisdom .

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