Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On Elderhood: What Is Old Age For?

I've written a couple of times about Dr. William Thomas (The Greening of Aging & An Oregonian Interview) who is working to transform nursing home care and cultural views of the elderly. Last week, I found a back issue of Yes Magazine which contained an excerpt from his book, "What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World". Here's a link to the article:

What Is Old Age For? by William Thomas

I love what he says about elders and elderhood in the conclusion to the article:

"Any honest accounting of the potential influence of elders and elderhood must address the contributions not only of fit and energetic elders. It must recognize the contributions that people who are weak, ill, infirm, dependent, demented, disabled, and dying can make to this struggle. The old and frail are able to surmount the dizzy bustle that clings to the young—to enter a time and place in which the spiritual and emotional dimensions of human life take precedence over the humdrum workings (and failings) of organs, tissues, and systems. This is among the most admirable of all human endeavors. What the old and frail do is show us the way. They provide us with greater insight into and a clearer perspective on the human condition."

I invite your comments (and would love some feedback from people working in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the U.S. and around the world).

I have especially enjoyed hearing the insights of elders who have participated in my ethical will classes and introductory talks on life legacies. What a priviledge it was to listen to a 98-year old woman tell stories about her life (as well as hear the wisdom of many people in their 60's, 70's and 80's). They definitely gave me a "clearer perspective on the human condition."
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