Creative Eldering : The Philosophy and Culture of Eldering

~ By Susan L. Levy ~

When we take a few moments to reflect on the various viewpoints regarding becoming older, we can savor in the wisdom we have gained though our rich life experiences. From a historical perspective, becoming an elder was an honorable and highly revered journey. Throughout the world and in numerous cultures across all of the inhabited continents, elders of the community were sought after for their sage advice and held in the highest regard by younger members of society.

The Nicoyan people of Costa Rica are well known for their longevity and the elders within this community are respected and well cared for. Like many places outside of the westernized world, homes are multigenerational and it is common for grandparents and even great-grandparents to remain in the familial home to be cared for, assist in making decisions and to share their wisdom with younger family members. The role of elders within the Nicoyan culture is crucial to its function. Many modern-day researchers have found that having a secure sense of purpose is a significant contributor to longevity and health.

In many Korean traditions, grand celebrations are prepared for elders on their sixtieth and seventieth birthdays. These milestones are joyous events that mark the passage of time and observe the wisdom that may only be obtained by aging. Traditional Chinese culture, also expresses filial piety for their elders. Honoring one’s elders is one of the highest virtues in their culture. In many Asian cultures, families feel a great obligation to lovingly care for their aging family members and often welcome them to live in their homes.

As we study various cultural perspectives on aging, we can see that aging is indeed sacred and should be honored and celebrated rather than dismissed or shamed.

As we move through the process of growing older, it benefits us each to reflect on the “highlights” of our lives. Now is the perfect time to explore the purpose of our lives and to redefine our intentions and life objections.

Defining and living one’s purpose is commonplace for traditional Okinawans. Centuries ago it became ingrained in the Okinawan culture for people to specifically define, and continuously develop their life’s purpose, called ikigai [pronounced EEK-EE-GUY]. The beauty of this is that knowing and decreeing one’s ikigai establishes their path and illuminates their priorities. Self-esteem and respect for others tumble forth from this philosophical approach. This begets a culture full of people with less stress and more happiness. Not surprisingly, the traditional Okinawans have been known for their longevity and their propensity for maintaining health well into their 80s and 90s.

It is intriguing to learn more about the historical value placed on the wisdom of elders in various cultures throughout the world, over centuries. I encourage you to research this, specifically from the perspective of your own ethnic and cultural background. Next, you can write down the points to consider in actually defining your life’s purpose (ikigai). These may include the relationships, activities, accomplishments, hobbies and “good works” you have enjoyed during any phase of your life. In fact, an entire life review may provide clues to defining your life’s purpose. Hopefully, this exploration will help us each remember our value to our families, our communities and ourselves.

What: Dr. Susan L. Levy Presents Energizing Your Immune System Naturally

When: April 12th at 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m.

Where: Englewood Public Library 1000 Englewood Pkwy, Englewood, CO 80110

Susan L. Levy, Author of “Your Body Can Talk, 2nd Edition” and “Your Aging Body Can Talk”
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