Retirement Redesigned

Our online course is live! See the menu for details.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

Embracing Elderhood

This post is a duplication of our newsletter, The Weekly Reset, where we review a key theme each week. In the spotlight this week: Embracing elderhood. Do you see elderhood as a gift or a privilege?

A note from Johann

The Wisdom of Elderhood is a Gift

The position of elderhood is not conferred on us automatically as we age, but rather a role we take up if we choose to.

Many of the associations with aging are negative. We assume that becoming older would see the onset of deteriorating health and a weaker, less capable body. You are likely to move more slowly and to feel your aches and pains more acutely. It is no wonder that in our youth-obsessed culture, people do everything possible to stay young, or at least work to maintain a youthful appearance.

In most Western societies, there is very little veneration for age that we see in countries like Japan and in the cultures of Africa, where the Induna* is a respected elder who sits in the council of headmen and tribal leaders. In these cultures, people ask for guidance and follow the advice of the elder generation. There is respect for those that are older and wiser.

But things are changing in the Western world. There is an emerging new way of seeing older people, and an increasing regard for their contribution. It is defined by the concept of “elderhood’’ and described in the literature by publications such as the book by author Louise Aronson, “Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine Reimagining Life”.

This new awareness shows that elderhood is a gift to be cherished, and that it indicates a wiser age. In fact, the wisdom of elderhood is now seen as a key ingredient of much strategic decision making. Corporate boards of directors and executive committees talk about the benefits of “gray hair” and the contribution of experience. The approach of youth, on the other hand, seems more reckless and perhaps even somewhat impulsive. It needs to be moderated by those that are wiser and more patient.

Elderhood, now seen as a gift rather than simply a stage of development, is regarded as something to be treasured; something to be thankful for and appreciated. In response to the question of when elderhood really begins, a reasonable answer may be that it is somewhere in one’s early sixties. It is for this reason that it so neatly slots onto our concept of retirement and what it means to become older. Older and wiser.


*a Zulu/Xhosa title meaning advisor, great leader, ambassador, headman or commander of a group of warriors

Our top pick this week:

Wise Elders In The Circle Of Life

What can we learn from Indigenous elders?

Image as per original article from Psychology Today

Why are elders so important? In forests, the elder trees (“mother trees”) keep the younger trees nourished, taking from their own stores to keep the young growing (Beresford-Kroeger, 2010; Luoma, 1999; Wohlleben, 2016). They send more mycorrhizal networks through their roots to family members but also keep non-family members nourished, decreasing their own growth to share with the community. That’s an elder!

Where are humanity’s wise elders? They used to be in every community.
Stephen Jenkinson, in his book, Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble, points out that although there are more old people now, there are fewer elders than ever before. Aging has been robbed of elderhood.

Jenkinson’s book is a call to those who are aging to help restore elderhood, to foster an “elderhood-in-training.” Instead of being afraid of being old and doing everything to mitigate the looks and feel of aging, he suggests that we allow wisdom to grow again in the midst of our collapsing civilization. He calls the old to a pilgrimage where they/we can “grow sturdy and sorrowed from the labours of a deep and disheveling contemplation of what has become of age in our time.”

Elders embrace mystery and ambiguity, encourage trust and sense of connection to the past and future. They help us surrender to mystery as we make ourselves and are made by our relations. They help us find our way on the road set before us.”

Click here to read the whole article on Psychology Today

Our Spotlight video:

Embracing Elderhood

Weekly Spotlight

Other Highlights of The Week:

The Power Of Mentoring In Retirement: Helping Others While Helping Yourself

Want to communicate better?

Image as per original article in Forbes

“When we retire, we take with us all the knowledge and experience we’ve accumulated over the years. And we also take our living experiences — what we’ve learned about relationships, building a career, working with others, and managing our lives. That means there’s a lot of professional talent dumped into the trash and wasting away.

There’s another option — one that can make you feel you’re doing something meaningful, and at the same time pass along all the things you’ve learned over the years. I’m talking about mentoring.

(T)he benefits go both ways. For example, mentoring youth helps you maintain your cognitive skills. Many mentors also describe the experience as fun, and has improved the quality of their own lives in a number of ways:

• Achieve personal growth and learn more about themselves
• Improved self-esteem
• Feel they are making a difference
• Feel more productive and have a sense of purpose
• Enhance their relationships with their own children
• Feel more connected to the community”

Click here to read the article on Forbes

My Reset App Has Launched!

Two elderly men jumping into a pool with a quote “The essential app to help you prepare for and thrive in retirement”

Click here to find out more about My Reset app
Download it here from the Apple store
Download it here from the Google Play store

Weekly Poll

This week’s question:
What is one habit you would like to build?
What is one habit you would like to break?

Click here to answer the question in our Facebook group

Last week’s poll and finding:
Do you see growing old as a skill?

Circular Graph depicting poll responses

Most Popular Post Of The Week

Embracing elderhood as a stage of life
Click here to watch the TED talk on YouTube

Most Popular Quote of The Week

If you are pining for youth I think it produces a stereotypical old man because you only live in memory, you live in a place that doesn’t exist. Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been. – David Bowie

Click here to follow our Instagram page

Quote by David Bowie

To get more information and resources like this in your inbox weekly, subscribe to our newsletter here.

Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.