Elder Wisdom

Friday I found myself in the surprising position of listening to the fear and anxiety some high-school freshmen are having about nuclear obliteration. Not qualified to answer all their questions, I suggested they talk to people who had lived through the 1950s to find out how they felt about this current threat.

As Margaret Mead pointed out, older people’s perspectives let us borrow their wisdom and experience, especially when we feel anxious about the future.* So it’s important that children and teenagers have trusting relationships with elders. If their own grandparents are no longer around or available, the Elder Wisdom Circle is a wonderful nonprofit source of “cyber-grandparents.” The carefully selected elders employ time-tested techniques for providing truly helpful advice, including the advice to only give advice if you’ve been asked to.

The benefits go both ways. Erik Erikson believed that older generations have a pyschological need to be involved in young peoples’ lives. It goes beyond learning from one another.


Mead, Margaret (1974). Grandparents as Educators. Teachers College Record, vol 76 Number 2, p. 240-249; http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 1353, Date Accessed: 10/18/2006 11:37:45 AM

Erikson, Erik (1963). Childhood and Society.

*You might also like Daniel Gilman‘s book Stumbling on Happiness.


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