Curiosity is Ageless
In our society there are those who engage in stereotyping of people based on age, young or old. Some of it results from lazy thinking. For example, conventional ‘wisdom’ assumes without questioning that people of a certain age don’t know know how to use technology. Some older people decry the amount of time young people spend in front of screens. At least in part this seems to arise from an often unrealistic nostalgia about the past, and an unwillingness or inability to adapt to change. Each age group is made up of individuals not categories. Many find it easier to deal with categories than real life complexity. Unfortunately, such common memes can contribute to preventing meaningful discussion between different generations.
Recently I volunteered for an organization named Eldera, which takes an interesting approach to inter-generational communication (https://www.eldera.ai). Eldera was formed in early 2020 as the pandemic was taking hold. The co-founders, Dana Griffin, Jules Olleon, and Kate Burson wanted to create an online space to connect young people with people age 60 and over.
Eldera’s website describes the organization’s purpose:
“At Eldera we connect people from different geographies and backgrounds with common objectives and passions, by providing the environment, tools and introductions to do this safely. It is a place where we help by sharing time, attention, and wisdom with the next generation.”
In a guest post on the website Wisdom Well (https://wisdomwell.modernelderacademy.com/wisdom-well-about) describing Eldera’ purpose, Dana Griffin concluded by stating:
“In light of this global crisis, the true heroes are exposed -- boomers across the country who are generously sharing their wisdom, time, and attention, transforming the “OK BOOMER” meme into a “THANK YOU BOOMER” movement.”
My experience with Eldera shows that it is very aware of the need to grow and evolve by incorporating the experience gained by the wider group. A Mentor Council meets online twice a month to evaluate new ideas and grow consensus. The website shares information about a variety of topics including activities, research, and Mentor tips. Eldera also places great importance on ensuring security. All potential Mentors are vetted using a background check and all conversations are conducted using a secure individual link.
I first discovered Eldera through an article in the Atlantic magazine, “Grandparents Could Ease the Burden of Homeschooling”, September 10, 2020, (https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/09/use-grandparents-help-homeschooling/616225/). As a former university lecturer and environmental project manager with an Earth Science background and a broad range of other interests I had wanted to find some way to be of help in the pandemic. I visited Eldera’s website and signed up.
Although the original idea behind Eldera spoke to sharing the ‘wisdom’ of elders with a younger generation, there was always the concept of mutual benefit between Mentor and Mentee. In my case I like being able to talk with young people who are curious and eager to learn. When I joined Eldera I was asked a question that I was not expecting: “What is your ‘super power’. My answer: curiosity and a need to learn new things. I have always maintained that young people are the best scientists and the best scientists retain those qualities of curiosity and a need to explore new ideas.
Eldera has given me the opportunity to talk with young people who will shape the future of our planet. Our conversations do not all need to be about profound matters. There is great value in sharing the common experiences of growing up. I will say this, if you are older and take the time to talk with those who are younger you will not only be impressed but reassured.
We know that not everyone is ‘wise’ regardless of age, and even people we consider wise are not wise all the time. But people who are wise most of the time want to be engaged and help others. They tend to self-select by volunteering. There is an old saying about planting a tree you will never see fully grown. If you are 60 or older and would like to make a difference, to make a contribution to our future, I would encourage you to take a look at Eldera.