There’s more to aging than lumbago and early-bird specials. A University of Michigan study found elders boast reservoirs of social wisdom — deeper than young bloods.
Wisdom that Jack Levine of 4Generations Institute says Florida must tap. More elders need to be given the opportunity to share their life experience with younger generations. Not only will it yield psychic dividends, it promises much-needed support for emaciated state programs.
The Sentinel editorial board recently spoke with Levine about elder mentoring, also known as “saging.” Here are excerpts.
Q: You’re a longtime children’s advocate. What set you on this path?
A: When I was growing up in the 1950s, families, basically had three generations — children, parents and grandparents. … In the past 35 years, we have actually added another generation … “super-elders.”
… I realized that [those advocating for kids’ programs] were kind of leaving off this reality called “family.” And some of them were making out like the elders were the competition. … The attitude of this intergenerational war — that we could only afford one generation so let’s make our choices — was frankly unnatural because we all want the best for each age group. We just need to figure out how to do it.
Where better to do this than Florida, where we have a lot of everybody, and have a lot of everybody who sometimes need connection, because we’ve segregated the generations?
Q: What are you proposing?
A: Young people have a lot to gain by learning a lot from elders. What do those in their 60s, 70s, and 80s have to gain by engaging with kids? This is a sustaining of their energy and enthusiasm for life. Elders aren’t done. When my father was 60 in the 1960s, that was old. Now, 80 is old. This is a way of integrating community so our young people and our elders benefit.