Our world has shifted. Covid, cultural reckonings, climate change, and other factors have impacted so much, and many of those changes entail losses we are experiencing on what seems like a daily basis. While you, like me, probably feel helpless at times, the truth is that you are uniquely qualified to help heal the world, your corner of it, or yourself. It’s essential that you understand why you, why all of us—at 45, 55, 65, or 75—are needed now more than ever to put our skills to work. We are all being called to become a part of a more vibrant path forward.
The pivot accelerated by the pandemic has ushered in a time of robust conversations about deepening connections, strengthening communities and transforming companies. I wish we could have arrived at this point as a result of collective wisdom rather than crisis and suffering. Still, my deep hope and ongoing work are to harness the opportunities hidden within the chaos to give us all fresh eyes for understanding how wisdom can help heal the world.
After enduring long periods of quarantine and upheaval, the need for human connection has become clear. During our masked days, we experienced face hunger; we longed for touch; we opened windows to bang pots and pans instead of opening doors to welcome friends and family around the table. We’ve been hungry for connection and are just beginning to understand the huge toll isolation and divisiveness have caused. At the same time, as our young adults returned home and remote learning/working shifted family dynamics, we also re-learned the gifts and challenges of multigenerational living that Western culture had almost forgotten.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher. Prompted by the arrival of our profoundly multigenerational and multicultural future, we must choose between two paths forward — one characterized by scarcity, conflict, and loneliness; the other by abundance, interdependence, and connection.”
-Marc Freedman, CEO and founder, Encore.org
According to a recent study by Dr. Laura Carstensen of the Stanford Center for Longevity, older adults during the pandemic fared better emotionally than younger adults despite facing the same significant stresses. This has been shocking to many who fell into the trap of thinking we become emotionally weaker and needier with age. Fortunately, older family members have been paying it forward, as evidenced by more than half of younger people living in a multigenerational home reporting the benefits of the emotional resilience of older household members.
You are being called to help younger family members, community members, and work colleagues find their sense of equanimity and resilience.
If we respond to this calling, I believe our communities will evolve to be more centered around connection and equally, around questions and considerations of quality of life for all life stages. It’s no longer just about neighborhood swing sets for kids but pickleball courts and learning labs for adults—communities that celebrate and embrace lifelong learning. Witness the tremendous surge of interest in the work of the Modern Elder Academy, an organization I’m proud to work with and one that provides gifts of time, space, teachers, and a cohort of other lifelong learners eager to keep curiosity sharp and thriving.
You are being called to reflect on what community means to you and to help nurture a healthier, more multigenerational and inclusive communal life.
The same holds in our places of work. The Great Resignation has forced companies to recognize that diversity results in a more robust bottom line, and age diversity is very much a part of that equation. Bringing multigenerational changemakers together and acknowledging that innovation is also born of life experience, not just youth, is happening, even if slower than we’d like to see. From boardrooms to C-suites, leaders are beginning to understand that addressing our immense social and environmental issues will require all of us to learn from one another across generations. So, friends, age is no longer a liability but an asset.
You are being called to use your assets, the wealth and wisdom of your years to lead, innovate, inspire, and build healthy connections with others at every stage and age.