At town hall meetings and in media interviews, a continuing question for Senator Bernie Sanders has been whether he is too old to be President. So far Bernie has yet to directly answer the question.
The discussion of Bernie Sanders’ age will only accelerate as the presidential campaign goes on. This question provides an opportunity to confront society’s last major “…ism”: Ageism and the complex web of negative stereotypes that is internalized in each of us, reinforced socially and provides yet another kind of glass ceiling.
In order to take hold, all the liberation movements of our lifetime –such as women and civil and gay rights– have had to challenge the internalization of negative self-images that feed disempowerment and injustice.
Like every other marginalized group in society, elders need to be liberated to fully realize our purpose and potential. Denial of our aging and our potential in the second half of life stifles our potential at a time when society desperately needs the emergence of a generation of empowered, loving, wise and committed elders.
I just turned 73 and my passion is to join with others to build a movement to restore the role of elder to our culture. Now is the time when the generation that set out to change the world in the sixties is for the most part entering the last third of our life’s journey. And now is the time when our lives, the continuity between generations and perhaps the future of humanity on the earth are calling on us to co-actualize a new vision of what it means to be an elder of the people.
So, frequently when people my age ask me what the Elders’ Guild is about, I tell them that our mission is to create the communities where we re-imagine our old age, look after one another and embody the wisdom that will enable us to help heal the future.
And I am continually blown away by the frequent response that “maybe my mother will be interested in this.” The river of denial of aging runs deep in the culture. It is fed by an obsession with staying young and avoiding aging. Ironically, it is the unwillingness to engage the process of our own aging with consciousness and commitment to our legacy, that will increase the likelihood of isolation, disconnection from the narrative of our lives and lack of meaning as the years go on.
As we kick off 2016 (which seems to have come upon us more quickly than in previous years) the Elders’ Guild will look at how each of us has internalized society’s view of “too old”. Then we will turn our attention to what Bernie might say the next time he is asked if he isn’t too old to be President.
The pioneering of an empowered, joyful, juicy and socially engage role for elders is the ultimate antidote to the crushing impact of negative stereotypes of aging.