Elder Champions

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Barry Barkan
Ashoka Fellow
Co-Founder Elders’ Guild

The Pioneer Network was born of values that affirmed the right of each person to a dignified meaningful life in a community that supports the well-being and self realization of each person. In our work midwifing the development of the Live Oak Regenerative Community culture, we realized that to transform the culture of a nursing home, the elders needed to be supported in empowering one another to become the elders of the people, regardless of health status or domicile.

Over the years, the elders we worked with in daily community meetings in long term care environments became my teachers about how we needed to act and who we needed to become in order to grow our effectiveness at midwifing empowerment, learning and a meaningful, connected life. Daily as we learned to grow our capacity as community developers, we grounded our actions in avoiding harm and bringing good to each moment while constantly serving a bigger vision. The multi-dimensional, cascading ripples of transformation that were generated in the process of community building exceeded our most optimistic expectations.

Now I am a somewhat old dude myself and my wife and partner, Debby, and I are involved in creating the Elders’ Guild. The Third Foundation of the Elders’ Guild is Championing the Future. Our focus has been on engaging ourselves to become Elder Champions on behalf of our selves, the children of the grandchildren, the oppressed and threatened, and Mother Earth.

As I mused about what would be involved in becoming an Elder Champion, An Elder Champion’s To-Do List for the Sacred Work of Eldering emerged. Upon reflection, it is an embodiment of what I learned from my elders during my long years as a community developer.
An Elder Champion’s To-Do List for the Sacred Work of Eldering is a way of life for the change maker that enables each of us to be continually learning to optimize our effectiveness as champions of the greater good, while, as Mahatma Gandhi advocated, “becoming the change we wish to see in the world.”


An Elder Champion’s To-Do List

For the Sacred Work of Eldering; for our selves, the children of the grandchildren, the oppressed and threatened, and Mother Earth.

1. Be Present
Wake up.
Our lives are finite.
Listen compassionately.
Grow our wisdom.
Bring joy even to the darkest places.

2. Perform Acts of Service
Opportunities for service are all around us.
In our families. In our communities. With others.
Learn what needs to be done.
Plunge in with both feet.
The more we give, the happier we become.

3. Engage our Struggle
Remember. The struggle is long.
Master the terrain.
Be strategic and keep a long view.
Retreat only to move forward.
Come from our love in each encounter.

4. Pacify our inner beast
Contend consistently with anger.
Calm the hurt that lies beneath it.
Anger impedes effectiveness.
Become self-aware.
Beware of the boomerang.

5. Love one another
Be kind.
Be kind to each person.
Be kind to our selves.
Be kind even to those we don’t like.
Our kindness is healing.

6. Cultivate our power
Be gentle.
Open the ears of our hearts.
Soften resistance.
Bring us closer.
Gentleness is our strength.

7. Jettison excess baggage
Practice forgiveness.
Acknowledge our part.
Forgive our selves.
Forgive one another.
Letting go is freedom.

8. Hold one another together
Nurture community.
Become a living bridge.
Learn, teach and just be.
Support one another.
Practice wherever we are.

9. Accelerate our growth
Learning makes us stronger and healthier.
Form learning partnerships.
Be self reflective without blame.
Pay attention where we are challenged.
Making corrections is joy making.

10. Ground our actions in vision
Keep our eyes on our purpose.
Play the game accordingly.
In the moment.
For the future.
Yes. We Shall Overcome.