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The Sage-ing Center?: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Sage-ing Centers recognize that older adults have unique opportunities and freedoms because of their age and that the later adult years can be a time of profound inner growth, liberation and development. Elders can be wisdom-keepers, mentors, agents of evolution and healers of the planet.

Recent research in the areas of psychology and aging suggests that, contrary to popular thought even ten years ago, older adults of all ages (yes, even into 80's and 90's) are capable of growing, learning, changing and becoming. Physical changes and diminishments do not have to take away from the meaning of life. The older adult years are not wasteful years; they can be a blessing for the individual, the family and the larger community.

"Sage-ing?" is the on-going process of learning, growing and becoming---from the inside, out. The gift of the elder years is spiritual development, inner growth. As the body changes and becomes less active physically, other aspects of a person can be developed. As a result of this "inner work," elders can be wisdom-keepers, mentors, agents of evolution and healers of the planet.

The Spiritual Eldering? Institute, in partnership with community supporters such as healthcare systems, community centers and faith communities, is visibly creating this new paradigm of aging. The Institute has begun to establish Sage-ing Centers across the country, places where elders have an opportunity to develop their full potential, even as they move into the later years of life. Whether individuals are just starting out on the path of inner development or have matured into their eighties or even nineties, the Sage-ing Center encourages exploration of their deep sources of creativity and inner wisdom.

A Sage-ing Center is a place of learning and education where elders master the task of harvesting life wisdom and refine their skills to lead and mentor younger generations. In the process, elders have a chance to explore and understand the meaning of their lives, to re-frame past hurts, develop a spirit of forgiveness, learn skills for inner contemplative work and consciously prepare for a serene death.

A Sage-ing Center not only supports personal growth, but also combines the collective talents and experiences of elders in service to the community, collaborating with other organizations in order to provide elders the support and guidance necessary to create personal legacies through volunteering and community service. By empowering this growing segment of the population to fully use their life experiences, skills and cultural and spiritual wisdom in the service, our neighborhoods and cities will be revitalized by the infusion of their creativity, energy and leadership.

This reclaimed asset can be the one key to healing the deep troubles that are affecting our youth. In a recent report by the Search Institute, one of the most important development needs of children is the presence of positive relationships with adults other than their parents. In earlier times, this was not a problem. Grandparents were actively involved in child rearing and the life of their neighborhoods. Unfortunately, today there is a great divide that keeps these two generations apart. The Sage-ing Center can become the staging ground for bringing elders into the lives of our youth by teaching them how to resume their role as mentors and guides.

The programs and services of the Sage-ing Center can be varied to accommodate different community needs and resources. A consistent fare of the center would include From Age-ing to Sage-ing workshops by SEI-trained local seminar lay-leaders, Sage-ing study groups offered in partnership with other organizations and faith communities in the community, and service leadership opportunity.

Elders could also receive individual and peer counseling to help them develop a life plan that would guide their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual journeys in the coming decades. As elders define the role they would like to play in the health of the community, the Sage-ing Center would serve as a clearinghouse for mentoring and meaningful volunteer activities.

This breadth of services and activities supporting older adults can place the Sage-ing Center, whether it is part of a healthcare system, a local partnership between educational institution, faith communities and community service groups, or part of a foundation, into the forefront of creating a revitalized America. We believe that the building blocks for elder-friendly communities and a healthy society include spiritual education and elder service. These are the core commitment of a Sage-ing Center.

Requirements of a licensed Sage-ing Center include offering at least three workshops or seminars on spiritual eldering, a commitment of sponsorship or local resources to create a sustainable enterprise with a long-term vision of service to the community, and creation of an advisory council composed of community leaders who will guide the local vision from a "sage-ing" perspective. See page 8 of this packet for more information.

Overall, the small investment made to create and run a Sage-ing Center will be multiplied many times over by the benefits of elders realizing untapped potential and talent, and in the contribution of their wisdom, expertise and energy to the betterment of the community.

In summary, Sage-ing? Centers provide opportunities for older adults to:

  • Learn theories, skills and exercises of successful life completion and personal growth and development,
  • Find group support for emotional, psychological, mental and spiritual healing, and
  • Use their talents and wisdom in service to the family, community and the planet.