Thriving Elder Years

The Author

E. Alana James

E. Alana James

Dr E Alana James is reinventing herself again! Coming full circle to the first love of her life - art - and bringing back to her images all the lessons of her life as author, researcher, academic and wife. Concerned mostly with the idea of images as vehicles for expression of the truth of our inner and outer life experience.

One of the underlying strategies for both action research and doctoral work is that before you take action or move forward with research you must understand what is already known about your topic. In academic terms this is called a review of literature. Therefore, the natural thing for me to do this morning, focused as I am on finding models for reinventing life over 60, to proceed with my strategy towards building the healthiest and most abundant possible next stage of life, is to understand what is known about thriving elder years and to find models or mentors who will introduce me to patterns on which I can build.


The first, and really sad, thing that you notice when you search in Google for thriving Elders is that over half of the links have to do with nursing homes. This is a travesty! Elders in traditional societies meant the place of revered respect. People spent their whole life working and hoping to achieve that status. I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last, author to point out that our societies loses a lot when we lost this status for older people. Of course, some of this has to do with the fact that we are living so much longer than we used to. We need to maintain an active level of health in order to take the place of wise, and interesting older people in our societies. One article, in the Globe and Mail from April 2008, suggested that longevity will become a status symbol for baby boomers. The whole truth is that this will only happen when longevity equates with active independent living, enjoying life to its fullest, and participating in a creative way with in our communities.

My search brings up several categories of ideas that will need to be researched further: 1) living longer and what it takes to maintain health/ rejuvenating health when it slips, 2) new ways to integrate, and contribute to society after work years are complete, 3) increasing quality of life through making new friends, changing routines, embracing new activities, etc. Future posts will be used to sort out what I am learning in each of those, and likely other topics.

Some ideas seem on target to my investigation, others seem off track. There are those who list healthy habits, even subliminal tapes to help me embrace longevity – while interesting, I’ll probably put those aside for now. Some aim too low – focused more on issues of health once you are close to or surviving the hospital, my goal now is how to catch the ride from where I am now and aim higher to have a longer and more fulfilling trajectory.

Just as with any journey into the unknown I will look for new ideas, take some and discard others. I will also look for new friends on the same path with whom I can share tools and ideas. Would YOU be one of those?

The learning has begun! Always an exciting time of discovery, through which I reflect: the lessons that I will find: 1) appropriate to me, 2) good but probably more appropriate to others, or 3) not to be considered at this time. After that sorting I will move into taking measurable action and my story will take on a different flavour. I look forward to sharing it all with you. Thanks for reading, and should you have any resources that I should consider, please comment.

I’ll close with a provocative quote from a page from Los Angeles, put up the by Gay Elder Circle – Michael Meade says:

Those who wish to work as mentors and elders have to keep one eye on the youth – and the other on conditions in the village.

This appeals to me – perhaps to you too?