I’m a firm believer in the power of older people sharing their wisdom and advice for living with younger folks. But rarely do I get to see it in action the way I did at the University of Rhoda Island a few weeks ago. It was a powerful testament to the way the generations can come together both to share important ideas – and to enjoy each other’s company.
I had the privilege of joining the faculty and staff of the University of Rhode Island Program in Gerontology, where I gave the annual Thewlis Lecture. This lecture is very appropriately named for Malford Thewlis, one of the founders of the American Geriatrics Society and the The Care of the Aged: Geriatrics, an early textbook on geriatric medicine. It gave me the opportunity to present findings from my book on the marriage advice of long-married elders.
The lecture was great. But even more spectacular was a session organized by students. They invited local older individuals for a focused discussion of the topics raised in my book 30 Lessons for Living. Arrayed around tables, around 60 young and older people examined some of the key lessons in the book, and the elders were invited to offer their own lessons. The energy in the room was amazing, and I was riveted as each table reported on what the generations learned from one another.
I began to wonder: Could we do this across the country? How about “elder wisdom cafes,” where older and younger people talk about what they can learn from one another about living their lives? We’re going to work on it!
Many thanks to the URI gerontology group for the outstanding work they do, and for this extraordinary idea.