Being an Elder Role Model

When I was a kid we were often told: “Respect your Elders!” Back then, respect was ‘earned’ by what you did, so this demand to respect elders by the standard of the day was to me a contradiction. I could appreciate the principle, but was constantly frustrated about having to respect people who were making choices and behaving in self-degrading or abusive ways that did not meet up to my own principles.

At the time I remember wondering, “Why should I respect people who got drunk, killed themselves with barbiturates, smoked cigarettes, lived on junk food, beat their wives, dumped anger and judgment on others, gossiped, cheated, lied, tried to be someone else…?” Of course every human must be respected as an equal, but this doesn’t remove the responsibility we have for the choices we make, no matter what age.

The elders I was told to respect were not role models that I aspired to become, or to look up to, in my growing years. It made me question where were the Elder role models that glow with the grace, wisdom, poise and responsibility that can come from age?

I have come to understand that An elder is a role model if they accept themselves for who they truly are, leave behind the harmful choices and irresponsibility that are considered to be the foolishness of the young, and really live their wisdom and grace.

And it is certainly true that ageing people who do not accept themselves for who they are, are less likely to embrace the wisdom and service they can bring as they age to become true role models. When they try to look artificially young in spite of the inevitable physical progress of ageing, they are (consciously or unconsciously) sending a poor message to younger people. A message that says:

  • I’m not good enough
  • Ageing is awful and to be avoided
  • My self-esteem comes from how I look
  • You have to fit in to the ideal of youthfulness or you’re nothing
  • I wish I were still youthful like you, etc.

All this does is help spawn yet another generation who will feel pressured to do the same – clinging to youthful appearance and behaviours, acting irresponsibly, feeling less and less worthy based on their looks, sexuality and physical abilities, dreading illness and death, and being fearful of losing whatever youthfulness they have.

This non self-respecting behaviour by elders leaves younger people adrift in misconceptions and confusion about growing older and our changing roles throughout our lives.

Having said that, society goes to quite a lot of effort to keep elders down, feeling lesser, and trying to meet the youthful ideals. For example, there is a growing trend in women’s magazines of profiling the ‘sexy’ older woman in the same stereotyped style of modelling, photography and dress as for young women. Society’s message: keep conforming to ‘youth looks’ for as long as you can or you’re not beautiful or acceptable being old! Dye your hair, plaster on makeup, lift up those breasts, hide the sags, exude sexuality, and emphasize your body…. This is degrading enough for young women – imagine how older women truly feel about it?

Many of our elders have allowed themselves to be degraded and disregarded by the culture of youth worship, to the great detriment of society.

Why do we accept this degradation of the aging process? Imagine if all the elders expressed their true beauty, wisdom and power for the benefit of humanity? Oh boy, there would be a big shakeup of the status quo! The population would wake up to the lie that many of us have been living… and there are vested interests that would not like that, eg. the plastic surgery and cosmetics industries!

Not only elders are targeted by plastic surgery, cosmetic advertising, fashion and health magazines, etc, but younger people are too – with the pressure to “never look older no matter what,” until the maintenance of youthful appearance becomes a habit or even an addiction.

What would happen if the cosmetic services were all taken away – how would we be with facing the truth of how we have been living? Gone would be the artificial surface ‘beauty’. The consequences of our past choices could no longer be covered up.

It would be scary to let go of our ‘youth props’ and be exposed, vulnerable and seen as we really are: we would then have to derive our self-worth from our innermost instead of our outermost. For many, that change could be quite difficult and challenging. But what if, instead, we elders took responsibility for claiming our ageing beauty and wisdom as role models?

For myself, having always enjoyed my body, been very athletic, physically powerful and capable of doing just about anything, it is hard accepting the physical decline that comes with age. I know, I’ve been going through that, and am not entirely ‘out of the woods’ yet. It is difficult to let go and learn to be much more gentle and conscious of one’s body, no longer driving it, striving to achieve and experience like we once did. What I have learned is that refusal to accept the flow of nature comes with consequences – painful ones!

For me it’s been more limiting to deny ageing and try to power through it, injuring an increasingly delicate body and then being totally stopped, than it is to accept it, become gentle, tender, graceful and consciously present, and thus do no further harm. I do whatever I can to naturally support my body with nourishment and nurturing so it can be as well as it can and the inner wellbeing can show on the outside as my natural beauty.

I refuse to go the cosmetic surgery route, and won’t even dye my hair. When/if it ever goes grey it will be just as beautiful, and it will be my ‘badge of maturity’! That’s my choice of course; everyone is free to choose their colours and styles for self-expression. Maybe one day I’ll go violet and turquoise stripes just for fun, who knows!

Notwithstanding the, at times, frustrating aspects of an ageing body with its aches, pains and stiffness, I realise there are many great benefits of these increasing physical limitations of ageing – for there are no other limitations! This decline in physical abilities changes the focus on how I am living and what I now value more in discovering the real benefits of my elder years.

I am slowly and gradually switching the focus from how I look and what feats I can perform to living more and more gracefully, wisely and, in fact, soulfully. I am learning to break attachments to people and material things, to let go of ideals and beliefs, learning acceptance, understanding, and patience with myself and others.

It is giving me the opportunity to morph from a physical being living under the control of the chaos of the world to living from my innermost essence, seeing and doing life from the perspective of the soul.

This claiming of my elder years cycle is offered as a true role model for the younger generation to aspire to.

by Dianne Trussell.

Further Reading:
Sex Appeal of Beautiful Mature Women – What Exactly Does That Look Like?!

 

812 thoughts on “Being an Elder Role Model

  1. This great article is jam-packed with all sorts of excellent points. First up, it has reminded me of the quote of some famous wit: ‘Youth is wasted on the young’. I’ve often reflected on that notion and it seems it smacks simultaneously of wistfulness (of opportunities missed and a large chunk of life potentially wasted), a tinge of jealousy, and a genuine exasperation with the fact that young people can indeed take their youthfulness for granted and or extend a particularly youthful phase a little too long. And then we glamourise it, often chasing youth well past the time we should, as pointed out here. What a strange relationship we have with youth! As Dianne’s article illustrates, we need to honour each and every phase of life in its fullness.

  2. I’m looking forward to grey hair too, and am waiting for it to reach some critical mass! There can be a lovely softness in grey hair. Though the other day I did see a older, otherwise slightly unfashionable lady with a walking frame sporting a very ‘on-trend’ mohawk in a fetching shade of pale blue. What a strange juxtaposition it was. It felt like someone younger had talked her into it… and not necessarily honouring of who she was.

  3. Diane, I love your examinations. This is such a powerful blog. One that should be in the mainstream press for all to read! Have you considered sending it into one of those sections of the paper where people share personal stories/ viewpoints?”
    “What would happen if the cosmetic services were all taken away – how would we be with facing the truth of how we have been living? Gone would be the artificial surface ‘beauty’. The consequences of our past choices could no longer be covered up.
    It would be scary to let go of our ‘youth props’ and be exposed, vulnerable and seen as we really are: we would then have to derive our self-worth from our innermost instead of our outermost. For many, that change could be quite difficult and challenging.

    And the beauty, power and reclamation of ” what if, instead, we elders took responsibility for claiming our ageing beauty and wisdom as role models?”

  4. ‘And it is certainly true that ageing people who do not accept themselves for who they are, are less likely to embrace the wisdom and service they can bring as they age to become true role models.’ I agree Dianne, I am 55 years old and am starting to embrace the fact I am an elder woman, I must say I find myself more beautiful than when I was younger. Accepting the cycles of life is definitely very powerful, accepting the wisdom that comes with ageing comes with the responsibility of being a support for younger people and elder people too, to show them there is another way of ageing.

  5. This is truly beautiful to read, as that is what will be truly inspiring younger people like me, elders have a great sense and understanding of life, but what is so often portrayed that life is only about being young. If that was the case, we probably wouldn’t age like we do.. It is a natural cycle which is truly beautiful when fully accepted.

  6. Dianne thank you for such a gorgeous blog raising some great points about claiming the elder energy for others to be inspired by. There is so much emphasis on being young and how not to age these days which goes against the cycle we all will naturally come to. Your elder energy and deep wisdom is appreciated in this blog, and this is just one of your many gems worth repeating -‘This claiming of my elder years cycle is offered as a true role model for the younger generation to aspire to.’

  7. A great sharing Dianne on becoming an elder role model. “I am slowly and gradually switching the focus from how I look and what feats I can perform to living more and more gracefully, wisely and, in fact, soulfully.” In letting go of attachments and ideals and beliefs to things and to people when connecting with others we are able to offer an understanding and wisdom from what has been learned through our lived experience.

  8. As children we are elders in the making, so responsibility is never without us contributing to what life will look like when it is our turn to hold the mantle of elder years.

  9. ‘This non self-respecting behaviour by elders leaves younger people adrift in misconceptions and confusion about growing older and our changing roles throughout our lives.’ This sentence goes right to the epicentre of the issue. In the process of our own ageing and coming to terms with what that truly means and represents, we become increasingly responsible for the imprint we leave behind on the next generation. So our lived example today reflects the lived quality that will arise and play out in subsequent generations.

  10. I can understand why we often resist certain associations with words because what we see and experience doesn’t match up to the true meaning of the word. This is certainly true of the word ”Elder’ and one which I didn’t have high regard for either up until a few years ago. Having had the inspiring experience of some true Elder role models such as Natalie Benhayon (which busted my myth totally that Elder had to do with age), I have begun to appreciate what being a true Elder is, and now in my 50s, beginning to embrace this as a role model I can also be.

  11. Ageing gracefully has always been a fascination for me – what will I be like when it happens to me, will I want to dye my hair or won’t I? Will I do it for me or for others? I can have all the plans in the world, but I would be living to a picture of what I think getting old is going to look like. I have been on the look out for these pictures ever since I became aware of them and blasting them out! With baby steps I am embracing the daily changes, large and small of getting older. Thank you for reminding me Dianne, as I have taken a moment to write a comment, it has been great to connect to what I actually feel about ageing and how I feel about that process in my body.

  12. This is great, and is what true elders can bring, support of the younger generation by showing that becoming older is not becoming less. I feel it is amazing to feel – in every year we get older – we grow, and we can truly support the younger generation. Even as I am considered young myself, those going through periods in life I have passed I can truly support by my living way.

  13. Beautifully claimed Dianne. I too am finding incredible beauty in embracing the ageing process. I am loving myself and appreciating my body more than I did in my youth, and absolutely delighting in the depth of wisdom, patience and understanding that I can bring. Embracing the ageing process and allowing the space to explore my innermost being is the greatest gift I can offer to others.

  14. ‘ I am slowly and gradually switching the focus from how I look and what feats I can perform to living more and more gracefully, wisely and, in fact, soulfully. I am learning to break attachments to people and material things, to let go of ideals and beliefs, learning acceptance, understanding, and patience with myself and others’. This is also my process…. and the more I let go, the more space I create to allow and express my elder energy.

  15. ‘ every human must be respected as an equal, but this doesn’t remove the responsibility we have for the choices we make, no matter what age’. No it dosent, and if we allow people to be irresponsible especially those we live with, this just feels a dis-regard to ourselves.

  16. The human body may start to wear out as we age in years but when we truly appreciate ourselves and stay committed to life in full there is a grace and wisdom that can emanate from us as we mature that people really do feel.

  17. I remember as a kid this, “respect your elders” coming up once when our ball strayed into some elders garden and they were most unpleasant about it and in the process told us that we should learn to respect our elders. They didn’t want to earn our respect through their behaviour but expected to be able to abuse us and still be respected because they were our elders. This had the opposite effect because we could not respect people who behaved as they did and clearly had no respect for us.

  18. “I have come to understand that An elder is a role model if they accept themselves for who they truly are, leave behind the harmful choices and irresponsibility that are considered to be the foolishness of the young, and really live their wisdom and grace.” – this is beautiful Diane, and really captures the essence of a role model. A role model is not about being perfect nor of having led a life of perfection, rather is it about having learned from ‘mistakes’ and now choosing to live in a way that is far more respectful and caring and honouring of self and hence all those around us. Thanks Diane for this amazing blog that is helping bring back an understanding of what and who are the true elderly role models.

  19. Dianne, what a gorgeous sharing and a real expose of how we sanctify youth and vilify age to the detriment of both. I love how you are approaching and appreciating your aging and in particular this line ‘I am slowly and gradually switching the focus from how I look and what feats I can perform to living more and more gracefully, wisely and, in fact, soulfully’ is a beautiful celebration of the joy of connecting within and how we can embrace what each age offers us. There is so much learning and it’s at every age, and what I feel is offered as we get older is an invitation to surrender into us, to live the wisdom we all innately have in us, and this is something that is badly needed in our societies today – as an analogy image that we only had 2 seasons spring and 3/4’s of summer, with no autumn or winter – that’s how we live now, celebrating spring and summer and denying autumn and winter and like the seasons each age has it’s beauty and learning.

  20. An inspiring blog Dianne on the inner wisdom, care and understanding you have embraced and now value and offer to everyone as a true elder role model.

  21. Aging does indeed offer us the possibility of looking beyond the physical, and in fact having to slow down as is often the case with age, allows us to bring more quality into how we are and how we move, and this is something to be welcomed – to have the time and space to develop and live from within us more and express those qualities out in the world is something I look forward to embracing as part of my aging process.

  22. If, at any age, we do not respect ourselves then how can we expect others to respect us? True elder energy develops the knowledge of experience into lived wisdom.

  23. To embrace wisdom and grace at any age but especially as we get older is amazing and very much needed in our world today for all of us, young and old.

  24. It is ever-inspiring to meet an elder who walks with settlement, knowing that the quality of who they are within is immeasurable and unchanging, from which an infinite well of wisdom and beauty is embraced. This reflection offers all equally, young and old, the opportunity and freedom to discover the Soulfull-ness of life that can be lived by us all.

  25. What becomes very clear when reading this is that we are role models all the time and how pertinent it is to be aware of it and take the responsibility that comes with it. In everything we do and the way we are we say this is the way life is lived, so we are always contributing to how the world and our systems are.

  26. “I am slowly and gradually switching the focus from how I look and what feats I can perform to living more and more gracefully, wisely and, in fact, soulfully. I am learning to break attachments to people and material things, to let go of ideals and beliefs, learning acceptance, understanding, and patience with myself and others.”
    Dianne your words here are ones that I take with me, deeply feel, connect with and live by as I to enter into my elder years. Thank you.

  27. Like you share Dianne, there have been elder folk in my life that have not presented a way of living to respect.
    However, there have also been some amazing elder people in my life. People who have held the care of others deeply in their hearts and also have had no fear of saying it how it is, not with a need to be known, but with the presentation of fact from what they have encountered in their lives. Elders for whom my respect was held, with no asking, as it was present in how they respected themselves.

  28. Hello Dianne and it’s great to speak about ‘respecting your elders’ in a different way. As we are seeing ‘elder’ is a quality that is held not by age alone but as I said by a quality of the way you are. How do you see yourself in relationships and life? Are you waiting for a perfect time to share what you are feeling or are in it ready for where you are to share everything. Each moment in our day is an opportunity to share all you know, all you feel and all you see. This quality does change from moment to moment but the dedication is the same, to how things feel. The more we dedicate to the quality of how things feel, the more of the same that is available or that we become aware of.

    1. ‘Each moment in our day is an opportunity to share all you know, all you feel and all you see’. I love this Ray, this way of being is open to us all regardless of age.

      1. I agree we often believe that we need to be a certain age or be in a certain place before we are allowed to be. We wait for this perfect storm or age and it never comes, always an excuse is offered or a reason to justify our silence. Every moment is an opportunity or a choice to share what you are feeling and have the transparency to allow others to see into our world.

  29. I’m now considered, by age, to be an elder myself, and also relate to many people twenty thirty years older than myself. It is curious to note the difference between elders who wear their elder status with grace and dignity and those who wear it with discomfort or regret and seem stuck in the more restrictive paradigm of older ageing.

  30. This makes very inspiring reading Dianne bring true responsibility to how we age and ow we are living and our purpose in society at all ages. “I have come to understand that An elder is a role model if they accept themselves for who they truly are, leave behind the harmful choices and irresponsibility that are considered to be the foolishness of the young, and really live their wisdom and grace.” Beautiful

  31. As I grow older I understand the influence I can have on other people. It is not what I say but how I am in the world that makes a difference. That takes responsibility to a whole new level.
    Universal Medicine has supported me to take this level of responsibility to a even deeper level. Even our thoughts and intentions are important.
    I feel If everyone would take self-responsibility to that level, there would be no need for laws, police, and army’s.
    Is it possible that this is the power that every individual has and is afraid to admit to themselves, because then they will have accept there irresponsibility, and take an honest look at what effect they have had on the world?

  32. What a beautifully claiming of the elder cycle of life you offer in this blog Dianne. I agree with you in full, since beginning to feel more deeply connected to my body, there is a natural wanting to re-claim myself in full once more and continue to inspire others from simply being myself.
    “This claiming of my elder years cycle is offered as a true role model for the younger generation to aspire to”.

  33. It feels so beautiful to consider the fact that it is actually not about our bodies look having to match a certain image but it is about that inner quality of our being that emanates through it in all that we are and in everything that we do. And ageing is in fact presenting this to us as it is the body that ages but that what lives within stays forever young vital and very playful.

  34. The value that ageing brings to our societies is not appreciated for what it so naturally can bring. Our societies are geared for going fast, acting quickly and irresponsible, inventing the wheel for the nth time again, completely ignoring the lived experience and natural pace that the elder people are bringing to life and naturally could offer to our societies.

  35. It’s no wonder we were told to ‘respect our elders’. In this way of telling it already turns you off that very thing in a certain way. Almost like we set it up ourselves in how we go about life that then turns us away from the very point we need to look at and for. Growing physically old is no right of passage for respect but more living in a way that holds true to a feeling then pulls things and people to you looking at the feeling you are holding. We have created a society that does all manner of things to people at all ages and points of life and the ageing and elderly are no different. We look down at them and equally they have a look of their own that attracts that look. In other words we all have a responsibility in how we are with everything, it’s easy to say but now the action of that talk is the key.

  36. The world would not be in the mess it is today if we had not forgotten the power and grace of elder role models. A woman in celebration of her elder energy, embodying the elder wisdom that she simply is for she never needs to try is incredibly powerful, and very much needed everywhere.

  37. One thing I am really starting to realise is that people who are presently or have taken ‘barbiturates, smoked cigarettes, lived on junk food, beat their wives, dumped anger and judgment on others, gossiped, cheated, lied…’ do so because they have unresolved hurts that they are trying to numb, bury or otherwise quieten.

  38. “I am slowly and gradually switching the focus from how I look and what feats I can perform to living more and more gracefully, wisely and, in fact, soulfully. I am learning to break attachments to people and material things, to let go of ideals and beliefs, learning acceptance, understanding, and patience with myself and others.” This is beautiful Dianne. Surrendering gracefully in one’s elder years has reduced nearly all of the dramas of my life – that all seemed so important in my youth. Letting go of attachments – a huge one for many people.

  39. It is a responsibility of all in their elder years to continue to contribute to society to the best of their ability, and not get caught up in society’s misguided belief that in our senior years we are in decline and that it is time to rest on our laurels in a rocking chair with our slippers on. In my experience my elder years have been the best years of my life, I contribute to my community daily through voluntary work, and I often get younger people coming up to me and saying that they would like to be like me when they get older. I feel it is important for all to realise that the senior cycle in life is just as important as the rest of life.

  40. Working in the fashion and image industry, we are an industry that upholds youth and beauty at all costs. Resisting and reacting towards this untruth of solely focusing on our external appearance, I have chosen every such possible way to be as far from caring for my physical and superficial beauty, to come back to an understanding that there cannot be any reaction in love. When I truly feel the deep love I am held in by the Divine, this is the same depth of love I can live and give back to myself. When I truly am being Love and choosing Love, there is an equal devotion and care towards what is within myself and externally no matter my age or circumstance.

  41. It’s true that there really are not many older role models, imagine an older generation that took amazing care of themselves, treated themselves with self-respect, knew they had amazing wisdom that had to be shared, maybe the younger generation would stop fearing getting old and start embracing the passage of life more.

  42. Well described Dianne – the physical changes in our bodies – the stiffness and aches are a great indicator to become more aware of our bodies and how we are truly caring for ourselves. There comes a point when the body speaks so loud we can choose not to over ride it any more. This is part of the wisdom of appreciating who we are and where we are at, and reflecting on past choices that have lead us to this moment. For me there are some things that I know from deep with-in I’d never choose again. Just living this truth can reflect to others, with out even a word being said.

  43. There is no doubt that the world needs more elders that claim their true beauty, wisdom and power and reflect to the younger generations what is possible to live…. for the world appears consumed with the surface but it is done so at the expense of the wealth we possess beneath.

  44. We put so much work and focus to the physical that when and if it declines we judge peoples worth on it. Almost like you are really a member of society unless you can physically do this or that. So as people age we give them a physical worth and if they end up in a retirement village or similar then this is seen as a burden at times on society. What is the true value of a person though? The mere physical alone? Or is there a value that we constantly overlook because we don’t appreciate it ourselves. Start to look at people and appreciate who they are and not only see what they can do and do the same for ourselves. That way when it comes to ageing or anything you will see the person first and not just a shell that can do something.

  45. Learning to live gracefully and not being afraid to express the wisdom of what we can feel, rather than what we think we should say… a blueprint for growing older with more love, acceptance and connection. I recently met a couple of 72-year old women who absolutely embodied this. They said they rarely felt anxious, and felt joyful about themselves and about life, having realised that it wasn’t about the doing or what you look like, but living and not holding back who you actually, really, are.

  46. Dianne you cover a great subject here, ageing and becoming an elder role model for others is an opportunity for many of us to embrace rather than declining into some invisible state, we have wisdom and lived experience that we are able to share, and the more we live and appreciate ourselves the easier it is for others to accept that we do hold great knowledge and wisdom that is available to all.

  47. There is so much in this blog that you have shared with us all Dianne and is an awesome imprint of how it can truly be when we enter our elder years, taking away all the falseness and misconceptions and lies about ageing….. And a timely reminder of the responsibility we each have as a role model for the younger generation.

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