Tribal Elders

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help baby boomers, seniors, retirees, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class, is available by clicking here Click here for her website:

Now, on to my blog:

senior citizen signWhat does it mean to be a tribal elder? Today, we call them senior citizens.  However, they are the same block of people–the long-lived inhabitants of a society.  If we examine primitive tribes from civilizations past, and even those still existing, we see that it was the older members who were revered and sought after for advice and words of wisdom as to how to comport oneself and thrive. Why is that?

The answer is simple yet complex. As we age, we amass more and more life experiences. Human beings use their resultant skills to inform future behavior. Insight and judgment are part of the stew: if we burn our hand on the stove, we learn not to put it there again.

Once folks have accumulated enough general proficiency, most become wise. Wisdom, of course, takes many forms and passes through the filter of the individual and their unique life experiences. Nevertheless, on certain basic issues, those paths often lead to similar endings.

Seniors are all tribal elders. We are cast into that role by the passage of time, whether we like it or not. We have a responsibility to generations that come after us to hold our role sacred and fulfill it to the best of our ability. Petty things like personal interest or bias may blemish the advice of some tribal elders, and their consensus may skew in the direction of one extreme or another at any given time.  However, the group dynamic in most cases functions to hold those members at bay, discouraging their views from being adopted as the long-term norm.

It is the group function that seems to be the most successful at arriving at the best decision.  We see this concept in court trials, corporate board meetings, the U.S. Congress, and throughout all walks of life, big and small.  The group process is the best hope for how to proceed wisely, and tribal elders are the repository of experience to direct that process.  So, if you are a senescent society member, tread carefully.  Your words and actions are not just for your benefit, but also for those who follow.


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Photo credit: Ethan Prater on Visual hunt / CC BY


Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, senior citizens, seniors, successful aging

2 responses to “Tribal Elders

  1. Patricia Spiegel

    Wise you are, Lee Gale.

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