The Elder Wisdom Circle is a group of more than 600 elders (aged 60 to 105) who dispense advice. The have a website, www.elderwisdomcircle.org, which is a large success. Although they provide advice to anyone who asks, most of the users are in the 15 to 35 age range. It is good to know that so many young people value and seek the wisdom of their elders. And it is good to know that there are elders willing to go on to the internet and dispense their wisdom. Given the age range of the elders, there are already baby boomers in the group. The percentage of baby boomers in the group should grow as the years go on.
Generally speaking, western cultures are not known for their appreciation of the wisdom of the elderly. Popular knowledge says that this appreciation is found in eastern cultures. But the wisdom of the elderly is worldwide and should be used. There is evidence that companies with a decent proportion of older workers are more productive that those that consist primarily of the young. This is known as the Horndal effect. The name of the effect comes from a Swedish steel mill where productivity grew by 15% as the workforce grew older. This is good news for aging societies.
However, for the elderly to be productive it is incumbent upon them to continue to learn as they age. Indeed, it is important for everyone to continue to learn throughout their lives. Elderly who become set in their ways and spend most of their time reminiscing about “the good old day,” will be limited in what they can contribute. But the elderly who continue to learn are invaluable. The older the person is the richer the context into which new information is incorporated. So it is not only how much knowledge one has as a function of age, but the richer context into which new knowledge is incorporated.
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