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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Aging and Wisdom

      Before retirement, for many years, I taught the aging course at Kwantlen. While doing so I came across a very interesting definition of wisdom in a book, written by Virginia Burlingame. It is entitled Gerocounseling: Counseling Elder’s and Their Families.
The book describes wisdom as the ability to combine cognitive and emotional qualities including “…mastery over emotions, experience, introspection, reflection, empathy, deliberation and avoidance of the impulsive, unconcern with trivia and cautiousness.” Another definition is the “…power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, and understanding”.  This is important because older people, to successfully age, are expected to acquire wisdom.  ( A touch of positive ageism?)
         Paul Baltes, an early explorer of wisdom and one of the founders of the Max-Plank Institute designed material to help us explore the use of wisdom in life management problems:

According to the Max-Plank Institute wisdom has five components:
1.   Rich factual knowledge (general and specific knowledge about the conditions of life and it’s variations)
2.   Rich procedural knowledge (general and specific knowledge about the conditions of life and its variations)
3.   Life Span Contextualism (knowledge about the contexts of life and their temporal [developmental] relationships
4.   Relativism (knowledge about differences in values, goals, and priorities)

Below are a couple of scenarios describing reactions to work related issues. I would appreciate it if you would post your ideas about how the persons described below could use wisdom to cope with their problems

Coping with Retirement
Ted, a former CEO, now in his seventies, retired at 65, thinking that was what he should do. But after a couple of years he discovered the whole syndrome of being young-old. “You have all your juices, all your ability but no obligations to go work just for money.” His major surprise was discovering the syndrome of being young-old.  He has come to you for advice.
           He tells you that: “When you’ve had power for a number of years, your value is your power not your abilities.” He further explains. “When you are out of the ‘power loop’ your abilities are no longer valued.
           “I’ve started looking for another job, but being in my 70’s, I get a very cold reception.  They seem to listen to you but they don’t see you. You’re a non-person. I tried doing some volunteer work but it just wasn’t very satisfying. What do you think I should do?”

Hard Choices
Joyce, a 60-year-old widow, recently completed a degree in business management and opened her own business. She has been looking forward to this new challenge. She has just heard that her son has been left with two small children to care for.  She is considering the following options:  She can plan to give up her business and live with her son, or she can arrange for financial assistance for her son to cover child-care costs. What should Joyce do and consider in making her plans? What additional information is do you think she needs?

You can explore your own life issues by answering the following questions?
What brings happiness?
How have you overcome fear in your life?
When do you do your best work?
What advice would you give for success?
Do you see yourself as a creative person? 
How do you express your creativity?
What do you think the world needs?
What is the best way to resolve conflicts?
What are our main responsibilities as adults?
What are our responsibilities as citizens?
What do you think is society’s main problems?
What makes marriage successful?
What advice would you give parents?

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