What does it mean to be an elder? That’s the question raised in Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble, written by Stephen Jenkinson (North Atlantic Books, 2018). Jenkinson contends that although there are more old people than ever, there are fewer elders. Elderhood, he says, has been swept away in a time of constant change and a refusal to acknowledge limits.
Through Jenkinson’s musings, we are led to examine our lives and values, and the never-ending quest for continued growth. This seemingly sacred value of the western imagination and way of living is at odds with what it means to be an elder.
Come of Age is a meandering book – flowing into the etymology of words, and the shift in their meanings as a result of shifts in society; to the author’s musings on colonialism; life on his farm; the founding of his Orphan Wisdom school; and other subjects, all of which flow like streams to join the river of the meaning and necessity of elderhood for the young and for the old.
Elderhood, Jenkinson states, “is one stout antidote to the learned insignificance that howls in the heart of those jockeying for recognition.”
With all these wanderings, I sometimes didn’t understand exactly what the author was trying to say. Sometimes I didn’t agree with his statements. Yet, I’d say this is essential reading for anyone would like to explore what elderhood means, and who wonders “where to?” in this age of ever-changing uncertainties.