With Baby Boomers coming of retirement age, yet retaining good health and physical prowess to accompany acquired wisdom, many are searching for things to do and places to go in this next phase of their lives.
Some call this stage Elderhood, and traditional African societies embrace it, respect it and try to garner as much from the Elders as possible.
It was with this in mind that Dr. Maaskelah K. Thomas created and published an easy to read guide and toolkit: Calling the Elders – Reclaiming and Transforming
Our Communities through Elder Wisdom: A Guide and Toolkit for Developing Local Councils of Elders. It was designed for those interested in developing an important avenue for capturing and enlisting the resources of African-American seniors for ongoing community strengthening and development. Envisioned as a rites of passage process, the Guide provides both rationale and process for implementing Councils of Elders in communities throughout the country and beyond. Based on a successful model currently operating in her own community, it includes an overview of the historical importance of Councils of Elders, as well as the building blocks of this functional model for institution building. Most importantly, it provides practical steps and processes for ways to engage the entire community in reconnecting the links that have historically strengthened African American communities.
In addition, the evidence-based tools throughout the book can be adapted and used for a variety of other organizational and community development projects. Dr. Thomas, a scholar, consultant and 25-year veteran of community and organizational development and social justice activism brings together “tools of the trade” and useful guidance for community engagement, organizational development and institution building.
Councils of Elders have their roots in indigenous African communities which viewed the Elders as repositories of knowledge and wisdom, and more importantly, as the guardians and purveyors of a community’s values, traditions, norms and interests.
Elderhood represents a significant stage along the rites of passage continuum from birth through the senior years and on through transition into esteemed ancestor-hood. The Council of Elders has traditionally been the organizing institution that honors, embodies and unleashes the ongoing wisdom and potential of an indispensible group. The goal is that communities will be able to utilize this institution to help rebuild and reconnect communities – locally, nationally and internationally – based on common ground, as exemplified through the wisdom of our Elders.