My last few blog posts explored goal setting and how gifted elders might plan their remaining years in such a way that they feel a sense of satisfaction with lives of creative productivity. In the next several posts, we move from goals to dispositions. The term disposition connotes a particular temperament, stance, and internal impetus to action that reflect the character and values of an individual. I choose to think of them as Be-attitudes because these perspectives convey a sense of commitment to a way of being that is consistent and integral to who the individual is and to how the individual chooses to be.
This blog post is a part of the August Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop. The topic of this month’s hop – Gifted Social Issues, was difficult to grasp in terms of gifted elders. As with so many issues, to explore the social life of the aging gifted, one must view it from a different lens. Turning the subject over in my mind, I came to perceive with more clarity the rich social gifts of gifted elders.
Just as the majority of younger gifted individuals are introverts (Burruss & Kaenzig, 1999), most aging gifted share this trait. While the young gifted person tends to have only one or two close friends and to avoid large social gatherings, preferring quiet time with a small group or choosing to withdraw for quiet time alone. However, far from becoming reclusive, they are often involved in social causes. I remember students that I have mentored who have been active in Habitat for Humanity, Amnesty International, environmental conservation, green architecture, and other activities that promote the public good.
Likewise, older gifted individuals may have a small social group and prefer solitary pursuits instead of socializing. Nevertheless, in my experience and in that of many of my colleagues, we find gifted elders to be quite active in society. No, they are not your typical social butterfly, nor are they intent on adding friends and “likes” on Facebook. Rather, they are the quiet presence where tasks considered for the public good are accomplished. The following are just a few examples of my own observations of the social life of gifted elders.
- Whenever I visit nursing homes, I see talented elders providing music, spiritual enrichment, playing games with residents, and involved in other activities.
- Our team that prepares and serves food to the hungry at the local soup kitchen every month or two consists entirely of seniors, most of them gifted elders, and I suspect that the membership for most other teams is the same or very similar.
- An acquaintance of mine and her spouse serve as surrogate grandparents for two children from an economically disadvantaged and dysfunctional family. They take the boys to outings and for cultural enrichment each weekend, pay for a reading teacher to work with them in the summer (along with providing transportation for the child), and otherwise provide needed support. I know they are just two of thousands of couples throughout the country that serve in this role.
- A local group of quilters meets regularly to create beautiful quilts to present to newborns in the community.
- Local fish fry dinners, pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, and other community events and fundraisers are staffed almost entirely by seniors.
- I have observed gifted elders working as volunteers at every blood donation event I have attended.
This is most certainly not an exhaustive list; rather, I share a few of many facets of the social legacy of our elders. There is a multitude of other ways that gifted elders continue to contribute to the public trust. Lovecky (1986), writing of the characteristics of gifted adults, used the term entelechy to describe the inner drive that motivates gifted adults to self-actualize, to fulfill the blueprint of potentiality that is giftedness. It is my experience that our gifted elders – when given the health, strength, and opportunity – continue to fulfill their blueprint, to evolve, and to contribute to the greater good. Thus, the first be-attitude of gifted elderhood is – Leave a Social Legacy.
Burruss, J. D. & Kaenzig, L. (1999). Introversion: The often forgotten factor impacting the gifted. Virginia Association for the Gifted Newsletter, 21, 1. Retrieved from http://sengifted.org/archives/articles/introversion-the-often-forgotten-factor-impacting-the-gifted
Lovecky, D. V. (1986) Can you hear the flowers sing? Issues for gifted adults. Journal of Counseling and Development, 64, 572-575. Retrieved from http://sengifted.org/archives/articles/can-you-hear-the-flowers-sing-issues-for-gifted-adults
Photo: Grandmothers’ Stories by elstudio on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
This blog post is a part of the August Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop. Read more about Gifted Social Issues by clicking on the link below.
5 thoughts on “Be-attitudes of Gifted Elders ~ A Social Legacy”
The more things change, the more they stay the same! I love reading your articles and perspective. It’s rare to read about gifted elders and I appreciate your work in this area.
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My parents were so involved in so many causes as seniors: Farmers for Peace, Change for Children and many others. At 83 my mother continues to research and educate the people in her home community of the importance of our water resources and the impact of industry on the local river. She is now referred to as a “gravel granny” and despite the contentiousness of the issue, even those in opposition of her work have a great respect for her.
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You are right that many gifted elders become quietly involved in community programs, but let’s not forget those who become isolated because they no longer work and long-held fears of non-acceptance plague them and prevent them from leaving their homes.
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Alessa, Thank you for your comment. Yes, there are many gifted elders who are reticent about becoming involved and remain isolated, for various reasons. It is my hope that through this blog elders will come to a self-acceptance and self-understanding that will allow them to become fully actualized.
Ooooh Joy, I love the idea of leaving a social legacy, and how that ties into genealogy, and family history. I think that social legacy of performing acts of service like those you describe,improve communities, and leave imprints felt through generations.