Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Community Engagement Setting the Stage for Theory S: III. From Aging to Saging

Setting the Stage for Theory S: III. From Aging to Saging

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Gary Quehl and William Bergquist

[For the complete report on this project see The Sages Among Us: Harnessing the Power of Civic Engagement, available as a link through the LPC Bookstore.]

In the absence of an extensive body of literature on sage citizen leadership, there is need to explore four subjects: a new paradigm of what aging means today, an understanding of the historic role of the elder, the meaning of “sagacity,” and the relevance of leadership research.

A New Paradigm

It may not always be at the forefront of our thinking, but each of us knows that physical and mental decline and death are inevitable. So it should be of some comfort that significant improvements in health and life expectancy make the aging process potentially a time for personal and spiritual growth and service rather than the end of productive life. This shift in thinking about aging is wonderfully captured in the pioneering book by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ronald Miller, From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older.

The authors, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ronald S. Miller, argue that longer life expectancy provides an opportunity for heightened consciousness as the best way to counterbalance the physical and social diminishments of old age. They contend that without nurturing inner awareness, prolonged life can lead to depression and poignant despair (“Who needs years, maybe decades, of physical and mental decline?”) (Endnote 1). 

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