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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During the industrial era of human history the forces of modernization made traditional elders increasingly useless. Power passed from fathers to sons, who valued the new and technological rather than the old ways of the past. This shift created enormous technological progress but left elders without meaningful roles, and they lost their honored place in society. They became victims of what the authors call gerontophobia, a fear of advanced age based on disempowering cultural stereotypes. Like any other disempowered group, elders in time got warehoused in new ghettos (nursing homes and retirement communities). Segregated, they have become victims of ageism, discrimination because of age. Old people also have come to serve as psychological shields that younger people use to deflect the reality of their own aging and ultimate death.

To counteract this ageist nightmare, gerontologists have proposed a third stage of eldering. Called successful aging, the emphasis is on lifestyle changes, sound nutrition, and the pursuit of an active life to combat physical and intellectual decline. The authors of From Age-ing to Sage-ing acknowledge this is a good beginning, but they go much further. They argue for the powerful role that spiritual engagement—Sage-ing—can play in the aging process, and which they explore throughout their book.


So what is sagacity, and how will we know it when we see and experience it? We begin by attributing three qualities to the concept: 1) Wisdom in action, or active reflective practice. 2) Unusual effectiveness that only exposure to experience can achieve. 3) Generativity, the motive of wanting to leave behind a legacy, something of lasting human value. In exploring additional meaning, colleague John Bush formulated eight descriptive statements for sagacity: Sage leaders are people persons. They demonstrate this by their respect and care for persons in their charge and in everyday dealings. They enjoy people interactions and are liked and admired by people in their community. And they believe that people, rather than organizations, are the most important ingredient in community life. Sage leaders have a calm confidence about them. They have been tested and have achieved their own identity as leaders. They are open to discussions and diverse opinions and are willing to enter into dialogue.

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