What is a Modern Elder?
During my time at Airbnb, I recognized a new kind of elder emerging in the workplace. Not the traditional elder of the past, regarded with reverence simply for years lived. But a Modern Elder, striking into new territory due to the growing value of their relevance: the ability to use timeless wisdom to address modern day problems. By understanding the importance of context, today’s Modern Elder is the perfect alchemy of curiosity and wisdom (curiosity to open up possibilities and wisdom to distill down what is essential).
In order to proudly embrace the word “elder,” it’s time we make a distinction between “elderly” and “elder.” Elderly is the last 5-10 years of our lives, when we may or may not be dependent on others; Elder is a relative term, defining us relative to those who surround us. As a 52-year-old joining Airbnb (where the average age was half that), I was certainly an elder. But I was also a new version of what that meant.
So, let’s reclaim the word “elder” in our modern context: one that recognizes and values the unique contributions we offer. Let’s own the word, and give it the power it deserves. The power we deserve.