Conversations among wise Elders

Richard Durning shares about his experiences in hosting “Boomer Cafes”:

“About ten years ago, my wife Lina – an experienced World Cafe practitioner – was about to turn 60.  She, as with many of our circle of family and friends, was frequently in conversation about what this big 6-0 (and beyond) means. These upcoming “golden years” promise to be much different than those of our parents. Our life expectancy is much longer. “How do I spend this bonus time?” “What will our community (ies) look like – certainly not a gated community. And, most of us do not play golf.”
“These conversations beg for a Cafe,” Lina declared.  “We’ll call it a ‘Boomer Cafe’”.

Her invitation was met with a terrific response. We hosted three Boomer Cafe gatherings with over 45 participants. Our questions ranged from post-retirement: “If retirement is not calling you, what are your priorities for your next phase of life?” to our well-being: “How do we take care of ourselves and prepare for inevitable changes in our lives?”and to our future community: “How do we create a community that supports our well-being?”. These questions generated lively exchanges. One participant insisted that she did not want to be “around old people all the time.”

I was fortunate to host a table and witness the elegant simplicity of World Cafe conversations. Within minutes my small groups were in the space of shared inquiry, stories, playfulness and sudden insights. One individual’s comment stood out for me. “Where is ritual?” In the Western world (United States) there is no place for ritual that allows for the celebration, reflection, and acknowledgment of our entering “the third stage.” We can, and should, learn from other cultures that honor their wise elders.

At the end of the third Boomer Cafe, I commented to a fellow host, that I often marvel at the scope of World Cafe – corporations, organizations, governments, and faith communities. Now add another application: Conversations among wise elders.”

Richard Durning

Chicago, IL USA

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