December 28, 1997 in City

Golden Opportunity Saging Center Would Take Advantage Of Seniors’ Wisdom While Keeping Them Connected To Society

Leland Kaiser
 

The aging American population is the most exciting thing we have going right now. In fact every year I become more interested in the problems of the aged.

You see, I think it takes 30 years just to get common sense in this life. I don’t know many people under age 30 who have much of it.

It takes another 30 years to try to figure out how to use your common sense to live in the kind of complex world we live in. By the time you’re 60, you’re old enough to decide what you want to be when you grow up. By the time you’re 60, you have enough experience you’re probably trustworthy. By the time you’re 60, you are a spiritual elder, you are a mentor, you are a sage, you have a lifetime of experience to give to the new generation.

And there should be a sacred bond between the old and the young. In all societies across the planet that’s been true except modern societies that have broken the cord at our peril.

But not everybody knows how to be a sage so we need a saging center to teach people how to be a sage.

I think what that center should do is the discovery process at a personal level. It’s what I call soul discovery.

Make no mistake about it, the future is soul-based medicine, soul-based health care, soul-based education, soul-based employment, soul-based everything.

As Plato said so many years ago, you should really be doing what you’re fit by nature to do. And yet I find many people have no idea what that is.

Wouldn’t it be nice to say to an older person, “Don’t retire, recareer. Don’t retire, reinvent yourself. Don’t retire, transcend.”

The saging center would be an open invitation to anyone who’s 55 years old or older to come. We’ll take a look at their physical health, their nutrition, their exercise program. We’ll take a look at any existing chronic diseases. We’ll manage those - with their physician if they have one, without if they don’t.

We’ll take a look at their life work plan for the next 40 years.

Make no mistake about it, we’re going to go to 140 years old in this society. With the advances in genetic engineering, the designing out of genetic disease, the increasing of immunity levels and the discovery of the genes that create prolongevity, we’re going to have an older population. That is the secret of the transformation of America.

I’m always fascinated when people say, “But those old folks, they use more resources.”

You wanna bet? Do you know if that person who comes in the saging center is willing to come in one or two days a week and help us out in the community doing what they’ve always done, their productivity far exceeds their cost.

The secret of improving the gross national product in this country is the use of volunteers. That is the secret of doing what needs to be done without increasing taxes. That is the secret of doing what needs to be done without affecting the marketplace in a negative way.

So if you’re a policeman, if you’re a carpenter, if you’re a plumber, if you’re a social worker, if you’re a pastor, if you’re a doctor, it matters not. You just continue doing that - free, a day or two a week.

I have physcians now who are friends of mine that prescribe volunteering experiences as a therapy in lieu of antidepressants and tranquilizers. The secret of growing old with dignity is to be involved and be needed. …

So we say to the older person, we’ll sit down with you. We’ll do a soul scan. We’ll take a look at your developed talents, your undeveloped talents.

We’ll put you on a quick course of unfoldment and spiritual evolution - all free - and then we’d like you to come back. We have some houses that need to be painted. We have some houses that need to be replumbed. We have work that needs to be done. We have some kids that need mentors.

And some of you who are very specially adept at it, we’d like to make you deathing navigators.

One of the greatest unmet needs in our society is creating a high state of wellness in death.

I often say to my friends, “Die wherever you must but never in a hospital if you can help it. It’s the worst place to die.”

I was doing deathing with a patient some time ago, talking to him, and he was lingering. He said to me, “Why am I lingering? Why can’t I just die?”

I said there are two reasons. One of them is you’re hooked up to a bunch of equipment in this ICU. It’s keeping you alive. But I said it couldn’t keep you alive in spite of yourself.

The other reason is you’ve got some unfinished business. You’ve got some forgiving to do. You’ve got a couple of things that need to be fixed before you leave.

And so we talked about that a little bit.

And I said then we’ve got another problem and the other problem is not only have you not packed your suitcase but you haven’ talked to me about your destination, and I wouldn’t want you to wander out of here confused.

So we need to talk a little bit about that. And I need to explain to you what dying feels like, and we need to practice it a little bit so you’ll be ready.

When he got to that point I was called in and he was well along in the process. He could still talk to me.

I told him I’m going to start talking to you and you’ll hear me and you’ll be able to respond for a while, but I want you to practice what we talked about, moving your consciousness, we’re going to start loosening it up a little bit because you’re getting ready to travel.

There’ll come a time when you can’t talk to me any more but you’ll still hear my voice. And I said then you’re going to see a very, very bright light and you’re going to see something that looks like a tunnel. And you’ll see me there with you, and you’ll see some other folks too, and I’m going to give you an introduction and then you must go on and I must stay. And he died a beautiful death.

You see, the sages always serve that function in traditional societies: birthing, deathing - the two gateways.

We have birthing midwives, why not deathing midwives? How come not death as celebration and graduation and a life well-lived?

Well, we have an opportunity to do that and so that’s what the saging program does, and I think it should be supported by multiple organizations as a communitywide capacity.

MEMO: You are invited to share your reactions to this column. Send your thoughts to Doug Floyd at The Spokesman-Review, 999 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane 99201. You may send email to dougf@spokesman.com, a fax to 459-5098 or leave a voice mail message at 459-5577, extension 5466. Readers interested in the saging-center concept for Spokane may call Nola Barz at the Health Improvement Partnership, 742-3660. For information about the 1998 Leadership Forum, “Community By Design or Default,” or to register, call Kareem Wilcher at Leadership Spokane, 459-4116.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. THE KAISER FILE Leland Kaiser, Ph.D., is founder and president of Kaiser & Associates, a health-care consulting firm in Brighton, Colo. He is a writer, lecturer and health-policy analyst and is regarded as a leading figure in the healthier communities movement in the United States.

2. THE CREATION OF A SAGING CENTER Speaking in Spokane last May, health-care futurist Leland Kaiser proposed creation of a “saging center” as a community strategy here. Such a center, he suggested, would be owned and operated by the local hospitals “and anybody else that wants to be part of that.” This column is an excerpt from Kaiser’s talk in May. He will return to Spokane on Jan. 13 to talk with local business leaders and representatives of the Health Improvement Partnership. During the day, he will conduct a workshop on the saging-center concept as part of the 1998 Leadership Forum, “Community by Design or Default.”

You are invited to share your reactions to this column. Send your thoughts to Doug Floyd at The Spokesman-Review, 999 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane 99201. You may send email to dougf@spokesman.com, a fax to 459-5098 or leave a voice mail message at 459-5577, extension 5466. Readers interested in the saging-center concept for Spokane may call Nola Barz at the Health Improvement Partnership, 742-3660. For information about the 1998 Leadership Forum, “Community By Design or Default,” or to register, call Kareem Wilcher at Leadership Spokane, 459-4116.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. THE KAISER FILE Leland Kaiser, Ph.D., is founder and president of Kaiser & Associates, a health-care consulting firm in Brighton, Colo. He is a writer, lecturer and health-policy analyst and is regarded as a leading figure in the healthier communities movement in the United States.

2. THE CREATION OF A SAGING CENTER Speaking in Spokane last May, health-care futurist Leland Kaiser proposed creation of a “saging center” as a community strategy here. Such a center, he suggested, would be owned and operated by the local hospitals “and anybody else that wants to be part of that.” This column is an excerpt from Kaiser’s talk in May. He will return to Spokane on Jan. 13 to talk with local business leaders and representatives of the Health Improvement Partnership. During the day, he will conduct a workshop on the saging-center concept as part of the 1998 Leadership Forum, “Community by Design or Default.”

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