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Susan V. Bosak

Researcher, Educator, and
Founder of the Legacy Project Susan V. Bosak

Table Talk Think Pieces are big-picture, connect-the-dots posts inspired by the Legacy Table at The Cedars, a place to discuss the big stuff that really matters

David Suzuki interview, CBC The National

Susan V. Bosak, Legacy Project

Interviewed at the national science fair

If Canada has a national elder, it could well be scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki. At 86, he recently announced his "retirement" – although he says he'll still be active and vocal. Suzuki has inspired me since I was a student in high school entering science fairs.

We don't just get older — we become elders As he talked about retirement, Suzuki voiced a call to older adults to "be an elder" – which prompted me to respond with an article that appeared in The Toronto Star (or PDF version). Yes, be an elder – and the Legacy Project can help you!

In one of several interviews, Suzuki comments, "It's my job now, as an elder, to sift through my experiences for those nuggets worth passing on to young people. I urge elders to do this. Don't just sit away and kind of vegetate until you die. You've got a job to do. But I think we have to provide elders with a venue."

Through our 7-Generation initiative, we're empowering elders to connect their stories into the bigger story of lifetimes across generations for the ecopsychosocial wellbeing of all – you, us, and the planet.

Worldwide, for the first time in history, people 65 years and older outnumber children. By 2036, 1 in 4 Canadians will be over 65 years of age.

As we explore a much longer lifetime, we have to be careful not to split old age into two polarized images – the "ill-derly" versus the "healthy, wealthy, and wise." This feeds both a false pessimism and a superficial optimism. To create genuinely satisfying, realistic images of older adulthood, we have to understand its complexities. As we create new life maps, there are no prescribed role models to follow, no guideposts, no rigid rules or obvious rewards. Aging is much more than a "problem" to be "solved." It's about our vision of what it means to live a life.

Legacy isn't something you leave behind; it's something you live every single day. 70% of older adults say they want to create a positive legacy. What if… we meaningfully connect younger and older in strategic action to transform their own lives and the world?

Susan with photo of her grandparents I learned the power of legacy from my grandmother, my "Baba." I shared the essence of our relationship in a simple little book that's now celebrating 25 years, Something to Remember Me By. The cedar chest she passed on to me still sits at the foot of my bed.

From the time I was little, Baba gave me a big perspective on time. By example, she taught me that each of us has a duty to make our lives mean something in the hearts and minds of those that follow. Sometimes she gave me small keepsakes, sometimes family stories; it was always with that special, unconditional love you find between grandparents and grandchildren.

Every child needs an elder – and every elder needs the young. And we all need to see ourselves, at any age, as elders-in-training aspiring to be our best in the last third of our lives.

Connecting Young and Old In society, with grandchildren or other young people, these relationships across generations aren't just about "buddies" or "mentorship." It's more along the lines of what Indigenous academic and author Tyson Yunkaporta calls "us-two." This is the dual first person, a coming together in a profound way through relationship. Says Yunkaporta, "Solutions to complex problems take many dissimilar minds and points of view to design, so we have to do that together, linking up with as many other us-twos as we can to form networks of dynamic interaction, especially across generations."

We often praise the young, saying "the future is in good hands." The future isn't in the hands of the young; it's in all our hands. The young bring energetic potential, and the old lived experience. One without the other is only one side of the coin.

We're calling on every elder to rise into a meaningful role of support and stewardship for both younger generations and the planet.

Be an elder. We need you – our future depends on it.

Find out more about the 7-Generation initiative, the annual Listen to a Life Contest as a way to start to connect generations in your family or community, the Legacy Links life review process, how you can become an Elder-in-Residence at a local school, and upcoming events including our popular Be An Elder workshop series. In the GTA, you can also visit us at The Cedars.

Questions? Get in touch with Brian Puppa, Executive Director at the Legacy Project, by e-mail or call (905) 852-3777.