Stephen Jenkinson: Elderhood In Our Time Of Trouble

In this segment of our conversation, Stephen Jenkinson discusses how the dominant culture of North America, as Stephen frames it, is awash in aged people, but bereft of elders - in the truest sense of the word. Stephen “argues that elderhood is a function rather than an identity – it is not a position earned simply by the number of years on the planet or the title ‘parent’ or ‘grandparent.’”

Why is it that the dominant culture of North America has been unable to produce the conditions necessary for elderhood to flourish, especially in this time of trouble we find ourselves in? Stephen points to what elderhood in our time of great crisis (ecological, spiritual, political, and otherwise) would possibly look like, framing it within the profound realization that elderhood can only flourish when the appetite exists for it.

“I am making the case for elderhood, not for easy agedness. I’m doing so mostly by wondering what happened. Because something happened. Something happened to ancestors and elders and honour. There’s work to be done, and there’s an old wisdom to be learned where there used to be the wisdom of old, and you can’t fix what you don’t understand. That’s where we’re headed: to grievous wisdom. Let us see if we can bear the sound, the particular sound, of no hand clapping. This is a plea and a plot for elders in training.” Learn more about and purchase ‘Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble’ here:

Stephen Jenkinson (MTS, MSW) is a culture activist, teacher, author and ceremonialist. He is the author of numerous books, including ‘Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble’ and ‘Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul.’ Stephen teaches internationally and is the creator and principal instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School, founded in 2010. Learn more about Stephen and his work at

This is a segment of episode #134 of Last Born In The Wilderness “Elderhood: Coming Of Age In Troubled Times w/ Stephen Jenkinson.” Listen to the full episode: