Saving the World

Saving the World

William Thomas has written a book (Thomas, 2004) where the second part of the title bears the intriguing statement, “… How Elders Will Save the World.” OK, he does not mean “save the world” in a literal fashion. He means it as a reversal of long held notions about the latter stages of life.Thomas postulates that the many myths about aging held by modern societies give us a distorted perception of the process of getting old and moving towards death. In general, we see that process as one of loss. Loss of strength. Loss of endurance. Loss of balance. Loss of memory. Loss of influence. Loss of power. All sorts of losses are laid at the feet of the very old person.

Thomas believes that human development does not stop. As we get older we can continue to develop, especially if our environments encourage and expect us to grow. Thomas has been involved in developing group homes for elders and has 10 principles for creating an Eden at the end of life (See

In his TED talk, Thomas gives the example of “Still” ( He says that old people are evaluated as being useful if they can “still” do the things of youth. Thomas wants us to honor and respect old people for that they do now. Of course as we age some activities are “still” not done, but it seems Thomas believes other qualities can be developed. He asserts that while we become more frail at extreme old age, we have left to us other areas to expand and build upon. Like the blind person who develops acute hearing, the frail elderly can expand and grow… well, how? What? That is the good question? Thomas is not specific here. I wonder what areas and talents might one develop when reaching the limits of earthly existence. Mental and spiritual areas come to mind. But, that’s a question you readers might pursue in the comments section or at the ETGECC Facebook page (

Anyhow, Thomas concludes that when we see the process of aging differently we, all of us, young to old, will see life differently. We will know that at the end of life we have the potential to keep growing and that makes all of life a growth process. This perception if held by children and carried along throughout life, will change the world.


I talked about Thomas before in Back to the Commune (

A blog, whose author is anonymous, offers a few insights about Thomas’ book. (!/2012/03/what-are-old-people-for.html)


Thomas, WH. What Are Old People For?: How Elders Will Save the World. Vander Wyk & Burnham, Acton, MA, 2004. (