What is your Elderquest?
Last spring, social workers, writers, film buffs, elders, screenwriters, and eldercare professionals, settled onto cool metal chairs and sipped drinks at UC Berkeley’s Townsend Center for Humanities. We awaited Chuck Nicholas’ film clips and discussion of his signature program The Elderquest in Today’s Movies and Novels.
During an Elderquest, we strive to find true meaning in our old age, go deeper into the truth and resolve long-ago emotional wounds or angers, or rediscover our own personal purpose on this earth. We might heal estranged relationships, losses or deep tragedies. Nicholas says that the journeys are “more inward than outward, backward than forward, slow and intentional, but no less heroic.”
According to Nicholas, the journey goes like this: An elder decides to pursue a hazardous trip. The urge to depart is mysterious, perhaps prompted by the elder’s dream of his/her death, or an unsettling personal encounter, or some long-avoided truth that requires acknowledgement and reconciliation. The elder is often uncertain and ill prepared for the trip. Progress is fitful, slow and dangerous. (Think of [the late] 79 year old actor Richard Farnsworth riding a lawnmower across the country to visit his brother Lyle, in David Lynch’s 1999 film The Straight Story).
Common on the journey: a helpful guide who appears at certain places, some very difficult struggles and challenges and then hopefully a moral, physical or psychological breakthrough.
And you or I become the hero our own personal stories and long-lived lives.
Each of the following shows elders in various stages of Elderquest:
- Horton Foote’s The Coming Home: the Trip to Bountiful, 1985
- Wild Strawberries, written by Ingmar Bergman, 1957
- Eathan Canin’s Novel, Carry Me Across the Water, 2001
The program is currently available at 19 Lifelong Learning Institutes in 14 states. While I do not believe it is available on the West Coast, you can participate by contacting the website of The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. You can involve yourself with different longevity projects. For Elderquest, you can register, download the syllabus, and then rent the movies, buy the books, or find them at the libraries.
OLLI, Gerontology Institute, UMass Boston,
100 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, MA 02125
Fax: Questions: (617) 287-7080