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Friday, November 27, 2009

Elder Wisdom Circle

When 85-year-old Mollie Pier was admitted to the hospital a few months ago after surgery, the first thing she asked for was a computer. Pier, an 85-year-old grandmother, is a member of the Elder Wisdom Circle, a group of seniors ages 60 to 103 who dispense advice via the Internet to young questioners from around the globe.

After applying to the group and going through a screening process, the seniors are free to scan submissions to see which ones they can best answer. "I've been asked everything from how to deal with the death of a loved one to how to start a worm farm from home," says Jim Kowalczyk, 64, one of the younger members of the circle.

The Elder Wisdom Circle has certainly caught on. With over 400 seniors, the group will answer about 3,000 submissions this month; it has expanded into advice columns in local papers and will unveil its first book next spring. EWC is even thinking of branching out into "Advice TV" with Webcams to help questioners interact more fully with the elders.

"A lot of people don't have standard family structure or elders to help them in tough situations, people are coming to us with complex problems," says Doug Meckelson, the group's founder.

Meckelson, who calls himself a "refugee from the corporate world," is not an elder himself but says he always had a strong affinity for seniors stemming from a close relationship with his maternal grandmother. "She always said we don't treat seniors well here, and told me I would do something about that one day," he said.

ElderWisdomCircle.org not only seeks to benefit the questioners, but advice givers as well. Mollie Pier's youngest son died of AIDS at the age of 37. She became active in the gay community through PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and now counsels other parents of gay children and young people dealing with their own sexuality.

"This gives you a sense of healing in the world," Pier says. "We can't do anything about politics or war, but if we can help each other, one on one, it might improve situations."

The questions can be difficult. Elder Wisdom is an anonymous service but "not a crisis hotline," Meckelson says. That doesn't stop people from writing in with dire situations, whether they are contemplating suicide or dealing with the death of a child.

"It's hard, we want people to get the help they need," Meckelson says.

Pier was recently asked a tough question about family dynamics and child rearing. She wrote a thoughtful response about coming to terms with a less-than-desirable situation and pulling together. As she always says, "Advice and wisdom go hand in hand."

Read more: http://www.dailygood.org/more.php?n=3940

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