If you think life may have taught you a few things now that you are a GEEZER, then maybe participating in a program called Elder Wisdom Circle is something you might want to try.
After retirement, I wanted to give something back to the world (or at least to the people who needed help in Spokane). Maybe a more truthful reason for volunteering was that I was looking for something that would make me feel good. But after trying a couple of traditional volunteer programs, I found that it might be difficult for me to find a satisfactory niche. I won’t mention what I did, but only that my experiences were a little disappointing.
What they all had in common was:
• Supervisors seemed to feel I was no longer capable of making any decision that could not be made by a kindergartener.
• The tasks I was assigned required the expertise you would expect of a kindergartener.
• I was talked to like a kindergartener.
• There seemed to be little hope that I would ever rise above the status of a kindergartener.
Maybe it wasn’t them. Maybe it was just that I was a volunteer with a bad attitude. But in the years I have left on this planet, I don’t have the time to work myself up to being treated like a first grader.
Then I came across a website called Elder Wisdom Circle. On their opening page they describe what they do. “The EWC makes it possible for me (photo of two smiling seniors) to share the knowledge I have gained through the years I have lived. Think of all the people I am helping.”
The site is set up to match senior advisors to younger people (really anyone) who have problems and want advice. They just jot down their situation and problems and send it into the site where it is posted for advisors to peruse. The advisors can then select which inquiries to respond to where they feel they have some knowledge that could help solve the person’s problem.
I found this to be a very professional outfit. To volunteer to write for them you have to fill out an application and respond to some test questions for advice. If you are accepted, you are put under the mentorship of a facilitator who reviews all your responses for a two-month period. After two months, you are on your own, but your responses are still reviewed until you receive approval to do it on your own. I found this system very supportive and one that allows you to get a good feel for how to best respond to people’s problems. After your “probationary” period, you are expected to respond to questions at least a couple of times every two months or your account goes inactive.
What are in inquires about—well, just about anything and every thing. The bulk of the questions are in regards to what they call relationships—boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, cheater/yet-to-be cheater, etc. I find that my response to every one of these requests for advice would be “Get over it and get on with your life.” If you think that is a bit mean, then I would agree with you and that is why I do not respond to this type of request. I respond to categories such as: career, finance, medical, school, self-improvement. Maybe it’s not so much that I am an expert on these subjects, but, one time or the other, I have probably had the experience of screwing up royally in all of these categories and then having to dig myself out.
I never feel that I have the answer to everyone’s problem, but I must feel that I can clearly express my feelings about whatever the specific question the person is dealing with. My main rule is to be absolutely truthful in expressing my thoughts. Warning— some of these requests are gut wrenching. You can choose to move on to the easier ones like I did at first, but gradually I came to want to handle the problems that were the most complex and challenging.
To demonstrate the variety of request you may respond to, here is an example of my responses:
• Dealing with a difficult puppy
• Should I go into medicine or law
• Workload overload
• Father issues
• Feeling stuck on making more money
• My dog killed the neighbor’s dog
• I don’t like who I am anymore
• Should I keep this job
• What is your definition of friendship
• Should I stay or go
• Dealing with a snarky family member
• My bad grades
Maybe one of the oddest was a request on finding the most humane way to kill cockroaches so that they could be feed to ants on an ant farm. I thought the answer was not to drag out their death like an entomologist would do when they put insects into a killing jar filled with poison, but to hit them in the head with a hammer.
I don’t feel that you have to be a great writer to handle these requests for advice, but at least you should be the type of person who enjoys communicating with others. The most important thing is that you be compassionate and truly want to help others.
The reward you get for making an attempt at providing useful information and encouragement to people is mainly a feeling that you are doing your very best to help someone. You’re just a caring stranger trying to help out another stranger. When you do get a response back from someone, it can be very personal and very gratifying. That only happens in about a third of the cases, but it encourages you to go on to the next request.
I don’t think this is something for everyone, but if you think you can do a good job at this, then I encourage you to check it out. EWC states they have 600 advisors and because the list of requests gets longer every day, I am sure they need to recruit more. If interested, their website is at: http://www.elderwisdomcircle.org
This is something you will consider a pain in the ass, but at the same time, on some days it will be the best thing you do.