What It Really Means to be a Modern Elder.

MEAx Australia | What it Means to be a Modern Elder | 27th January 2022

The term ‘Modern elder’ was coined by MEA founder Chip Conley while he was mentoring the founders of what at the time was a small tech start-up called Airbnb. At age 52, Chip was twice the age of the average Airbnb employee and was lacking the digital literacy of his 20-something colleagues. But what Chip quickly discovered was, that while he’d been hired as a sage and mentor, he was also in many ways a student and intern. His colleagues began calling him the “modern elder” because he was as curious as he was wise. He married wisdom and experience with curiosity, a beginner’s mind, and a willingness to evolve… and so was born the term “Modern Elder.”

Initially Chip was not thrilled with this ‘modern elder’ moniker. The word elder sounded a bit too much like elderly … which he didn’t sit well with him. But as time went on, he came to embrace his modern elder status and in doing so liberated the term elder from the stigma of elderly.

Chip explains, “Elderly refers solely to years lived on the planet, while ‘elder’ refers to what we do with those years. Many people age without synthesizing wisdom from their experience, but modern elders reflect on what they’ve learned and incorporated it into their relationships with younger generations. A modern elder doesn’t assume ‘reverence’ but is instead curious with a desire for learning, connection, understanding and ‘relevance’ as both mentor and intern, sage and student, teacher and learner, all at the same time. We believe we’re all modern elders in the making.”

In a world in which power is escalating to the young faster than ever before, perhaps the key to thriving as a mid-life worker comes from embracing the traits of a modern elder. As Chip says, “True modern elders aren’t babysitters. They bring consistently good judgment, insight that is authentic, high emotional intelligence, a commitment to stewardship, and at a time of uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, an ability to connect the dots and see things more clearly, including the dangers ahead.”

At MEAx our goal is to build a community of inspired and empowered modern ‘elders’ who embrace wisdom as a path to growing whole, not old. Please remember to register to join the conversation with Chip Conley on 1 February at 11am AEDT/Sydney time.

Stay curious,
The MEAx Team


Feeling Your Way in Uncertainty

Individual reactions to the words ‘uncertainty’ and ‘risk’ vary widely.

Read More

Liberating “Elder” from “Elderly”

“Elderly” represents the last 5-10 years of your life, but “Elder” is a relative term.

Read More