Elder Circles – Tips For Getting Started


Finding Other Elders for Your Circle

  • If you are looking for others to join you in forming an Elder Circle, contact our admin team at info@eldersaction.org to request a list of EAN members in your area. With your consent they are invited to contact you so together you can begin to design your own Elder Circle.
  • Don’t forget to contact people in your network: friends, family, neighbors, faith community, retirement community inviting them to join you in starting an Elder Circle
  • Keep a list of folks, with their emails, who might be interested in an Elder Circle
  • You can help folks find their “inner elder activist” by inviting them to participate with you in a simple action, especially for those who might be hesitant. For instance, let them know that you are planning to attend an event or action, and ask them to join you for:
    • A community forum or town hall meeting
    • A local march, rally or other event
    • A local Sunrise Movement meeting or action
    • Meetings of other climate or social justice groups in your area
    • An online conversation with the EAN Elder Activists for Social Justice team
    • Participate in an EAN Book Study Group
  • Help to host an event in collaboration with another organization or group. If you’re not comfortable with the thought of hosting an event, attend one! Many of our folks have come together after meeting at local events held by other organizations. Attend a conference, march, community event, etc. And, NETWORK with other elders and people you meet. Be sure to get the name, phone and email of folks who express interest so that you can contact them.

 

General Circle Guidelines

An Elder Circle can be as large or small as the participants wish as well as determine the full nature and focus of their group. It is helpful if members live in close proximity for convenience in meeting, although meeting “virtually” via the internet works well, too.

Meeting in a home is more intimate and personal, but may limit the number of participants. To allow time for sharing and hearing from everyone, a group of 10 to 14 is suggested.

Elder Circles could include meal sharing, snacks or desserts. Potlucks make it easier for the host who may provide a main dish, or just the responsibility of hosting, while others bring food to share.

One way to begin a new Elder Circle is to share personal stories and get to know each other. If the group plans to eat together, having one person tell his or her narrative at the conclusion of the meal works well.

For some, their stories might focus on why they want to become more engaged and active, concerns about climate change, social injustice or the future, what they want to address and why. Allow for plenty of time and practice good listening, not interrupting during the sharing. Once the person has concluded, perhaps the others might ask thoughtful questions seeking more details or clarification about an aspect of the story and their hopes and concerns for the future.

With each gathering, Circle members will begin to deepen their relationships as they share their passions and what gives them meaning.

An ongoing Circle might begin by checking in with a brief sharing about what has been occurring since last together. It is good to remind the group to be thoughtful of time, allowing for each person to share. Sharing time is a discipline and takes practice. It helps to agree on the time for sharing, and sometimes it might be useful to use a timer, although it is important not to be rigid as some check-ins may require a few extra minutes.

In addition to check-ins and sharing, you might want to bring a brief poem or reading for inspiration. The group might also decide to read and discuss articles on a topic of mutual interest, or a book to further understand current issues.

Each meeting should also have time for announcements of local actions, city council meetings, community issues that need support so that members can support each other in their activism. As people learn more about each other, there will be opportunities to join together to support a specific activity or event. Each Circle can periodically revisit the goals of the group, which may change.

It will be important to share the facilitation of the group and to determine agreements that will help the group function well — allowing each elder to share how they would like to contribute to the Elder Circle. These agreements are as simple as setting dates and times to meet, where to meet, the meeting format, and how to maintain respectful dialogue and listening. Developing relationships and mutual respect is important.
 

What EAN Asks of Elder Circles

Creating Elder Circles is one means of building the movement of elders addressing the social and environmental issues of our time.

We encourage all Elder Circles to:

  • Have a contact person to be the liaison with Elders Action Network
  • Keep a Circle log of who attends meetings – this is helpful information for EAN as we are growing a movement
  • Provide the name and email of each Circle member so they can receive the EAN Newsletter and be informed of classes, webinars and activities

 

Creating a Circle Agenda

There are many ways to create a Circle agenda – and it is important for the facilitator or the group to set an agenda, so that there is sufficient time and attention give to what you want to discuss.

Below is one suggested agenda that you and others can edit and make your own. It is good for a 2-hour meeting.

  • 5 – 10 min. SETTLE IN
    Time to greet each other, get refreshments, allow for late arrivals, etc.
  • 5 – 10 min. WELCOME
    Agenda overview, end time, where are bathrooms, etc.
    Inspiring Reading, poem or something else
  • 15 – 20 min. CHECK-IN
    2 – 3 mins./person (you might want to use a timer)

    • Name, perhaps where people live, if there are organizational affiliations, etc
    • A “check-in question” to help people get to know each other
    • Something good that happened to you this past week
    • I am grateful for…
    • Something I celebrated this past month…
    • Or, perhaps just sharing what has been happening in their lives
  • 30 – 45 min. MEETING TOPIC
    Discussion of a reading or resources, watch a movie and discuss, etc.
  • 15 – 20 min. GET ENGAGED
    Information about local actions to attend, requests for support on local actions, events, etc. This is a good place to recruit a couple of folks to attend a local event, action, etc.
  • 10 min. CLOSING
    Next meeting date, where, facilitator(s), etc.
    Topic for next meeting, what materials to be read, reviewed, etc.
    Perhaps a poem, reading, song to end the Circle

 

Suggested Circle Topics, Resources and Activities

Topics for first few Circle meetings might include:

  • Introductions – Getting to know each other: name, where you’re from, and most important, things about you that you want to share
  • What do you want most from the circle (for yourself and your community)?
  • What is of most concern to you (about the happenings in the world today)?
  • What would you like this circle to focus on?

These first few Circle meetings will help the group discover what topics they want to discuss in the future. Below are some topics that have been discussed in other Circles. Feel free to pick and choose the topics and resources that are of interest to your group.

As a group you might want to all take one of EAN’s workshops or classes; and have your group time be an in-person discussion of the material. This could include:

  • The Empowered Elder
  • Waking Up To Our Own History
  • EAN Book Study Group
  • Choices for Sustainable Living
  • Elder Activists for Social Justice Community Conversations

We’ll get back to you asap!

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