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 on-going 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.
If you wish to learn more about joining or forming an EAN Elder Circle, please contact Libby Traubman (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Karen Fine (KarenhFine@yahoo.com), or check the EAN Directory for a local contact.
Each Elder Circle needs to have a Contact Person to be the contact with Elders Action Network.
Each circle is asked to keep a Circle Log of who attends circle meetings – this is helpful information for EAN as we are growing a movement. Each member of a circle will become a member of Elders Action Network and will receive the EAN Newsletter.
TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED –
- Finding Other Elders for your Circle
- Creating an Agenda (needs to be written)
- Suggested Circle Topics, Resources & Activities (needs to be written/collated)
Finding Other Elders for your Circle
- If you are looking for others who might join you in forming an Elder Circle, contact Crystal (crystal@EldersAction.org) — she will send out an inquiry to all EAN members in the area. (so do we need a process?)
- Don’t forget to contact people in your network — friends, family, neighbors, faith community, retirement community. Send out a brief email describing what you want to do to your networks.
- Keep a list of folks, with their emails, who might be interested in an elder activist group.
- People are sometimes hesitant to step out of their comfort zones and get involved. You can help them find their “inner elder activist” by inviting them to participate with you in a simple action. For instance, let them know that you are planning to attend an event or action and ask them to join you —
- 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 focused groups in your area
- An Online Conversation for the EAN Elder Activist Social Justice team
- Participate in an online EAN Book Study Group
- Help to host an event in collaboration with another organization or group. Bring along EAN materials.
- 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.
- Bring along EAN materials:
- EAN rack cards (can be requested from Crystal@EldersAction.net)
- EAN business card (needs to be created)
- Or something you can hand them to build connection, with the EAN web address and your name & email.
- Bring along EAN materials:
- Visit Retirement Communities — bring information about EAN, an article to read together, and a simple action or short activity for them to do. This could be writing letters to local officials. Sort videos are also great for this type of outreach.
- Need list suggested circle resources & activities
SUGGESTED CIRCLE TOPICS, RESOURCES & 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.