Practical Solutions for Sustainable Cities — since 1969

About the Elders Circle

The Program


"Reclaiming Elder Wisdom, among ourselves and within the broader community"

Why is elder wisdom important?

Our planet faces numerous crises. Seniors are a living reservoir of experience, knowledge, and skills. However, that role has been minimized in society and relinquished by seniors. This is a huge loss for all.

The SPEC Elders Circle offers a space and process that encourages deep reflection, personal connection, and intimate discussion to foster the emergence and sharing of this wisdom.

“What the world needs most is people who are less bound by prejudice. It needs more love, more generosity, more mercy, more openness.”
Jack Kornfield

Get Involved!

Join us and other engaged elders as we explore the many qualities of elder wisdom and:

  • Grow into conscious and intentional eldering;
  • Re-envision and model meaningful elder engagement;
  • Reclaim a wisdom role in society;
  • Practice participatory leadership;
  • Support and lead meaningful change in our lives, our society, and the world.

For information about how we invite elder wisdom and nurture its growth in the Elders Circle, visit our Get Involved page.

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    The Elders Circle supports a community where:

    • Seniors acknowledge and share their elder gifts and elder roles, and have more connection with and hope for the future;
    • Seniors make a positive difference on the environmental health of our region, with lasting benefits for future generations;
    • Other generations recognize and value elders’ unique contributions to thought, action, leadership, and conscious change.


    As we meet in circles of elder wisdom, we embrace these principles:

    • Openness

    Accepting other peoples’ perspectives opens us to new attitudes and helps us grow into new skills and behaviours. 

    • Curiosity

    A curious mind meets the unknown with intelligence and wisdom, invites new information, and welcomes opportunity.

    • Empathy

    Our ability to see beyond our separate self into generosity is rooted in a foundation of empathy and compassion.

    • Centeredness

    To effectively serve a common good while engaging formidable challenges, we ground our work in reality and the clarity that comes from our life experiences and wisdom.

    • Commitment 

    When we respect time and are present and accountable, we co-create and sustain trust.

    • Embracing chaordic space

    We support the process with enough order to maintain integrity, balanced with enough spaciousness to welcome uncertainly.

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      The People

      Elders Circle Participants

      Elders Circle events and activities attract a wide range of people of all ages who are drawn to the idea and practice of elder wisdom.

      Many participants are retired or close to retirement. Others are much younger.

      All are welcome.

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      Elders Circle Teams

      The Elders Circle program is supported by the efforts of dedicated volunteers who help build and guide the circles.

      Elders Circle Core Team

      Dr. Carole Christopher

      Carole Christopher founded the SPEC Elders Circle to reclaim elder wisdom as a role in her own life and to share this developmental journey with other elders. Carole has been an advocate and activist for over 35 years, as a consultant to the US Federal Trade Commission to regulate food advertising to children, through the peace and social justice movements in the 80s, and into the environmental movement in the 90s.

      In 2003, Carole returned to her first love, local and sustainable food, within the broader context of environmentalism. She has gardened organically for decades, and is a Master Gardener specializing in food gardening. 

      Carole has a particular interest in helping groups remain healthy and functional.  

      Joan Balmer

      All of Joan Balmer’s life, from graduating from high school to retirement, has involved teaching and learning. 

      At 18, she began teaching piano in Brandon, and then taught Adult Basic Education at Red River College in Winnipeg, including teaching a year in Headingly Jail. Joan then moved on to teaching workshops on management, supervisory skills, and finally Conflict Resolution at the Justice Institute.

      Her career – working, meeting, and exploring with people who had many differing perspectives – opened her up beyond her historic, limited perspective into new understandings and experiences, and into the depths of her True Nature.

      Rudi Krause

      Rudi Krause is very engaged with his family of five children and seven grandchildren. He is a retired teacher and an active volunteer in his grandchildren's schools. He shares a garden with a young couple, and currently mentors a young urban farmer in the Downtown Eastside.

      Rudi pays close attention to the place of elders in our society and was immediately drawn to the Elders Circle vision and goal of reclaiming elder wisdom. Helping to reshape our society and how we relate to the natural world have long been important to Rudi, and being involved with the Elders Circle has been greatly rewarding.

      Lydia Travers

      Lydia Travers is interested in community building to support communications, share information, and help reform our social structures to reflect empathy and caring for one another. 

      She is a retired nurse, fitness trainer, and meditator. 

      Lydia’s special interest is health through awareness of the body's natural wisdom.

      Within the Elders Circle, Lydia holds space for friendship and talking circles.

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      Elders Circle Communications Team

      Richard Drake

      Rudi Krause

      Barbara Joughin


      Richard Drake, Project Coordinator

      Richard Drake spent the last two decades leading and participating in numerous environmental projects. 

      An experienced builder, he also moved, renovated, and preserved historic houses on Vancouver Island. 

      His passion for conservation and building now finds him at the center of a group establishing a deconstruction industry in Vancouver.

      Working as the Project Coordinator for the SPEC Elders Circle Program, Richard shares wisdom distilled from a lifetime dedicated to sustainability.

      Barbara Joughin, Communications and Volunteers 

      Barbara Joughin is the principal at AAA WordSmith and finds many interesting and inspiring ways to develop and document community processes.

      She is delighted to be part of the team creating the SPEC Elders Circle Program.

      Oliver Lane

      Oliver Lane is the Executive Director of SPEC. His steady hand keeps us on track with all things administrative.

      Christina Ray

      Consultant – Community Engagement, Leadership, and Organizational Development

      Associate – MODUS Planning, Design, and Engagement

      Christina Ray facilitates community conversations and helps organizations foster development, innovation, and collaboration. Christina has an M.A. in Leadership, and extensive training in dialogic facilitation, negotiation, and conflict resolution. 

      Her work is guided by the participatory leadership approach embodied in the Art of Hosting. Christina is an experienced coach and teaches a graduate course in Community Leadership at the Vancouver School of Theology.

      Christina consults with the leadership team of the SPEC Elders Circle and facilitates our Elders Circle Salons.

      Our Partners

      Kitsilano Neighbourhood House 

      Through its many diverse programs, “Kits House” helps meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens and provides opportunities for community members to gather together. As the only neighbourhood House on Vancouver’s west side, it serves the Kitsilano, Dunbar, Arbutus Ridge, and Point Grey communities.

      Kits House provides generous inkind support to SPEC’s Elders Circle, including use of the beautiful Main Hall for our Salon gatherings.

      New Horizons for Seniors Program, Government of Canada

      This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program

      The federal New Horizons for Seniors (NHS) Program supports projects that make a difference in the lives of seniors and their communities.

      SPEC received a grant from the NHS Program to deliver a year-long project, running from May 2016 to April 2017. We are applying these grant funds to launch the Elders Circle Program, and help the NHS Program meet their goals:

      • Support the social participation and inclusion of seniors
      • Engage seniors in the mentoring of others
      • Promote volunteerism among seniors and other generations.

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