Elders Circle blog posts

About the Elders Circle

The Program 

The People 

Our Partners

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.

[page top]


    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.

      [page top]

      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.

      [page top]

      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.

      Maggie Kaplan

      At one time and another, Maggy Kaplan has been a mom, social worker, grower of organic vegetables, commercial fisher, college counsellor, and struggling younger person. 

      She continues to be mother and grandmother, hospice volunteer, student of meditation, and aging person with a vital and ongoing interest in the special gifts that growing older can bring.In fact, nothing makes her happier than joining with others to discover what being an elder at this time and place is all about, and how we can access and contribute from the well of wisdom deep within us all.

      Gloria Levi

      Gloria has a B.A. in Psychology and English, with distinction, Phi Beta Kappa, from the State University of Iowa, and a M.A. in Public Administration from Oregon State University. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology from the Center on Aging, Oregon State University.

      Gloria worked in the field of aging for 30 years, and as an author, wrote Dealing With Memory Changes As You Get Older, and six booklets, including Challenges of Later Life and My Dance With Shechina.

      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.

      We would like to thank Don Griffiths, Nan Gregory, Raylene Burke, Richard Drake, and Rudi Krause for their valuable contributions and commitment to the development of this program.

      [page top]


      Oliver Lane, Administration

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

      Christina Ray, Consultant

      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.

      [page top]

      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.

      [page top]

      Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software