I’ve just spent some time updating an essay on this topic. Here’s a bit from the opening:
Every local Neopagan community has one, two, or more older members who may be struggling to survive on a day-to-day basis. Whether thay are seniors or Elders, and regardless of what tradition they belong to or teach, or what local “witch wars” they may have been part of years ago, now they are getting old and needing help to get by. If they are Elders, the main reason for their poverty is usually having devoted most of their lives to serving a Pagan community instead of earning their livings in nice middle-class jobs at corporations with good retirement plans and health coverage. Even worse, sometimes they did have such jobs, and juggled holding them down with serving a community, and then got downsized and/or had their pension plan looted by the top executives. Either way, like most Neopagan clergy, the odds are high that they are living at an economic level dramatically lower than most of the other Pagans they serve or have served, often for decades. And, of course, there are plenty of Pagan seniors around who may never have been leaders or teachers, but who are still struggling to keep their heads above water, especially in the current economy.
January through March are the worst months for Pagan Elders. The weather is cold, there are few (if any) festivals to pay them for teaching, authors’ royalty checks from the Yule shopping season don’t arrive until late March or April, any food gifts from relatives have run out, and everybody in the mainstream culture is broke (or feels that way) . What does or should this mean to non-elderly Pagans? It means that winter is the most important time to check on your local Pagan seniors (and any Elders living in your area) to see how they are doing. Is their rent or mortgage paid, or is their landlord/the bank trying to evict them? Is there heat in their home? Is there food in their pantry? Is their walk shoveled?