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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Modern Elder Academy celebrates life wisdom in paradise.

Oct 05, 2020 11:00AM ● By Jan Weeks

Retreat to Cabo for new outlooks on aging

“You’re not getting older, you’re getting better!” 

Such was the popular catchphrase back in the day, prompting serious eye rolls from a lot of seniors. But Modern Elder Academy goes beyond the cliché by actually giving older people new skills and outlooks on aging

Chip Conley, the founder, calls the academy “a wisdom school for midlife, where wisdom is not taught, it’s shared.” He believes midlife isn’t a crisis, it’s a calling.

In March, Montrose resident Yolanda Del Hierro, 72, spent a week experiencing the academy at its home base in Baja California, Mexico. She learned about it from her brother, who went to Stanford with Conley and suggested she attend one of the workshops. As he described the academy, Del Hierro—a holistic practitioner—felt strong, positive energy flood her. That night, she dreamed she was looking over a cliff and saw people sitting on a beach and talking. 

“I knew without a doubt I was going to Mexico,” she said. 

The next day she went to the website and saw pictures that mirrored her dream. 

Learn in paradise


Del Hierro applied for a scholarship, received the support and off she went. From the moment she landed in Cabo San Lucas, she was immersed in learning and luxury.

“The campus had beautiful scenery, flowers and architecture. It truly felt like heaven on earth!” she said.

Sixteen Americans and one Australian took part in the week-long retreat, all from varied professions and backgrounds (one man was a steelworker for 40 years). Since its founding in 2018, the academy has hosted folks from all over the world, from ages 30 to 78. So while it’s called “elder,” the academy is for anyone feeling anxiety and bewilderment about where they are in life.

Among the academy’s attractions are its seaside location and its organic gardens that provide fresh vegetables at every meal. The rooms are cleaned thoroughly every day and other ordinary chores are taken care of. Students have nothing required of them except to concentrate on unlearning old habits and learning new ways to see the world as elders.

Academy activities included an optional surfing lesson and trips into Todos Santos for meals and to explore the village, which has eluded the horde of tourists common in other Mexican towns and cities. Though there are many small-group events to choose from, private nooks encourage solitary meditation. One exercise everyone participated in was stone balancing—each person chose two or more stones to balance on top of each other. 

 “The activity forces you to be in the moment, focused only on that task,” Del Hierro explained.  

Such focus was the drive of the week-long event. 

“We learned to let go, to let grace happen,” Del Hierro added. “I broke through perceived limitations that I had imposed on myself.”

Students also gained different perceptions about aging by paying attention to their bodies and changing their mindsets about getting older. Instead of thinking of their lives as practically over, they learned that they have a lot more to offer, especially wisdom gained from diverse experiences. Throughout the week, Del Hierro understood more about herself. 

“I learned that I have an incredible support system in my business and with new friends through our shared experience. I am bolder and feel that I let go of limiting beliefs of myself. I was revitalized to continue moving forward as I become older and learned that I have a lot to share,” she said.

Del Hierro was quick to recommend the experience for others.

“Everyone can benefit from a week of learning and fun and taking a break from their regular lifestyle. It helps them reset mind, body, emotions and spirit,” she said.

For her, the best part was being with like-minded people who were willing to grow and change. 

The academy’s workshop topics include “Designing Your Transitions in an Uncertain World,” “The Making of a Modern Elder,” “Women’s Week: Rebooting Your Next Act,” “Mastery Week: Aligning Purpose and the Planet” and “Mastery Week: The Soul of Money.” Del Hierro took two classes offered at the time: “Career Mindset” and “Becoming a Modern Elder.” She found her business knowledge expanding, as well as her openness to share with the group.

“We had wonderful conversations.” Her only complaint? “It went by too fast!”

Since returning to Montrose, Del Hierro has created an intention to embrace technology with ease, to stay in contact with her cohort on Zoom and to read Conley’s “Wisdom Well” blogs every day.


Become a modern elder

Concerns about COVID have prompted Modern Elder Academy to take steps to keep participants safe. Meals are all served outside on covered, open-air decks with plenty of space for separation; activities have been redesigned to increase personal space, allowing attendees to regulate and control their own interactions; the campus has been optimized for open air and social distance interactions; and classes have shifted to mostly outside to create a more nature-based experience. Masks are required where social distancing is impossible. 

Through the end of 2020, accommodations will be single—regardless of tuition—except in cases of couples or friends traveling together. 

To find out more about Modern Elder Academy, visit, where you can also read the daily blog. Contact Del Hierro at 720-583-0729 to find out more about her business, which includes natural vision restoration, brain integration rewiring, emotion code and craniosacral therapy.

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