Lakshmi A. Kripalani

Lakshmi A. Kripalani

Montessori and aging

I can’t say I have heard or read any thoughts of Maria Montessori on the lives of older people.

My guess is that the protection provided by her son, Mario, allowed her to remain active until her death at 81. She probably never gave much thought to the plight of the aging.

But as Montessori’s ideas have drawn the attention of creative people, some have focused on the aging process. Alzheimer’s disease researcher Cameron Camp, director of the Myers Research Institute, and authors Tom and Karen Brenner have skillfully built on her vision.

I know some schools around he country do regular visits to nursing homes for the children to interact with residents.

Let me add some thoughts.

I’m getting older; day by day my energy is not keeping up with me. I’m not producing as much as I used to.  That is probably to be expected as I near by 93rd birthday.

When I retired, I had not been paid, but I did get the building in which we housed our school. I used the money from the sale of that school to buy my home. I am thankful for that.

I am not rich, but I have enough.

I am a survivor. I have survived to own my house. I am in my own house without being dependent on anyone else. I live alone. But I don’t want to be isolated.

I assume that my situation is not unique. Many people were drawn to Montessori teaching in the 1960s and those who stayed with it are now retired.

Like me, they probably live outside an extended family. Like me they probably look at what is happening to children growing up in nuclear families and know those children could use some intergenerational wisdom.

There is no easy way to bring older folks into families. But it is worthwhile to ask Montessori educators to give some thought to the issue.

Could Montessori schools develop lists of older people who could serve as foster grandparents to families?

Could Montessori educators become lobbyists for programs to bring Montessori elders to the public discussions?

Could some of the folks who are developing Montessori videos and other media focus some attention on older Montessorians?

My advice to Montessorians is much of what you might expect. Keep learning and respecting others, young and old.

That’s the main thing—to be open. Communicate and respond to everyone.

Here are some thoughts from an aging Montessorian:

• Learning is not what happens in school. It takes place in individual growing.

• The education we have is not helping the children. It is restricting them.

• Training centers are making the system rigid. They turn out teachers who they are not free to do what they are capable of doing.

• If teachers find their own way, they will not restrict the children. They will allow them to function on their own.

• Giving children a mechanical education and having them follow it rigidly does not help the children.

• Different children have different abilities. Every child is an independent entity. To throw information and expect them to pick it up does not work.

• Originally children were better off because there were in extended families. They played together and learned from each other.

• Everyone wants to live independently, when they have children, they have no experience; they are imitating their parents rather than turning to them for wisdom.

You are born with nothing, you die with nothing. I am not a moneymaker or planner but I am frugal. I guess I learned that from some bad decisions my father made and my mother’s work to keep our family presentable.

I believe in the higher power.

Copyright 2013


Lakshmi Kripalani was trained by and has worked with Dr. Maria Montessori and Mario Montessori. She is an AMI Montessori teacher trainer and consultant.

Her books, Montessori in Practice, volumes 1 and 2, are available through Montessori Services, 877-975-3003.

Ms. Kripalani is available for lectures, workshops or consultations. She can be reached at