Cranla Warren is a PhD-holding lifelong student of human behavior. An organizational psychologist, leadership development consultant, mental health advocate, coach and mentor, she believes that a strong foundation of self-awareness and emotional literacy builds great leaders and creates great places to work. She is also a highly recognized Black woman living in a very white part of the world, Ontario Canada.
How old are you?
60 as of March 2023. People say I don’t look my age. I had a woman recently ask me what skincare products I use. It’s an inside job, I told her – joy, gratitude, optimism, resilience. I’m not sure what I thought 60 would feel like, but I certainly don’t feel 60 years old.
Where do you live?
Born in Bermuda. Grew up in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Currently live in Stratford, Ontario Canada.
Are there many people of color where you are?
NOPE. The population is, however, growing.
You were just highlighted as being one of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women. What were you chosen for?
I was brought into the sisterhood of 100 ABC women that introduces a new cohort every 2 years. I was chosen based on a wide breadth of accomplishments across various categories. My education: I have several graduate degrees across the disciplines of social work, philosophy and psychology; and certifications in psychotherapy, family therapy, and leadership. My leadership (experience spans 20+ years): most recently in my formal vice president role and in my community. My community service work as a mentor and role model, specifically for Black women and girls.
“Black women have a different experience in aging than other women”
Do you feel that women of color have a different aging experience?
Yes, absolutely our culture is not kind when it comes to aging. First of all, gendered ageism is the new sexism. Also known as “aging while female,” stereotyping of and discrimination against women over a certain age impacts our career paths and our health and psychological wellbeing. We are expected to be the silent, invisible caregivers and nurturers in society. How dare we have voice, make requests, and cause a ruckus.
On top of this reality, the intersection of Blackness and femaleness has never yielded a systemic advantage; in fact, socially, we are at the bottom of the hierarchical ladder. Black women have been the silent, invisible minority for far too long. Often “the other” or “the only,” especially when it comes to the workplace, stresses and strains are magnified and intense. Our unique needs are rarely understood. Societal beliefs, attitudes, social practices continue to devalue, minimize and marginalize the full participation of Black women in society.
Black women have a different experience in aging than other women. We face unique challenges due to the intersection of gender and race. Black women have been historically undervalued, underrepresented, and underserved in both the public and private sectors. This means we often have fewer resources to draw on to support our aging process. Relegated to near invisibility in North American society, Black women are also more likely to experience ageism and discrimination in the workplace and when accessing health care. Additionally, Black women experience higher rates of poverty, homelessness, and mental health issues, which can further complicate the aging process.
“I have courageously moved from surviving to thriving”
How have your views on race changed with time?
As a Black woman, every time I meet the world, people inevitably think they know me because I am Black and female. They judge what and who I should and should not be and what I should and should not, in their minds, be capable of based on their assumptions and stereotypes.
My whole life I’ve had to have a voice to get anywhere in this world and to do so regardless of any fear. I’ve had to hone my skills of being decisive, clear, and articulate to be heard.
Because of early life lessons from the ‘70s and the “I’m Black and I’m Proud” movement and the core values of my family, I refused to believe that I was “less than” simply because society was dictating that narrative daily. Instead, I learned to believe in myself, I worked hard to educate myself and grow my skills, abilities and influence. I have courageously moved from surviving to thriving, not just for myself but also for my children and grandchildren. I now take great delight and have huge passion for helping others to do the same.
“I encourage everyone to consider themselves a mentor to someone; regardless of age”
What is it that people our age can provide by mentoring younger people?
This is an area I am very passionate about: paying it forward, paying it younger, being of service. I’ll answer your question in 2 ways; there is a “what we can provide” and there’s also “what we can gain” through mentoring younger people. I encourage everyone to consider themselves a mentor to someone; regardless of age.
For us over 50, in my case at 60 years old, we have greater lived experience to draw from and can share our successes, failures, lessons learned, our wisdom – the key is to offer this sharing for consideration and not force it (for example, “you know what you need to do?” is not a great mentoring approach). The “what can we gain” piece of my answer is really rooted in being of service and the benefits of it. There really is no 100% selfless act…there is always some kind of payback.
Studies show that volunteering boosts our health, happiness and overall wellbeing. Mentoring someone can aid in decreasing our stress and loneliness by increasing our network of social connections. Keeping active and vibrant are often discussed when discussing physical activities as we age; they also apply to an activity like mentoring in that it can provide a new sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.
“Older people can provide much-needed encouragement and support to younger people”
We can offer:
Experience: Older people have lived longer and have had more life experiences, which means we have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to share with younger generations. This experience can help younger people navigate difficult situations, make better decisions, and avoid common pitfalls.
Perspective: Older people have a different perspective on life than younger people, which can be beneficial in mentoring relationships. We may be able to offer a more balanced view of situations and help younger people see the bigger picture.
Encouragement: Older people can provide much-needed encouragement and support to younger people, especially during challenging times. We can offer words of wisdom and help younger people stay focused on their goals.
Networking: Older people have had more time to build a network of contacts and connections, which can be valuable for younger people who are just starting out in their careers. Mentors can introduce their mentees to people who can help them achieve their goals through enriching their social capital.
Role modeling: Older people can serve as positive role models for younger generations by demonstrating how to live a fulfilling and purposeful life. By modeling healthy habits and behaviors, mentors can help younger people develop the skills and attitudes they need to succeed.
Overall, mentoring relationships between older and younger people can be mutually beneficial. Younger people can benefit from the knowledge, experience, and support of older mentors, while older mentors can find meaning and purpose in helping younger generations succeed.
“Each of us, famous or infamous, is a role model for somebody, and if we aren’t, we should behave as though we are — cheerful, kind, loving, courteous. Because you can be sure someone is watching and taking deliberate and diligent notes.”
— Maya Angelou
“Living in such uncertain circumstances seems to have created a social movement, driven by the younger set, of creating possibilities and wider options”
What is it that you are learning from younger people?
I like to think of myself as an open and non-judgemental person…through mentoring the younger generation I’ve developed a new lens of what freedom looks like and an openness to what may come. Living in such uncertain circumstances seems to have created a social movement, driven by the younger set, of creating possibilities and wider options. Things don’t have to be just one way. From my interactions with younger people I’ve learned to embrace a bucking of tradition and the need to carve out new paths and new ways of being if we are going to truly make a difference in the trajectory of this world.
Also, make your gifts and expectations known. In my upbringing, the emphasis was on being humble, not too loud lest we be seen as attention seeking.
I’ve also learned how to collaborate and partner across generational lines. I have 2 younger women in my life who have inadvertently acted in reverse mentoring roles. They’ve held up a mirror and helped me to pause, reflect, and see myself from many different angles.
Do you feel that younger people today have a more complicated/harder time of it than we did?
It is difficult to answer this question definitively as it depends on individual circumstances and experiences. Generally speaking, young people today have access to technology, resources and opportunities which were not available in the past, but they also face challenges that previous generations did not have to contend with. These could include an increasingly competitive job market, rising costs of living, and mental health issues.
I see many advantages to being a young person today: increased ease of access to a variety of resources and a more global experience and perspective of the world at large. I also see that being tethered to technology can potentially have an impact such as children playing outside freely less and less, and a potential decrease in comfort in social situations due to a lack of social skills and the ability to read social cues. Text messages and email communication often obscure tone and intention and leaves us only with the impact to respond to.
Ultimately, the answer to this question is subjective and will depend on each person’s unique perspective and lived experience.
“My evolving purpose and mission is to amplify the voices of those seldom heard to create systemic change”
What are your ambitions for the next 5 years?
I don’t have it all figured out yet; however, what is clear and presenting itself loudly is that I will continue to be of service to others in a larger way through my lived experience, academic knowledge base, and professional accomplishments. My evolving purpose and mission is to amplify the voices of those seldom heard to create systemic change.
In his book, From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life, author Arthur C. Brooks writes about the second curve where we can continue to find joy and enjoy a different kind of success in life (should we choose to in our older years) by repurposing our professional lives, befriending the young, and sharing our knowledge, wisdom, skills, and experience. This approach to life, being less self-focused, more contributory to the success of others, and living into our purpose, says Brooks, is the key to aging well and feeling fulfilled.
I am embracing my second curve by:
Being a part-time external instructor at Toronto Metropolitan University where I deliver workshops for leaders and team members.
I coach and mentor women around the globe who are referred to me and often the women themselves find me on LinkedIn and reach out directly.
I am involved in volunteer pursuits in my community such as:
- CEAT – The Community Equity Action Team: https://www.stratford.ca/en/live-here/community-equity-action-team.aspx#CEAT-Members
- I am a friend to Optimism Place where I have engaged in fundraising and clothing donations: https://www.optimismplace.com/
- CNOY: https://www.stratfordtoday.ca/local-news/coldest-night-of-the-year-has-raised-143728-still-time-for-more-6637654
As a Black Woman, my 2 favourite quotes are:
“I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear.”
– Nina Simone
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
– Maya Angelou
“I don’t tolerate injustice or bullying of myself or of others”
What are three non-negotiables in your life?
The 3 areas of non-negotiables in my life are:
Personal accountability and responsibility: I don’t do well with blame shifting, or victim-shaming and blaming. If you’ve hurt someone, take ownership and make amends. If you’ve made a mistake, own it and step into the learning that is likely being offered in the situation. Being accountable involves humility and vulnerability vs ego and arrogance. Many people hide, protect, deflect and defend out of fear of feeling less than and because they don’t embrace the courage it takes to be vulnerable. They live in the shame instead.
Fairness and respect of others: I don’t tolerate injustice or bullying of myself or of others. I advocate, raise my voice and do my best to amplify the voices of others who need to be heard.
Care and compassion: In every facet of my life, I have been a helping professional. That goes for when I was a mental health clinician working in a community hospital to being a leader in the corporate world and in the work I do in my community.
I believe that with more kindness, care, empathy, connection, and compassion we can create much needed change. It’s happened along the course of history and the world needs to continue to adapt and respond to be a more humane and healthy place for its global citizens.
Photographer: Enje Daniels Photography
Hair, Makeup, Styling: Cree Barrocks
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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.
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