Modern Elder Academy Expands to the U.S.

Midlife Wisdom School Creating Regenerative Community in Santa Fe

Albuquerque, New Mexico, UNITED STATES

Santa Fe, NM, March 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Modern Elder Academy (MEA) – the world’s first midlife wisdom school – is expanding to the United States with a new campus and regenerative community slated for Santa Fe, New Mexico. MEA is the brainchild of socialpreneur Chip Conley and co-founders Christine Sperber and Jeff Hamaoui, who opened their first campus in Baja California Sur, Mexico in 2018. MEA provides an environment for people to reimagine midlife as a time for learning, growth, and positive transformation through immersive workshops and sabbaticals.

The idea for MEA came to fruition during the four years Conley was a leader at Airbnb. Only 52 at the time, he was twice as old as the average Airbnb team member—they referred to Conley as the “modern elder.” He described his epiphany, “It was then that I realized there is a growing number of people in midlife who are confused. We’re living longer, organizational power is shifting younger, and the world is changing faster. That leaves people bewildered. I wanted to create a place where people could get the tools and support to feel confident and inspired in the second half of their adult life.”

To date, over 1,000 people from 24 countries have participated in MEA’s programs. Participants have ranged in age from 30 to 88, with 75% of alums being 45-65 years old with an average age of 54. More than 60% are women and almost 25% people of color. When COVID hit, it prompted MEA’s principals to consider the future of the community. They interviewed 23 thought leaders and found the need for connection and meaning that MEA was filling extended to a societal level. This inspired them to build off of their pioneering work on campus and at Baja Sage, MEA’s adjacent residential community led by MEA co-founder Jeff Hamaoui, to catalyze a new type of community that utilizes regenerative principles to support flourishing and resiliency across the entire community.

Hamaoui explained, “An MEA Regenerative Community is to the 21st century what retirement communities were to the 20th—rather than leisure, our primary aspiration in aging is cultivating purpose and connection. Our farm will support a vibrant community of intergenerational engagement centered around our campus programs that seed learning, growing and serving. We’ll also offer housing opportunities for those interested in an interconnected community rooted in practical wisdom.” 

The MEA Regenerative Community philosophy centers around four pillars that co-founder and Chief Experience Officer Christine Sperber explained, “MEA sees the foundation of regeneration as embracing our inherent interconnectedness and interdependence. To bring about a truly resilient and flourishing community, regeneration must extend beyond the soil and include the soul, and consider their relationship to one another. An MEA Regenerative Community is grounded in: 1) regeneration of the souls of our community members; 2) regeneration of the physical soil on which we are located; 3) regeneration of our immediate community; 4) regeneration of our surrounding locale.”

With that vision in mind, MEA set out to develop its first MEA Regenerative Community in the United States. The operating team considered 20 potential regions and ultimately selected Santa Fe. They purchased nearly 2,600 acres in the Galisteo Basin, which will be repurposed to include an MEA wisdom school, regenerative farm, and a small cluster of residences. MEA will preserve the vast majority of the ranch as permanent open space and develop only a small fraction of the remaining land. Plans are to break ground in the next year, opening the Academy in early 2023 and the residences in 2024.

“Our vision is for Santa Fe to serve as a springboard to launch a collection of MEA Regenerative Communities by repurposing ranches, retreat centers and resorts with excess land,” explained Skylar Skikos, MEA partner and Chief Development Officer. “Santa Fe’s iconic culture and sense of place, enchanting natural environment, and intergenerational and diverse population make an ideal setting for MEA. We’re particularly excited about extending our educational programs to the local community and adopting regenerative agriculture and other sustainability best practices that will introduce a new standard for the region.”

“We hope to be a catalyst for a new kind of inclusive, intentional community that helps mainstream the idea that wisdom isn’t taught, it’s shared,” Conley said. “And it’s often shared across generations, in both directions—as a modern elder may have as much to learn from a young person as vice versa. Unlike a traditional business focused on amassing massive market share and squeezing out the competition, our goal is to be a role model. It’s time for us to grow our neighborhoods, not just build them.”

For information about the MEA Regenerative Community, go to or watch a short video on YouTube.


MEA is on a mission to build a community of inspired and empowered mid-lifers and reframe midlife from a crisis to a calling. As the world’s first midlife wisdom school, MEA offers all-inclusive workshops and sabbaticals that provide the education and tools to help people feel relevant, with continued and clarified purpose, in midlife. In addition to its core weekly workshop intensives, MEA offers extended sabbaticals, an eight-week online program, and an alumni membership program. MEA is a social venture committed to socio-economic diversity, offering scholarships to over 50% of workshop attendees, and accessible rates to sabbatical and online participants. As a result, the MEA community is quite diverse including firemen, physical therapists, software engineers, university professors and CEOs and more. Learn about Modern Elder Academy


Skylar Skikos, Christine Sperber, Chip Conley, Jeff Hamoui

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