Expand elders to a sort of all-round clerical-type. Herbmage, Elemental master, councilor... Then expand the people who can train to be elders to 'anyone', and make a trade out of it. 7 years of apprenticeship, upon completing you learn the more powerful secrets.
Have a subclass of elders for orphans and the homeless - they would treat the wounded, gather herbs, to handiwork for the town/county they're working for, and in return they receive food and shelter, companionship, a fallback.
Basically allowing the homeless and unfortunate to avoid starvation and poverty while still contributing, and gaining life lessons for when they're well-off enough to learn an independant trade, or well learned enough to get a head start on their elder apprentice-ship.