“Old age is not a defeat, but a victory, not a punishment but a privilege. The test of a people is how it behaves toward the old . . . man’s potential for change and growth is much greater than we are willing to admit and old age (can) be regarded not as the age of stagnation but as the age of opportunities for inner growth.”
- Abraham Joshua Heschel
Those of us in our sixties and seventies can count ourselves part of an extraordinary, history-making generation—pioneers in understanding and making the most of this “third chapter” stage of life. These healthy years of aging are not the end; they are full of potential for learning and growth. The Wise Aging program provides new resources and support to live the later years with spirit, resilience, and wisdom.
The primary vehicles for Wise Aging’s exploration are peer groups led by trained facilitators who structure sessions based on a comprehensive curriculum developed by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. The foundational text for Wise Aging peer groups is Wise Aging: Living With Joy, Resilience and Spirit, by Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal (published by Behrman House, June, 2015). Participants are guided through reflective work that enables them to come to new understandings about their lives, their selves, and their values. Learning modalities include text study based on active listening, exercises, reflection, and journaling. Topics include: exploring this stage of life; becoming one’s authentic self; a life review; relationship one’s body; revitalizing and nourishing healthy relationships, cultivating qualities of soul; practicing forgiveness; learning to live with loss, change, and death; creating relevant rituals, cultivating wisdom, and leaving a legacy.
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The Institute is currently developing a list of recommended Wise Aging groups.
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when there is an established group in your area.
Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit
Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal’s Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit, is the guidebook for Wise Aging groups. Grounded in mindfulness and spiritual practices such as meditation, journaling, movement, and blessings from Judaism and other faith traditions, Wise Aging offers social, emotional and spiritual insights to help individuals meet the challenges of these years with a sustaining spirit.
In addition to its use as a foundational text for the Wise Aging program, Wise Aging can be read as a standalone book, and serve as an excellent resource for clergy- or lay-led book groups, lifelong learning groups, and other places where ongoing learning, reflection on experience, spiritual practice, and pursuit of wisdom define the agenda.
Wise Aging provides the road‐map for the journey we are all on, and that is especially relevant for baby boomers: achieving a fulfilling older age. No subject is off limits. Rabbi Cowan and Dr. Thal explore a wide range of issues including: relationships with adult children and spouses; body image; romance and sexuality; living with loss; and, cultivating wellbeing.
Regional Facilitator Trainings
The Institute is training individuals in communities around the country to facilitate these groups in their synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish Family Services, and other institutions. Over the course of three years we plan to train 24-36 facilitators in nine communities; these facilitators will then launch Wise Aging grups. Since Fall 2014, trainings have been held in the following communities: New York City, Boston, Los Angeles ,Kansas City and Washington D.C.
To prepare trainees for forming groups, the community facilitator trainings focus on:
- issues of aging
- understanding the methodology and pedagogy that underlie Wise Aging peer groups
- the significance of contemplative practices
- the use of Jewish texts and other sources of spiritual wisdom
It is strongly recommended that facilitator training participants have experience with group facilitation, are familiar with mindfulness practice, and are comfortable working with Jewish texts. We seek to train people who are committed to leading groups and have a context for doing so.
The Wise Aging project is funded by national grants from The Covenant Foundation, The Crown Family, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation, and Marilyn Shapiro. Regional trainings are funded by local organizations, foundations, and individuals.