“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.
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 will train facilitators in nine communities. Trainings were held in New York City and Boston in October and November; Los Angeles is scheduled for December 2014, and Kansas City and Washington DC are scheduled for February and May 2015, respectively. We anticipate training 24-36 facilitators in each city who will then launch Wise Aging groups.
Training Wise Aging Facilitators
To prepare trainees for forming groups, the community facilitator trainings will focus on: issues of aging; understanding the methodology and pedagogy that underlie Wise Aging peer groups; the significance of contemplative practices; and, 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 grants from The Covenant Foundation, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation, and Marilyn Shapiro.