Wise Aging



There are 1.9 million Jewish adults ages 55+ in the U.S. In a society that does not support us as we age, our Jewish communities are just beginning to address the issues and opportunities of paying attention to the needs of this demographic.

There is no set of instructions for getting older—for the shifts in our social and support networks, the feeling of invisibility, the angst of dealing with aging parents, the mixed signals of entering retirement, or the surprising turns in our relationships with ourselves, our partners, friends, and colleagues. On the other hand, those of us currently in this stage can count ourselves as part of an extraordinary, history-making generation—pioneers in understanding and making the most of this “third chapter” of life. Many of us will be blessed with unprecedented healthy years ahead, full of potential for learning and growth.

The Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s foray into “wise aging” is designed to:

  • Give Jewish adults 55 and older a meaningful place in the Jewish community;
  • Open up conversations about what it means to get older; and
  • Create new understandings about life so we can live with spirit, resilience and joy.

Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit:
The Book

Co-written by Rabbi Rachel Cowan, of blessed memory, an early Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and Dr. Linda Thal, a pioneer in transforming synagogue life to include spirituality and spiritual development, the book is grounded in Jewish mindfulness and spiritual practices such as meditation, journaling, movement, and blessings. 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 facilitated Wise Aging groups, Wise Aging can be read as a standalone book. It is also 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 well-being.

Wise Aging is the only Jewish program of its kind that considers mindfulness and contemplative practices such as meditation, text study, journaling and gentle movement to be foundational to aging wisely.

Facilitated Wise Aging Groups

To find a Wise Aging Group led by a trained Wise Aging Facilitator, please click here.

Sample group experience (individual facilitators may structure their groups differently):

  • A facilitated peer group of 10 – 12 people meeting on a regular basis for 6 – 9 sessions of 2 hours each.
  • Each group session centers on a different topic, such as: “Exploring This Stage of Life”, “I Am My Body, I Am Not My Body”, “Cultivating Nourishing Relationships”, “Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Cultivating Spiritual Qualities for Well-being”, and “Living with Loss and Finding Light: Conscious Dying; Legacy and Stewardship.”
  • Topics are explored using mindfulness and contemplative practices to deepen the inner and outer journeys of participants.

History of the Wise Aging Program

The Wise Aging Program began in the fall of 2014. The Institute for Jewish Spirituality sent Trainers out to Jewish communities across the United States to train Wise Aging Facilitators to lead peer groups in synagogues, JCCs, and other institutions. Over the past four years, 450 Facilitators have been trained in the United States and Canada. They facilitate new and ongoing groups—communities of learners who explore questions, insights, longings, and conundrums regarding the aging process. Several thousand Jewish adults have created new connections in Jewish communities from Vancouver to San Francisco to Chicago and Kansas City to Washington D.C. and beyond.

Wise Aging Today

For Wise Aging Group Facilitators

IJS supports Wise Aging Facilitators with:

  1. A  Wise Aging Facilitator discussion forum. 
  2. A Wise Aging Facilitator resource library. What happens after you reach Chapter 9 of the Wise Aging book?  We’ll be organizing curricula and related resources by topic. And from time-to-time, we’ll be putting out a call to Facilitators to submit their most effective lesson plan as we continue to expand the Facilitator resource section.  Stay tuned.

We also invite Wise Aging Facilitators to consider enrolling in the on-demand, self-study course: Gift of Awareness: Cultivating a Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Practice. This 8-module introductory journey will support your personal mindfulness practice, which invariably seeps into how you facilitate and move through life.

If you are a wise aging facilitator and would like access to the discussion forum and resource library, please contact us with the form below:

For individuals who would like to join a Wise Aging group

Here is a list of Wise Aging Group Facilitators listed by state. Please contact the Facilitator near you to learn when the next Wise Aging Group might be forming.

For individuals who would like to become Wise Aging Group Facilitators

IJS does not provide Wise Aging Facilitator Training. We refer you to the following independent Trainer(s), experienced members of the training team that has trained 450 Facilitators-to-date.

Dr. Linda Thal lindathal@nyc.rr.com
Linda is leading a Facilitator training in Portland, OR June 2-4, 2019. Please contact her for additional information.

Dr. Batya Perman batyaperman@gmail.com

Karen Frank karenkfrank@verizon.net